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Friday, September 30, 2016

GIVEAWAY: Win a Pair of Tickets to See Girl on the Train in Theaters and a Movie Prize Pack!



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Fantasy Book Critic is excited to partner with Universal Pictures to offer our readers an amazing giveaway. The Girl on the Train, which is based off of the thriller by Paula Hawkins, is scheduled to be released in movie theatres across the country on October 7, 2016.

To celebrate the release of this movie, we have an amazing giveaway. One very lucky winner will receive a $25 Fandango gift card that allows them to enjoy a night out to the movies to see The Girl on the Train and a Girl on the Train prize pack that include a black sling bag, luggage tag and lip balm.

Learn more about The Girl on the Train:


Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson, Haley Bennett, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans, Allison Janney, Edgar Ramirez, Lisa Kudrow and Laura Prepon star in DreamWorks Pictures’ The Girl on the Train, from director Tate Taylor (The Help, Get on Up) and producer Marc Platt (Bridge of Spies, Into the Woods). 

In the thriller, Rachel (Blunt), who is devastated by her recent divorce, spends her daily commute fantasizing about the seemingly perfect couple who live in a house that her train passes every day, until one morning she sees something shocking happen there and becomes entangled in the mystery that unfolds. 

Based on Paula Hawkins’ bestselling novel, The Girl on the Train is adapted for the screen by Erin Cressida Wilson. The film’s executive producers are Jared LeBoff and Celia Costas, and it will be released by Universal Pictures.

Rated R
 

Some images from the movie! 




Rules for the giveaway are below! Learn more about this amazing movie and watch the trailer! 



A huge thank you goes out to Universal Pictures for partnering with us for this giveaway.

RULES FOR THE GIVEAWAY!

1. This contest is open to US residents only.

2. Please only one entry per person. Duplicate entries will result in disqualification from the contest.

3. One random winner at the end of the giveaway will be selected to win a $25 Fandango gift card and a prize pack.

4. The contest is scheduled to begin September 30, 2016 at 12:01 p.m. EST and it will end October 7, 2016 at 12:01 p.m. EST. Any entries sent in after the timeframe will not be accepted.

5. To enter please send an email with the subject 'GIRL ON THE TRAIN' to FBCgiveaway@gmail.com. Please include your name, email address, and physical maining address.

6.  Information obtained will be used only for the giveaway. All entries are deleted at the end of the contest.

Good Luck!

Interview with S. C. Flynn (Interviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)



Official Author Website
Order Children Of The Different HERE

Stuart C. Flynn is a blogger who has done over 100 interviews with folks all over the blogosphere. He also recently released his debut novel CHILDREN OF THE DIFFERENT, which is a post-apocalyptic story set in Australia. Stuart was kind enough to stop by and answer a few questions about his writing debut and what drives him to write. So read ahead to know more about him & CHILDREN OF THE DIFFERENT & be sure to checkout all of his previous stops in his blog tour.

Q] Welcome to Fantasy Book Critic. To begin with, could you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

SCF: I am an Australian/British/Irish/Italian reader and obsessive reviser. I was born in a small town in South West Western Australia, but I have lived in Europe for more than twenty years. First the United Kingdom, then Italy and currently Ireland, the home of my ancestors. That has been a great experience, but also difficult and lonely at times.

My whole life has been fairly multicultural, I guess. The town I grew up in had lots of different nationalities. And there was the Australian Aboriginal culture. When I lived in London, there seemed to be just about every culture in the world! Then I met my Italian wife and lived in Italy, and now I speak fluent Italian. So you never really know what directions life will take you in!

Q] Can you tell us what inspired you to be a writer in the first place, & why you chose to go the self-publishing route?

SCF: I have made up stories as long as I can remember, and a long time ago I started focusing seriously on writing them down and trying to publish them.

In more than twenty years of writing fiction (including six other fantasy novels of various types), I have had two different professional literary agents for extended periods of time, but neither was able to sell my work, leaving me feeling blocked. Perhaps I was unlucky. But the choice I faced seemed to be the following: either give up on my writing dream, invest more years in the traditional publishing grind, or take charge of the situation myself.

