Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

Lately it seems that my country is importing holidays too and the only reasons behind this are the material ones and the excuses for parties, although you don’t need to import a holiday for a party reason. I don’t like that much this practice, but I like seeing and learning about other people’s holidays. And one that I like the most is Halloween (we have a similar holiday, but not celebrated as much, in fact almost at all as long as I can remember, Saint Andrew’s Night which takes place on 30th November). Keeping to the present days of Halloween I have to say that I really like the traditions around this holiday. The decorations of this day remind me and work as an introduction for Christmas, the costumes, the trick or treating (we have a similar tradition for Christmas when children sing Christmas carols from house to house for sweets) and above all the jack-o-lantern. I think that the last one is my absolute favorite, I love the jack-o-lantern and I think that my childhood plays a role in this too because I used then to make them together with my grandmother for fun. I have to admit though that I follow one of the Halloween’s traditions, but that is for personal entertainment, I watch these days a few horror movies (although I'll watch them anyway ;D). So with this said I would like to wish you a very
Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 30, 2009

"Feeding Ground" by Sarah Pinborough

"Feeding Ground"
Format: Paperback, 320 pages
Publisher: Leisure Books
The review is based on a bought copy of the novel.

London streets that were once filled with pedestrians, tourists and shoppers are now clogged with thick webs and dead bodies. Spidery creatures straight out of a nightmare have infested the city, skittering after their human prey, spinning sticky traps to catch their food…
A few desperate survivors have banded together, realizing their only hope for survival is to flee the dying city. Their route will take them through wrecked streets, into an underground train station. Only too late will they discover their deadly mistake: their chosen tunnel is home to the hungry creatures’ food cache, filled with cocooned but still living victims. Instead of escape, the group has run straight into the heart of a…FEEDING GROUND

Sarah Pinborough won the British Fantasy Award this year for the best short fiction and that proved to be an excellent reason for me to start reading her works. And the first opportunity appeared with Sarah Pinborough’s latest released novel, “Feeding Ground”.

“Feeding Ground” works on the premises set by another novel of Sarah Pinborough, “Breeding Ground”, but nothing says that this is a sequel of that novel and I can’t tell if it is, because I haven’t read that one yet. Still, “Feeding Ground” works very much on its own and I didn’t find many gaps unfilled by the connection with “Breeding Ground”. It is true that it might be possible for some of the novel’s aspects to have a deeper explanation in the first novel, but there is nothing that stand in front of my enjoyment of reading the novel in that way.

What I liked the most at the “Feeding Ground” is that although the novel’s scenario has in its center some nightmarish creatures Sarah Pinborough doesn’t concentrate necessary on them. Sarah Pinborough doesn’t overuse her creatures, excessive violent images or gory scenes and that is a thing I very much appreciated. Instead she focuses on the human factor, on the psychological aspect of the situation imposed by the novel’s scenario and on the characters’ struggle for survival. This approach makes the novel more powerful and I enjoyed more because of it.

I also liked how Sarah Pinborough deals with her characters. She follows three groups which in the end will converge and in these three groups there are quite a few characters with which the author deals. Although there isn’t much room for the characters to develop properly, mainly because of their numbers, I don’t find them to be flat and uninteresting. It is true that I attached myself more to some of the characters than the others, but all of them are playing their role in the right way and I could easily see the changes they suffer because of the situation they are facing. Also I liked a lot that none of the characters are excused in the survival game and can end up in situations without an exit.

“Feeding Ground” is a well balanced novel, with a steady rhythm and pace. It starts its action right from the first paragraph and installs its unsettling atmosphere from the same paragraph. There are a few twists and turns within the story and quite a few action scenes, but nothing in excess. There are a few weaker aspects of the novels, but not many. One thing that I can’t pronounce myself to is the questions regarding the creatures of the novel and their provenience. This is more of a personal curiosity and nothing serious that stood in my enjoyment of the novel and I think that although there are hints in the novel regarding this aspect there might be a deeper link with the “Breeding Ground” novel I mentioned. But that I have to investigate by reading that novel. Second there are a few introspections within these creatures which I thought that could have been left out. I didn’t find them very relevant and I think that their connections from the story could have been made without them.

Sarah Pinborough’s “Feeding Ground” proved to be a catchy reading and a novel that besides its horror scenario forays into the human condition and the changes it suffers when facing a survival situation.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Cover art - "Horus Heresy: Nemesis" by James Swallow

This one comes straight from the Facebook page of The Black Library so for now I don’t have many details. But I have to say that it looks very good and it also, as a coincidence, fits the atmosphere of the upcoming Halloween. James Swallow’s novel, “Horus Heresy: Nemesis” is due to be released on August 2010.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Book trailer - "Burn Me Deadly" by Alex Bledsoe

