Red Sonja 8

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013 | Posted by MichaelPenkas

Red Sonja 8 coverWhen we last left Red Sonja, she was about to be hung for killing some guy twenty issues ago. Last month, Oryx, a mammoth-riding bully, decided to turn her in to the victim’s family for a reward. Apparently, he opted for the dead option in dead or alive.

This issues begins with Sonja managing a few more insults and even a good kick before she’s cut free of the noose by Suumaro, Oryx’s brother and local outcast.

His motive? Why, he wants to make Red Sonja his wife, of course. Poor Suumaro.

So after a rooftop fight with a couple of thugs, Sonja and Suumaro (oh, both their names start with S – they could use the same monogrammed towels) are out of the fort and into the surrounding hills, where they find his military camp. It seems that Summaro wasn’t the only one cast out of the fort. He apparently sneaks back in every now and again to gather intelligence against the day when his army takes it back. And after watching Red Sonja fight, he invites her to join his army.

Thing is, Red Sonja’s been around the block a few times. She knows how this thing goes. And she’s met her share of guys claiming to be impressed by her prowess in battle, when in fact they’re just trying to get her out of her chain mail. She asks Suumaro point-blank if he’s got a wife and his answer is, “I’ve got several … but that is of little consequence to me at this moment.”

Red flag. Two red flags, actually. Red flag one? He’s got multiple wives. Sonja’s just escaped the noose for murdering one polygamist and this could be a terrible trend. Red flag two? His wives are of little consequence to him.

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New Treasures: The Last Policeman, by Ben H. Winters

Monday, January 28th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

The-Last-PolicemanI enjoy genre mash-ups.  When done right, they highlight the strengths of both genres, and that’s a hard thing to pull off. Think horror-comedies like Ghostbusters or Zombieland, or science fiction mysteries like Asimov’s I, Robot stories. Or zombie westerns like the Bloodlands novels, or Dead Reckoning.

Not every mash-up succeeds, of course. (Did anyone see Seeking A Friend For the End of the World, Steve Carell’s romantic comedy cum apocalypse movie from 2012? No? That’s what I thought.)

But sometimes a mash-up is so brilliant I have to buy it immediately  That’s what happened with The Last Policeman, a police procedural set in Earth’s last days.

What’s the point in solving murders if we’re all going to die soon, anyway?

Detective Hank Palace has faced this question ever since asteroid 2011GV1 hovered into view. There’s no chance left. No hope. Just six precious months until impact.

The Last Policeman presents a fascinating portrait of a pre-apocalyptic United States. The economy spirals downward while crops rot in the fields. Churches and synagogues are packed. People all over the world are walking off the job — but not Hank Palace. He’s investigating a death by hanging in a city that sees a dozen suicides every week — except this one feels suspicious, and Palace is the only cop who cares.

The first in a trilogy, The Last Policeman offers a mystery set on the brink of an apocalypse. As Palace’s investigation plays out under the shadow of 2011GV1, we’re confronted by hard questions way beyond “whodunit.” What basis does civilization rest upon? What is life worth? What would any of us do, what would we really do, if our days were numbered?

Now there’s an original use for an apocalyptic setting. Give me a impending extinction-level event and a relentless investigator too stubborn to give up, and you have my attention. I bought this book after reading the first two paragraphs of the plot summary, and for a jaded book purchaser like me, that’s saying something.

Ben H. Winters is a New York Times best-selling author and an Edgar Award nominee. His last novel was BedbugsThe Last Policeman was published by Quirk Books in trade paperback July 2012. It is 316 pages and priced at $14.95 ($14.95 for the digital edition).

Nathan Shumate Looks at Lousy Book Covers

Monday, January 28th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

Goat SuckingIt’s a lot easier to publish a book than it used to be.

So easy in fact that people are doing it themselves. They’re doing away with traditional print and distribution, all the hassle of finding an agent, publishing contracts, and 20th Century promotional models entirely.

Unfortunately, in the process many of them are also getting rid of things they probably shouldn’t. Things like book design, and cover art. And marketing.

Or even proof-reading. I mean, who needs that, right?

Sadly, the result is that some good books are getting buried under terrible cover art, or painfully sub-standard art design. Nathan Shumate has made it his mission to showcase daily examples at his blog, Lousy Book Covers. Today’s poster child, Dixon Heurass’s Goat Suckin’, is sub-titled “Hotter Than It Sounds” (as Nathan dryly observes, “It would have to be, wouldn’t it?”)

Check out the many additional examples at Nathan’s blog to see just how many different ways there are to screw up cover art, or totally obscure passable art with poor title placement and font color.

We last discussed Nathan Shumate on the publication of his delightful experiment in communal self-publishing, Space Eldritch (which has a thoroughly excellent cover, incidentally).

Harry Connolly: “Let Me Tell You About My Ambitions, and Why They Don’t Include Kickstarter”

Monday, January 28th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

Circle of EnemiesWe’ve had some excellent discussions here about cloud funding, starting with Scott Taylor’s “The Pillaging of Kickstarter” last March. There’s no question that cloud funding sites like Kickstarter are here to stay, but the question remains: how much do they really help writers?