I chose the last of those options. I would not have made that decision if I were not certain that CHILDREN OF THE DIFFERENT would be produced to the highest standards. That level of production is now possible for two principal reasons. Firstly, technology. Secondly, many of the best creative people no longer work exclusively for the big publishers. So I went out and hired them.

For a long time, I could not afford to. The Financial Crisis that started in 2008 left me broke for many dark years. My dream had to wait until I could put some money together. Now, although I am really tired because of my day job and a lot of hard work on the novel, I can start making CHILDREN OF THE DIFFERENT live again.

Q] Many writers have a muse, who directs their writing, and others do not seem to be affected the same way. Which group do you fall into? What is your main motivation and source of inspiration?

SCF: My muse is my wife, Claudia, who is my first reader and critic.

More generally, I have to write when I have the time and opportunity – like every writer with a day job, I suppose. Once I am well underway with a novel, I find that inspiration is there when I need it. It has to be, as I can’t afford to wait for it to turn up!

Having said that, I believe a lot in the importance of sub-conscious processes for creativity. While you are sleeping or concentrating on other things, that part of the mind is working. What the ultimate sources of inspiration are, I don’t know for sure. They must be a mixture of life experiences, reading, memories and other material that got into the writer’s mind in various ways.


Q] Please elaborate how the genesis of Children of the Different occurred. How long have you been working on it? Has it evolved from its original idea (if any)?

SCF: CHILDREN OF THE DIFFERENT leaped into my mind almost fully formed once I had the basic idea. Of all my novels, CHILDREN was by far the easiest and quickest to write, at least as far as the first draft was concerned.

I am an obsessive reviser, so that was four years ago, during which time there have been long pauses while I was revising other novels, or even – surprisingly enough – taking some time off from revision. Still, the first draft of CHILDREN virtually wrote itself – every day when I needed a scene, it was there ready-made.

Q] Could you tell us about the research which you undertook before attempting to write your debut and what were things which you focused upon and any fascinating things that you found amidst your research?

SCF: I grew up in country Western Australia and that landscape will always be part of my inner self, so not much new research was necessary. CHILDREN OF THE DIFFERENT features an American military base. That base not only actually exists, but I have been inside it – not for military or research purposes, but it was a good experience to be able to draw on.

Q] You have set your story in Australia specifically the western half of Australia (wherein most of the big deserts are located). What was your reasoning for basing your story in this specific region?

SCF: There is a lot of desert there, as you say, but the state is so big that it includes many different climates and types of landscapes. I don’t mention them in the novel, but to give an idea of the variety, there are penguins and seals in the temperate south and crocodiles in the tropical north! That great variety of environments and creatures was very attractive for a story in which the main characters – physically and mentally – travel a lot, and gave plenty of opportunities for inventing fantasy scenes.

The south-west corner, where I come from, contains huge forests with some of the tallest trees in the world. That is where the two main characters – psychic twins Arika and Narrah (a girl and a boy, respectively) grew up. The giant trees have always sheltered them and the small, isolated non-industrial community they were born into.

When the twins are forced by circumstances to leave that protected place, they encounter other communities and environments that are threatening in various ways. The great trees were usually seen as benign, but these other worlds often feature different kinds of tall structures: termite mounds three metres, tall, military towers, skyscrapers, stromatolites (communities of microscopic algae that form domed shapes). Western Australia provided all of these and much more as background, as well as lots of strange animals, of course!

Q] With regards to the plot, you have mixed in some Aboriginal mythos within your world and come up with some refreshing concepts. How did you come up with the concept of “The Changing” and were you worried that you might face some criticism for appropriating myths from a different people?

SCF: Yes, the Changing was in part inspired by the traditional Aboriginal concept of the Walkabout, in which a young person would go off completely on their own for weeks. The kind of spiritual experience they must have gone through, out there in the desert alone, is impossible to know precisely.

I grew up in the country and had quite a lot of contact with Aboriginal people at school and in sports. I am a descendant of white people, so I cannot hope to understand the complexities of Aboriginal culture, but it has always intrigued me and I have great respect for it. In CHILDREN OF THE DIFFERENT, the Walkabout and Dreamtime (creation mythology) are suggested lightly and generally, so I do not think there is a question of “appropriating” them.