One of the titles that caught my attention through the positive reviews received is Alex Bledsoe’s “The Sword-edged Blonde”. This week I ordered a copy of the novel and I should give it a try by the end of the year, but until then I have to admit that, besides the novel reviews, seeing the blurb and the blend of fantasy and detective story I am very curious about “The Sword-edged Blonde”. By the end of the year a second novel in the series will be published, “Burn Me Deadly” and on the Alex Bledsoe’s blog I found an interesting trailer for his book. And here is also a blurb for “Burn Me Deadly” from the publisher’s website:

Above Angelina’s Tavern in down-and-dirty Neceda you’ll find the office of Eddie LaCrosse, a freelance sword jockey who, for twenty-five gold pieces a day, will take on any task short of murder for hire. Eddie’s on his way back from a routine investigation when his horse almost runs down a half-naked blonde in serious trouble. Against his better judgment, he promises to protect the frightened young woman, only to find himself waylaid by unknown assailants and left for dead beside her mutilated body.

Eddie isn’t the kind of guy to just let something like this pass. But who killed Laura Lesperitt? Eddie’s quest for payback leads him to a tangled mystery involving a notorious crime lord, a backwoods dragon cult, royal scandals, and a duplicitous femme fatale who has trouble keeping her clothes on. As bodies pile up, attracting the unwelcome attention of the king’s guards, Eddie must use all his wits if he hopes to survive . . .

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

In the mailbox

Here are the latest arrivals in my mailbox. I've been looking forward for the Pierre Pevel's novel, "The Cardinal's Blades", so this one certainly will be my next reading, as soon as I finish the current one :)

- "The Cardinal's Blades" by Pierre Pevel (through the courtesy of Gollancz);

Paris, 1633. Louis XIII reigns over France . . . and Cardinal Richelieu governs the country. One of the most dangerous and most powerful men in Europe, Richelieu keeps a constant, sharp eye on the enemies of the Crown to avoid their assassination attempts, thwart their spies and avert their warmongering. But he's up against people who will stop at nothing to achieve their goals, even going so far as to forge alliances with France's oldest and deadliest enemies. Spain, and the Court of Dragons.The nobility keep tiny dragonnets as pets; royal couriers ride tame wyverns, and lethal man-shaped scaled dracs ropam the country. But the power rising from the Court of Dragons is anything but mundane; the Black Claw sect draws on dragons as they once were: ancient, terrible, utterly merciless . . . and poised to move against France.
Faced with the growing threat from Spain, Richelieu summons Captain la Fargue, an exceptional swordsman, devoted officer and brilliant leader. If he's to turn aside the Black Claw's schemes, La Fargue and his legenday company of swashbucklers and rogues must be persuaded to once again risk their lives, fortunes and reputations for Richelieu, and for France.
It's the biggest challenge yet for The Cardinal's Blades - and they'll need to be sharp . . .

- "Rage of the Behemoth" edited by Jason M. Waltz (through the courtesy of Rogue Blades Entertainment);

This RotB Anthology contains 21 stories about the biggest, baddest, boldest behemoths ever to roar across the pages of heroic adventure! Over 150,000 words of monstrous mayhem record the ferocious battles that rage between gargantuan creatures of myth and legend and the warriors and wizards who wage war against, beside, and astride them. Behemoths and battles will be presented in four-story sections of five different habitats introduced by the stunning illustrations of John Whitman and headlined by well-known authors Mary Rosenblum, C.L. Werner, Brian Ruckley, Lois Tilton, and – writing together for the final time - Andrew Offutt and Richard K. Lyon.

- "Nyphron Rising" by Michael J. Sullivan (through the courtesy of Robin & Michael Sullivan);

War has come to Melengar. To save her kingdom, Princess Arista runs a desperate gamble when she defies her brother and hires Royce and Hadrian for a dangerous mission.
As the power of the Nyphron Empire grows, so does Royce's suspicion that the wizard Esrahaddon is using the thieves as pawns in his own game. To find the truth, he must unravel the secret of Hadrian's past…what he discovers could change the future for all of Elan.

- "The Folklore of Discworld" by Terry Pratchett & Jacqueline Simpson (through the courtesy of Transworld Books);

Most of us grow up having always known to touch wood or cross our fingers, and what happens when a princess kisses a frog or a boy pulls a sword from a stone, yet sadly some of these things are now beginning to be forgotten. Legends, myths, fairytales: our world is made up of the stories we told ourselves about where we came from and how we got there. It is the same on Discworld, except that beings which on Earth are creatures of the imagination - like vampires, trolls, witches and, possibly, gods - are real, alive and in some cases kicking on the Disc.

- "The Wit & Wisdom of Discworld" by Terry Pratchett (through the courtesy of Transworld Books);

The Wit and Wisdom of Discworld is a collection of the wittiest, pithiest and wisest quotations from this extraordinary universe, dealing one-by-one with each book in the canon. Guaranteed to transport you back to your favourite or forgotten Discworld moments it is the perfect book for die-hard Pratchett fans, as well as anyone coming to the Discworld for the first time.

- "Breaking Point" by John Macken (through the courtesy of Transworld Books).