Harry Connolly has written a thoughtful and insightful piece on his blog from the point of view of a successful author and self-published writer, titled “Let me tell you about my ambitions, and why they don’t include Kickstarter (right now).” Here’s a quote:

Along with the release of the sales numbers of my self-published novel has come a flood of requests that I turn to Kickstarter to fund The Twisted Path… Currently, I have no plans to do that, and I’m writing this post because I want to explain my reasoning…

I want to be a best-selling author… It’s not about making a whole bunch of money, it’s about having my books in the hands of lots of readers from all over the world.

Several people have suggested that I could get new readers with a Kickstarter campaign, but I don’t consider that realistic. Take a look at these guys: their campaign has been fantastically successful. At the time I write this, they’re over 11,000% of their goal. However, they have fewer than 8,500 backers.

That’s huge for a Kickstarter but Circle of Enemies sold more copies than that and it’s considered a failure.

Harry Connolly’s first publication “The Whoremaster of Pald” appeared in Black Gate 3; his Twenty Palaces novels include Child of FireGame of Cages, and Circle of Enemies, all published in paperback by Del Rey, and the self-published Twenty Palaces.

You can read the complete blog post here.

Black Gate Online Fiction: “The Gunnerman” by Jason E. Thummel

Sunday, January 27th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

Jason E. Thummel 2An action-packed tale of a battle at sea, a desperate swordfight on wind-swept decks, and dark sorcery hidden in the depths of a strange vessel.

“Starboard,” shouted the chief, “run ‘em out!”

The gun port was thrown open and the towmen sent the cannon’s barrel through the open port. Clap gazed down the barrel and could see the hull of the other vessel just out of range riding high and asking for it. It was a ship of similar size, two decks above the waterline, each with ten ports open and guns run out even as he watched. She was flying unfamiliar colors and her paint seemed of foreign design. The trigger rope itched in his hand, begging him for release.

“As she bears and on the roll, boys,” came the command. Clap took one last aim, hoping for the mainmast, stepped aside and pulled.

Jason’s first story for us was “The Duelist,” published as part of our Black Gate Online Fiction line on September 30th, 2012. His work has also appeared in Flashing Swords magazine, Rage of the BehemothMagic and Mechanica, and other venues. Some of his sword & sorcery and heroic fantasy is collected in In Savage Lands and The Harsh Suns, and the first two novels chronicling the supernatural adventures of occult detective Lance Chambers, The Spear of Destiny and Cult of Death, are now available.

The complete catalog of Black Gate Online Fiction, including stories by E.E. Knight, Gregory Bierly, Mark Rigney, C.S.E. Cooney, Judith Berman, Howard Andrew Jones, Dave Gross, Harry Connolly, and others, is here.

“The Gunnerman” is a complete 5,000-word sword & sorcery tale offered at no cost.

Read the complete story here.

The Weird of Oz gabs about Antiheroes

Sunday, January 27th, 2013 | Posted by Nick Ozment

100_0347Antihero. A problematic term to begin with, its overuse has further watered it down. Anti- typically means to be in opposition or even to be the opposite; the antithesis of a position is the oppositional position.

So, technically, one might interpret anti-hero to mean a villain. This is rarely, if ever, how the term is used; so what do we mean by an antihero?

Off the top of my head, without resorting to any dictionary definition, this is how I tend to picture an antihero: A person not serving any particular ideal or higher purpose, but generally self-serving, who, while going about his (or her) business in pursuit of fortune, power, pleasure, or whatever turns his crank, is suddenly confronted by a moral choice. And at that moment, not for any dogmatic or religious reasons, any creeds or codes, but simply because of some niggling inner compass — his conscience — he makes the choice that is least likely to offer personal gain, that involves self-sacrifice, that may in fact be fatal. He makes a heroic choice, the choice that allows us to continue to root for him as the hero-protagonist.

Think of the fallen samurai in The Seven Samurai or the lawless gunslingers in The Magnificent Seven. In both cases, when they learn that the threatened peasant village cannot really afford to pay them and that they are outnumbered five to one, they nevertheless decide to make a stand to protect the afflicted. No promise of financial reward and a very high probability of death — an option that the histories of these men would not suggest they would choose. They are neither knights nor saints. Yet they become heroes and, in some cases, martyrs. All appearances to the contrary, deep down they prove to be — when it really counts — good men. Or in that moment they become good men.

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“Even a God Can be Moved”: Locus Online on “When the Glimmer Faire Came to the City of the Lonely Eye”

Sunday, January 27th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

John R FultzLois Tilton at Locus Online reviews John R. Fultz’s “When the Glimmer Faire Came to the City of the Lonely Eye” published here on Sunday, January 6:

Artifice the Quill, in exile, has joined a company of players and is now about to see his first play staged for the ghosts that haunt Mornitetra, a city where the eye of its god looks down from a tall pedestal in the central plaza. The subject of his drama is the doom of its sister city Ultimetra, from whence the ghosts have come after the god destroyed their own, in wrath at their sin. Artifice has misgivings about this venue, but he is not in charge of the troupe…

The story… stands effectively on its own. The real interest is not so much in Artifice himself as in the head of the troupe, Mordeau, whose sorcery enhances the stagecraft and effects, so that even a god can be moved.