As it appears in the novel, the Changing concept is influenced by other, completely different, thought-streams. Most important of these is the science fiction idea of applying insect behavior to humans, in this case the cocoon transformation phase. The adolescents undergo their Changings in a comatose state and eventually emerge transformed. This was the central idea that led to the novel: a natural state for many insects, but a very strange and eerie one for human beings.


Q] With the story ending the way it does, will there be a sequel? If yes would it be possible for you to offer any details about the sequel?

SCF: I have some good ideas for a sequel, in which the main characters encounter a community that has become unusually advanced technologically. For now, I am waiting to see how things go with CHILDREN and if there might be sufficient interest.

Q] Please tell us about the books and authors who have captured your imagination and inspired you to become a wordsmith in your own right. Similarly, are there any current authors you would like to give a shout out to?

SCF: When I was very young I read lots of Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Doc Savage, Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov. People in other countries are often surprised when I say that in school in Australia, we studied quite a bit of classic science fiction and fantasy: Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Ray Bradbury, John Wyndham. I am very grateful for that now.

Other than the writers I have already mentioned, my favourites would include James Tiptree Jr, Ursula Le Guin, Philip K. Dick, Jack Vance, Gene Wolfe and Guy Gavriel Kay.

I would like to give a shout out to the contemporary authors who have most influenced me in my approach to self-publishing. My main model was Michael J. Sullivan, who took a similar approach many years ago to get his own writing dream back on track. Mark Lawrence has inspired me with his approach to maintaining an active blogging profile combined with an interest in independent publishing. Kameron Hurley has set new levels as regards blog tours and work ethic.

Q] Thank you for taking the time to answer all the questions. In closing, do you have any parting thoughts or comments you’d like to share with our readers?

SCF: Thanks for hosting me here! This is one of the stops on the CHILDREN OF THE DIFFERENT blog tour; I hope to see your readers somewhere else on the internet.
Wednesday, September 28, 2016

GUEST POST: To Mythos or not to Mythos By. C.T. Phipps


I had a very difficult choice when I was writing my novel Cthulhu Armageddon and that was whether to make it a Cthulhu novel altogether. This isn't because I didn't want to play around with H.P. Lovecraft's creations, I most certainly did, or that they weren't an essential part of my story, they were. No, the problem with the choice to use the Cthulhu Mythos boiled down to controversy, expectations, and originality.

The controversy issue is one which I remain keenly aware of as a matter of sensitivity. The World Fantasy Award dropped Howard Phillips Lovecraft as the face of its prize last year for reasons of, well, the fact HPL was a big racist. How much of a racist he was is controversial but I don't really think it should be. Howard was always upfront about his beliefs, wrote about them a great deal, and themes of alienation along with xenophobia are constants in his writing. As far as we can tell, he never acted upon these beliefs but they remain an integral part of his style. It's telling Conan author Robert Howard, a man of his time as well, thought HPL was extreme.

My own politics are on the progressive side and they influence my writing. My concerns when writing a Cthulhu novel weren't whether or not I should shun HPL's creations: I don't think that at all since if I'm going to do that then the literature of the past 2000 years is going to be a problem. Everything from the works of Aristotle to Edgar Rice Burroughs were written by people who did not share my opinions or values. I can appreciate Lovecraft's gifts for creating monsters and modern mythology without defending his beliefs on race.


No, the larger issues of controversy was the fact I didn't know if I could resist commentating on it while I was working. Some of the most interesting Mythos fiction in recent years is Post-Lovecraftian fiction. The Litany of the Earth by Ruthanna Emrys and The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle. Both stories comment on the racist underpinnings of the Cthulhu Mythos while coming at it from a place of love. The fact both are written by the sort of people Lovecraft would have difficulty with but were deeply influenced by his writing is no coincidence.

In the end, I decided to continue forward with the awareness I was going to be making a commentary on Lovecraft's writings simply because of the way I approached the story. Cthulhu Armageddon is a story which takes place in a post-apocalypse New Old West (or New Old East since it's in the ruins of Massachusetts). The protagonist is black, his companion is Eurasian, and the most horrible thing about the more humanlike monsters are their actions rather than the very thought of pure human blood being sullied.

Which brings me to the issue of expectations and the problems thereof. Is there only way to do H.P. Lovecraft's stories? Am I obligated, when playing around with his creations, to attempt to faithfully reproduce the nihilistic materialist universe? Bluntly, my inclinations to writing tend to involve shooting horrors in the face rather than endless destruction. Even if shoggoths are immune to bullets, I'm more of a fight than flight response. Brian Lumley, of Necroscope fame, provided me my inspiration as he wrote a seven book series about his heroic science heroes punching the Mythos in the face. If it was good enough for him, it was partially good enough for me. After all, my books were horror.

Just action horror.


I wanted to have characters which were part of an adaptive human race. I wanted the Great Old Ones to be neither good nor evil but like a meteor strike or zombie plague. I wanted to tell a story about how we dealt with an amoral force which destroyed the Earth. There would be horror in the sheer devastation but also a question of how humanity dealt with such nastiness by facing it.

To me, there's a lot of existential merit in the Cthulhu Mythos. If nothing we do matters, doesn't that mean all that matters is what we do? Humanity might never reclaim the world from the horrors beyond but how they dealt with each other was still a valid question of morality. Also, I wanted chase scenes with heroes on horseback as tentacled horrors followed them.

Finally, I had the issue of originality to consider. Did I really want to go through Lovecraft's world and use his creations versus making my own? In that, I give credit to Howard Phillips for being very generous with his creations. He openly shared his ideas and allowed other writers to use them in the manner they saw fit. There's no shame in wanting to play in another author's world if they're uncomfortable with it and I wanted to add my own spin on it rather than just pirate from the ruins.

In short, despite my apprehensions, I wanted to write my post-apocalypse Weird Western with Lovecraft's creations. I wanted it to be a mixture of my writing with the world as envisioned by the author and see what the resulting work was. I wanted to critique the areas I disagreed with while celebrating the ones I enjoyed. I like to think I've succeeded and if you ever want to see gunslingers vs. Deep Ones, then pick up my book and give it a whirl.

*---------------*---------------*---------------*


Official Author Website
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Esoterrorism
Read Fantasy Book Critic interview with C. T. Phipps
Read "Giving Back Vampires Their Bite" by C. T. Phipps (guest post)

AUTHOR INFORMATION: C.T. Phipps is a lifelong student of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. An avid tabletop gamer, he discovered this passion led him to write and turned him into a lifelong geek. He is a regular blogger, reviewer for The Bookie Monster, and recently signed a deal with Ragnarok Publications to produce the urban fantasy series, The Red Room. C.T. Phipps is also the author of The Supervillainy Saga, the first book of which, The Rules of Supervillainy, was released in 2015.
Monday, September 26, 2016

GUEST POST: How many gods is too many?: Writing the Long War, Part Five by A J Smith


Gods are interesting. In no real sense do I believe in them, but that is beside the point. In a fantasy setting, they are almost indispensable - to me at any rate. A well-designed god can make its people do anything and call it divine. They can justify plots and schemes of such labyrinthine intent that the humans beneath them have little to no clue of what is happening. This applies to gods who intervene, gods who walk amongst men, and gods who remain distant and unknowable.

There are many ways of giving a character motivation, or justifying the actions of an invented people – “Because my god made me do it” is my favourite. The beauty of this is that things are never so simple. People’s actions may be driven by the divine, but they are seldom intellectually aware of this. The same is true of the reader, and it’s a gift to be able to write about things that can’t be seen... until they are. Because, no matter how distant or unknowable, the god will always reveal themselves eventually.

If this shadowy motivation is enough to sway a single civilization, imagine the possibilities of three or four unknowable titans, each with contrasting alignments. The avenues of conflict are endless. You can multiply this as many times as you like, revealing more and more layers of intrigue as you reveal more and more gods and the people who worship them. I’ve found that it can get out of hand, and that restricting yourself to a handful of gods is sensible. I relegate those I’ve invented and discarded to a shadowy time before the present when anything was possible, a Deep Time when infinity spewed forth deities from the very edges of their followers’ imagination. This is my storeroom for nasty entities that I’m fond of, but have no immediate use for. But they’re all still gods and can all be used when and if the need arises.