John’s tales for Black Gate include “Oblivion is the Sweetest Wine” (Black Gate 12), ”Return of the Quill” (Black Gate 13), and “The Vintages of Dream” (BG 15). Seven Kings, the second book of the Shaper Trilogy, was released on Jan. 15; read an exclusive chapter here.

Tangent Online called “Glimmer Faire” “an enjoyable adventure that reveals the power of art;” read that review here. You can read Lois’s complete review at Locus Online, and “When the Glimmer Faire Came to the City of the Lonely Eye,” a complete 6,800-word novelette of heroic fantasy, free here.

The complete catalog of Black Gate Online Fiction, including stories by E.E. Knight, Gregory Bierly, Mark Rigney, C.S.E. Cooney, Judith Berman, Howard Andrew Jones, Dave Gross, Harry Connolly, and others, is here.

New Treasures: Pirate Freedom by Gene Wolfe

Saturday, January 26th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

Pirate Freedom-smallI love bargain books. I love pirate books. And I love Gene Wolfe books. So I don’t need to tell you how I feel about bargain pirate novels by Gene Wolfe.

Pirate Freedom was released in hardcover in November 2007, and in trade paperback three years later. It’s a swashbuckling adventure novel — Sci-Fi Weekly called it “straight up adventure in the mold of Robert Louis Stevenson, Rafael Sabatini, or even the Pirates of the Caribbean films” — but as you’d expect from Wolfe, he adds an unexpected twist or two.

It begins in a monastery in Cuba the day after tomorrow, where a boy named Chris realizes he’s not meant for the priesthood, and sets out for the streets of Havana. From there it becomes a tale of time travel and fantasy adventure. The San Francisco summed it up thusly:

Plenty of action, romance, and historical color. Nearly every pirate cliche is given a new spin, from mutinous crews to cursed ships, from beautiful women in disguise to treasure beyond imagining.

Still, I hadn’t gotten around to picking up a copy until this week, when I noticed that Amazon had marked down the price by 60% — to $9.98 for the hardcover, and just $6.40 for the trade paperback. If you’re interested in a copy, act quickly; there are only about half a dozen left.

Pirate Freedom was published by Tor Books. It is 320 pages, and was originally priced at $24.95 for the hardcover, and $15.95 for the trade paperback. The gorgeous cover is by David Grove (click on the image at right for a larger version).

Kiini Ibura Salaam on Advice Received in the Bathroom from Octavia Butler, Selling Books at the Green Market, and Holding Five Jobs When Life Only Has Room for Two: An Audio Interview

Saturday, January 26th, 2013 | Posted by Emily Mah

e3667e7c97f30a7f0235ec.L._V149931200_SX200_I’m a total fangirl around Kiini Ibura Salaam.

When people ask what the best thing about Clarion West was, my first answer is: everything I learned about writing; but a very close second is: that it made me cool enough to hang out with people like Kiini. Originally from New Orleans, she has traveled the world and writes mind-bending stories rich in culture and sensuality. She is also a painter, mother, and blogger for KIS List, an email newsletter she started over a decade ago.

At the time of this posting, she has just earned out her advance on her collection of short stories, Ancient, Ancient, which any short story author can tell you is no small feat. In this interview, she discusses both her artistic process and her marketing strategy as she continues to build a name and a brand for herself in the modern publishing era.

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The Rumors Are True: JJ Abrams to Helm Next Star Wars

Saturday, January 26th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

157825331JL169_Children_s_DLate last night, Walt Disney Studios announced that J.J. Abrams will direct the still-untitled Star Wars: Episode VII.

An announcement was expected following Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm in October and rumors have been swirling around Abrams for the last 48 hours.

In entertainment circles, this hook-up is akin to the marriage of Michael Jackson and Priscilla Presley, which made Jackson Elvis Presely’s son-in-law. Abrams, who directed 2009’s Star Trek, unites science fiction’s two largest film franchises under a single creative umbrella.

Abrams had an impressive television resume long before he became King of SF Film: his creations include Felicity, Alias, Lost and Fringe. He wrote and directed the Spielberg homage Super 8 and the action flick Mission: Impossible III, and co-wrote Armageddon. George Lucas said in a statement:

I’ve consistently been impressed with J.J. as a filmmaker and storyteller. He’s an ideal choice to direct the new Star Wars film and the legacy couldn’t be in better hands.

According to Disney’s Michael Arndt, the Oscar-winning writer of Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3, and the upcoming The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, will write the screenplay. It will arrive in theaters in 2015, and Disney has announced plans to release a new Star Wars film every two to three years after that. The Empire Strikes Back writer Lawrence Kasdan will script the second, and Simon Kinberg (Sherlock Holmes) is on deck for the third.

Rumors abound on the plot of the next three films, including whether or not they will include Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford. Recent reports in The Guardian and Reuters suggest they could center on Luke Skywalker’s attempts to found a Jedi academy on the planet Yavin 4.

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