This may appear a bit dues ex machina, as if the gods can be wheeled out to deal with any problems that arise in the narrative. But not if they are already coiled around the living history of the world, just waiting for their chance at supremacy. This is the trick to effective use of ancient beings – they have always been there, letting flickers of their essence seep into the world, yet invisible to the reader.


Then we have the priesthoods. Should a god’s followers be representations of its divinity? Or ignorant mortals, flailing at eternity for a glimpse at their god’s motivation. I use both kinds. It’s always helpful to have men and women of god who actually know what’s going on, but they are the exception, not the rule. I’ve always felt that revealing too much of the unknowable diminishes its power, and when it does reveal itself it should illicit awe and madness, rather than divine revelation. I enjoy the hypocrisy of fantasy religions. Invariably, the most devout follower will have their faith shaken when face-to-face with the monstrosity to whom they’ve devoted their lives.

So, a fantasy world can have infinite gods. But a storyteller should always be wary of over-populating the heavens, for even if your pantheon are playing a well-defined game of chess over possession of the most followers or greatest power, the skies can get awfully crowded. Every god needs worshipers, every religion needs a creed or a motivation, and I think this is where the narrative should play out. Eternal titans of the world can joust all they like, but it’s at the mortal level where this jousting can redefine a nation’s boundaries or topple its kings.


GUEST AUTHOR INFORMATION: A.J. Smith is the author of THE BLACK GUARD, THE DARK BLOOD and THE RED PRINCE. He spent twelve years devising The Long War chronicles. When not living in the Lands of Ro, he works in secondary education.

NOTE: "Arjun Invokes War Goddess" artwork courtesy of Mukesh Singh.
Friday, September 23, 2016

SPFBO II Semi-Finalists Update (by Mihir Wanchoo)


This post has been delayed for quite a while and for that I apologize to all the authors in my lot. With an infant, my wife and I have been truly strapped for time. It’s not an excuse but just the sole reason why I haven’t had much time to blog and do mini-reviews for all the books in my list. Previously I had selected the first semi-finalist over in my first update.

I’ve though selected six potential books from my lot and I hope to interview the authors as well do a proper review for the finalist I choose among the six semi-finalists:
 - Powers of the Six by Kristal Shaff 
 - Storm Without End by R.J. Blain 
 - Hondus Pointe by R. D. Henderson 
 - The Moonlight War by S.K.S Perry
 - The Dungeoneers by Jeffrey Russell
 - Nolander by Becca Mills

I would also like to point out 2 books which narrowly missed out on making the cut: The Tree of Souls by Katrina Archer & Vacui Magia by L. S. Johnson. They were both intriguing however I had to choose only 6 titles. I will try my best to review them and interview the authors as well.


Congratulations to the six FBC semifinalists and my commiserations to the remaining authors. These books were chosen because they all delivered interesting characters, a terrific story, humor (in some cases), romance in others & had just the right tinge of darkness as well. Overall they held my attention throughout and I wanted to read all the way to see how the story ended.

That was a crucial point for me and so these six titles made themselves shine above everyone else. Keep in mind though that this is just my opinion and some other reviewers might like other books than the ones which I’ve selected. I would like to wish the remaining 24 authors all best of luck for their writing career and future books and now on to the semi-finalists. Thank you for your patience with me and congratulations once again. I’ll be contacting you all soon with interview questions.

Monday, September 19, 2016

GIVEAWAY: The Bloodbound Trilogy by Erin Lindsey


Official Author Website
Read "Five Things I've Learned About War" by Erin Lindsey (guest post)
Read "Epic Fantasy: Dinosaur or dynamo? by Erin Lindsey (guest post)

The Bloodbound trilogy by Erin Lindsey has been a series that's has drawn great reviews while breaking a few tropes and embracing many to give us a story that has been entertaining and exciting. Erin Lindsey & Fantasy Book Critic are excited to be giving away one set of The Bloodbound trilogy to One Lucky Winner!!!

To enter, please send an email to fbcgiveaway@gmail.com with your Name, Mailing Address, and the subject: BLOOD. Giveaway has ENDED and was open to participants in USA & Canada only!

Thank you for entering and Good Luck!

GIVEAWAY RULES:
 1) Open To participants in USA & Canada only
 2) Only One Entry Per Household (Multiple Entries Will Be Disqualified)
 3) Must Enter Valid Email Address, Mailing Address + Name
 4) No Purchase Necessary
 5) Giveaway has ENDED
 6) Winner Will Be Randomly Selected and Notified By Email
 7) Personal Information Will Only Be Used In Mailing Out the Books To The Winner

Friday, September 16, 2016

"Paper and Fire: The Great Library Book 2" by Rachel Caine (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)



 Read FBC's Review of Ink and Bone Here
Visit Rachel Caine's Website Here 


OVERVIEW:
Let the world burn.

With an iron fist, the Great Library controls the knowledge of the world, ruthlessly stamping out all rebellion and, in the name of the greater good, forbidding the personal ownership of books.

Jess Brightwell has survived his introduction to the sinister, seductive world of the Library, but serving in its army is nothing like he envisioned. His life and the lives of those he cares for have been altered forever. His best friend is lost, and Morgan, the girl he loves, is locked away in the Iron Tower, doomed to a life apart from everything she knows.

After embarking on a mission to save one of their own, Jess and his band of allies make one wrong move and suddenly find themselves hunted by the Library’s deadly automata and forced to flee Alexandria, all the way to London.

But Jess’s home isn’t safe anymore. The Welsh army is coming, London is burning, and soon, Jess must choose between his friends, his family, and the Library, which is willing to sacrifice anything and anyone in the search for ultimate control

FORMAT: Paper and Fire is the second novel in The Great Library Series. In order to best enjoy it, it is essential to read Ink and Bone first.

Paper and Fire is a YA fantasy/alternative historical fiction/dystopia/steampunk novel. It stands at 357 pages and was published July 5, 2016 by New American Library.

ANALYSIS: Rachel Caine's book Ink and Bone was another huge favorite of mine. It was a novel that had a very Harry Potter-ish feel to it, but it still had a unique feel. Everything from the concept and loveable character, to the world building was captivating. I was so in love with the book that I honestly could not wait for the second book, Paper and Fire to come out.

Considering how high my expectations were, the immediate question you should ask yourself is "Does Paper and Fire live up to the hype and expectations placed on it from the first book?". My answer would be "Sort of".

Paper and Fire is the ultimate definition of a middle book. The first novel, Ink and Bone, was so unique and surprising that it was a pure delight to read. It made readers want to love it. Paper and Fire, while a wonderful novel, doesn't have that sparkle and shine that comes with a first book in a series.

The biggest issue with Paper and Fire is its plot progression and speed. There is a lot of action going on during Paper and Fire. The characters are arranging rescue missions, running from enemies, and trying to stay ahead of The Library. Unfortunately, there is this feel of too much action.

The characters are always running around doing something or exploring a new place or looking for some clue. While this might seem like plot progression, there is very stagnant feel to the book. It is almost like all the characters did was run around and not a whole lot was accomplished. In fact, I ended the book and my first thought was 'We didn't really get much done'.

The entire second book is basically one giant rescue mission. There are some tidbits here and there that further a character's development or progress the plot a little, but not enough. It really had a feel of a lot of running around and not a lot of progression.

I will say the last few chapters opened up a whole new possibility for the next book and a lot happened in the end, but there were still a lot of missed opportunities throughout the book. Let's just say that there is a cliffhanger at the end and it will definitely leave fans of the series waiting in anticipation for book three.

Even though it was a rushed book and basically one giant rescue mission, it doesn't mean the book was bad. It just didn't have the appeal the first book did. There are still a lot of things I loved about the book – the idea of who controls what when it comes to knowledge and books, the whole portrayal that reading physical books is better than a screen on a tablet, and the whole idea that using technology to store information could result in some very important information being wiped away if the higher ups don't agree with it.

Overall, Paper and Fire was a fun read. It didn't have the wowing power the first book did in the series, but it wasn't bad. There is a lot to look forward to with this series and I honestly cannot wait until book three.  
Thursday, September 15, 2016

Ibenus by Seth Skorkowsky (reviewed by C.T. Phipps)


Official Author Website
Order the book HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Dämoren
Read The Bookie Monster review of Hounacier
Read Fantasy Book Critic interview with Seth Skorkowsky
Read Building The Perfect Revolver by Seth Skorkowsky (guest post)

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Raised in the swamps and pine forests of East Texas, Seth Skorkowsky gravitated to the darker sides of fantasy, preferring horror and pulp heroes over knights in shining armor. His debut novel, Dämoren , was published in 2014 as book #1 in the Valducan series; it was followed by Hounacier in 2015. Seth has also released two sword-and-sorcery rogue collections with his Tales of the Black Raven series. When not writing, Seth enjoys cheesy movies, tabletop role-playing games, and traveling the world with his wife.

OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS: After surviving a demon attack, disgraced police detective Victoria Martin tracks down the Valducans in search for answers. Recognizing her potential, and despite the warnings of the other knights, Allan Havlock, protector of Ibenus, takes her in as his apprentice. As the Valducans travel to Paris to destroy a demon nest infesting the catacombs, the knights find themselves hunted by an internet group intent on exposing them.

Victoria, who belongs to this group, must desperately play both sides to not only protect herself, but Allan, whom she has begun to love. Ibenus, however, has other plans. Ibenus is the third book in the Valducan series, for which Skorkowsky was shortlisted as "Best Debut Author" in the 2014 Reddit Stabby Awards.

FORMAT/INFO: Ibenus is an alternating persona novel with 410 pages. It is the third volume in the Valducan series but capable of being read on its own. It was released on September 13th 2016 in paperback and e-book format by Ragnarok Publications.

ANALYSIS: I'm a self-admitted fan of the Valducan series so I pre-ordered my copy and devoured it within the first day. The series is about a world full of monsters, demons, and other horrors which cannot be killed unless by a series of sentient holy weapons. Each book chronicles a different weapon and wielder's adventures.

This time around, we have the titular khopesh, a wielder, and his student. There's Allan Havlock, a seasoned demon hunter, and disgraced police officer Victoria Martin who have a relationship disrupted by the fact Allan is training her. Victoria dislikes the hold Ibenus has on her mentor while also disliking the secrecy of the Valducan organization.

Ibenus benefits from a more morally ambiguous conflict than the typical humans versus demons. A hacktivist named Tommy D has devoted himself to exposing the existence of monsters to the world with Victoria initially on his side. Actually, despite the author giving an argument against it, I'm 100% on Tommy D's side. Unfortunately, the novel takes for granted the audience will on the Valducan's side and portrays Tommy D in a much harsher light than I think the narrative really deserves.

Despite this, I very much enjoyed this novel as the questioning of the lead's practices is a ballsy move for an author. I also enjoyed the insight into how the Valducan organization recruits and trains their operative. I also liked the depiction of one of the trainees getting in over his head and meeting a fate which reminds us how dangerous their cause is. As the narrative lampshades, the Valducan group sounds very much like a cult when you describe a bunch of secretive demon-hunters working behind the scenes to save the world.

There's a few flaws in the narrative like fact Allan and Victoria's relationship seems ridiculously fast. It’s even commented on as such in the text. This is due to the supernatural effect of the holy weapons having an effect on their mind but, justified in text or not, seems like a narrative cheat. Likewise, I felt the ending was a bit darker than the author intended with the heroine's triumph feeling more like her corruption.

Allan and Victoria are both likable characters with decent chemistry. So, while their relationship progressed too quickly, I actually wanted to see them together. I also liked the guest appearance of Matt Hollis from the original Dämoren novel. I hope he'll get a second novel showcasing him and his magical gun but his bit here was quite entertaining. I really enjoyed Tommy D as well. While dangerous in his actions, he also felt like a man trying desperately to do the right thing and I tend to side with his reasoning over the heroes' own.

CONCLUSION: Like all previous Valducan novels, the action is great and the world-building is excellent. This is a series for those who enjoy. There's excellent character-buildng as well with a really intriguing moral conflict at the base. It may be a messy moral conflict I don't feel is properly resolved but it's one that has me chomping to buy the next book.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

GUEST POST: The 2 Most Important Questions In Science Fiction & Fantasy by Dianna Sanchez


As a child, I never asked questions. Questions were a sign of weakness. If you had to ask, you didn’t already know, so you were at the very least ignorant. At worst, it would turn out to be a stupid question, and then you were mercilessly ridiculed. It was always safer just to pretend you knew what the hell was going on.

So when I was nine years old and the children’s librarian at the Ernie Pyle branch of the Albuquerque Public Library took me by the hand, led me into the adult SF section, and placed a copy of The Fellowship of the Ring in my hand, it never occurred to me to ask who J.R.R. Tolkien was or which grand literary tradition he was drawing from. And when I began devouring the entire section in alphabetical order – Asimov, Beagle, Bradbury, Clarke – I never questioned the fact that all the names on those spines were Anglo names. I just assumed that science fiction and fantasy were Anglo territory, like so much else in my life.

It wasn’t until I went off to college at MIT that I learned the value, the utter necessity of asking questions. At about the same time I began, painfully, to speak up in calculus, I discovered black science fiction – Butler, Delany, Ellison. Someone pressed Love in the Time of Cholera into my hands, and I discovered that Hispanics write beautiful, mystical, mind-bending novels, but for some reason these were called magic realism rather than fantasy or science fiction.


I began to ask the obvious questions I should have been asking all along: "where are the Hispanic SF writers? Why are there no Hispanic characters in SF?" In the late 80s, I finally found Diane Duane’s So You Want to Be a Wizard with its Hispanic protagonist, Kit Rodriguez. His partner in magic, while not Hispanic, had a Hispanic name, Juanita. Delighted, I thought, Oh, good. Now we’ll start seeing more Hispanic representation in speculative fiction. Well, not so much. It wasn’t until Junot Díaz won the Pulitzer in 2008 for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao that other Hispanics began to establish a presence in genre fiction. Now Daniel José Older and Carmen Maria Machado and a small horde of other Latin@ writers are gaining recognition, along with the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement. I applaud and support their efforts.

The name on my driver’s license is Jenise Aminoff. It would be easy to just use that name. As some of my Clarion classmates have pointed out, it’s a great name for an SF author. It’s got “amino” in it, and it would get shelved right next to Asimov. But I’ve chosen to publish my first novel, A Witch’s Kitchen, using my middle name, Dianna, and my mother’s maiden name, Sanchez. Dianna Sanchez is as much me as Jenise Aminoff. Moreover, it’s a side of me that most people would never guess, unless they asked.

When I attended in Clarion in 1995, I really wanted to establish myself as a Hispanic SF writer. One of my admission stories was called “A Recipe for Martian Enchiladas” about Hispanic farmers on Mars. The story I have in the 2017 Young Explorers’ Adventure Guide, “Weeds,” can trace its convoluted ancestry to that admission story. In it, twelve-year-old Lupe, who was born on Mars, visits her family in New Mexico, where persistent drought destroyed all farming practice and where Lupe feels like an alien within her own family and culture. That was my own experience; Hispanic women aren’t supposed to study physics or write science fiction.

I have two daughters, and I want them to walk into the library and see Hispanic names on the shelves. I want them to find Hispanic characters in the books they read. I want that for all children, especially the ones who don’t ask questions, so that they’ll know that science fiction and fantasy is written by all kinds of people, anyone who dreams, anyone who asks those very important questions: “What if?” and “Why not?”


The 2017 Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide is an anthology of 24 science fiction short stories for middle grade readers. It’s currently on Kickstarter - you can back it here!  Find more information about Dianna’s debut novel, A Witch’s Kitchen at Dreaming Robot Press.


Official Author Website

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Dianna Sanchez is the not-so-secret identity of Jenise Aminoff, whose superpower is cooking with small children. She is an MIT alumna, graduate of the 1995 Clarion Workshop and Odyssey Online, active member of SCBWI, and former editor at New Myths magazine. Aside from 18 years as a technical and science writer, she has taught science in Boston Public Schools, developed curricula for STEM education, and taught Preschool Chef, a cooking class for children ages 3-5. A Latina geek originally from New Mexico, she now lives in the Boston area with her husband and two daughters.

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