There is a killer loose on the London Underground. He kills without leaving any forensic trace, and seemingly without motive. Genecrime, the UK’s elite forensic unit, are stretched to the limits trying to find one usable clue.
And there is another problem facing Genecrime. Before he was sacked as head of the unit, Reuben Maitland developed a system to predict latent homicidal behaviour from people’s DNA. Now rogue elements in the police, believing that prevention is better than cure, are using Reuben’s research to hunt down and incite latent psychopaths beyond their breaking point.
Reuben must track down whoever is misusing his technology and stop them before more lives are destroyed. But what he cannot know is that his investigation will lead him directly into the path of the Underground killer.

Thank you all very much!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Cover art - “Dansînd pe Marte” (Dancing on Mars) edited by Michael Haulică

In a market where the cover artwork seems rather neglected comes a new title with one impressive artwork decorating its cover, “Dansînd pe Marte şi alte povestiri fantastice” (Dancing on Mars and other fantastic stories) edited by Michael Haulică. But this not the only praiseworthy thing of this title. The Michael Haulică’s anthology is published by Millennium Press, a small Romanian publishing house, but an admirable one for its work on promoting Romanian speculative fiction authors, and “Dansînd pe Marte” (Dancing on Mars) is no exception. Also the beautiful cover artwork is made by a Romanian artist, Alex Popescu, with whom I had the pleasure to make an interview for my blog. The anthology contains stories written by Mircea Coman, Cătălin Sandu, Liviu Braicu, Roxana Brînceanu, Robert Coller, Ioana Vişan, Aron Biro, Liviu Radu, Mircea Pricăjan, Marian Coman, Cătălin Maxim, Bogdan-Tudor Bucheru, Ana Veronica Mircea, Andrei Gaceff, Ben Ami, Dumitru Cl. Stătescu, Ştefana Czeller, Florin Pîtea and Mioara Musteaţă and although many of these authors are unknown to me too we will discover them together in a review I’ll write when I get a copy of the Michael Haulică’s “Dansîd pe Marte” (Dancing on Mars).

Friday, October 23, 2009

Antoher anthology to look for

As I previously said there are already two appetizing anthologies on my wishing list with two very impressive line-ups in their table of contents. But here comes a third, “Swords and Dark Magic: The New Swords and Sorcery” edited by Lou Anders and Jonathan Strahan and which will be released on June 2010 by Harper Eos, with an equal impressive line-up, announced by the editors Lou Anders and Jonathan Strahan:

- "Introduction: Check Your Dark Lord at the Door" by Lou Anders & Jonathan Strahan
- "Goats of Glory" by Steven Erikson
- "Tides Elba: A Tale of the Black Company" by Glen Cook
- "Bloodsport" by Gene Wolfe
- "The Singing Spear" by James Enge
- "A Wizard of Wiscezan" by C.J. Cherryh
- "A Rich Full Week" by K. J. Parker
- "A Suitable Present for a Sorcerous Puppet" by Garth Nix
- "Red Pearls: An Elric Story" by Michael Moorcock
- "The Deification of Dal Bamore" by Tim Lebbon
- "Dark Times at the Midnight Market" by Robert Silverberg
- "The Undefiled" by Greg Keyes
- "Hew the Tint Master" by Michael Shea
- "In the Stacks" by Scott Lynch
- "Two Lions, A Witch, and the War-Robe" by Tanith Lee
- "The Sea Troll's Daughter" by Caitlin R Kiernan
- "Thieves of Daring" by Bill Willingham
- "The Fool Jobs" by Joe Abercrombie

The anthology will have also a limited edition published by Subterranean Press. I am looking forward to see the cover artworks for the two editions and to grab a copy for myself when the time comes.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Cover art - "Necroscope: The Plague-Bearer" by Brian Lumley

Subterranean Press is one of the publishing houses to look for when it comes to cover artwork, and not only that. And as you can see they’ve done it again, this time with two covers for a new Necroscope novella, “The Plague-Bearer”. There is something I don’t like about this release since the novella will have two different covers, one for the two editions published by Subterranean Press, trade and limited, but there is nothing I can do about it. Still, I can admire both of them, the work of the renowned artist Bob Eggleton and wait for the release of the Brian Lumley’s novella, scheduled for April 2010.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"Interregnum" by SJA Turney

Format: Paperback, 444 pages
Review copy provided through the courtesy of SJA Turney

For twenty years civil war has torn the Empire apart; the Imperial line extinguished as the mad Emperor Quintus burned in his palace, betrayed by his greatest general. Against a background of war, decay, poverty and violence, men who once served in the proud Imperial army now fight as mercenaries, hiring themselves to the greediest lords.
On a hopeless battlefield that same general, now a mercenary captain tortured by the events of his past, stumbles across hope in the form of a young man begging for help. Kiva is forced to face more than his dark past as he struggles to put his life and the very Empire back together. The last scion of the Imperial line will change Kiva forever.

SJA Turney made his debut this year with a historical fiction novel, “Marius’ Mules”, followed shortly by a fantasy novel, “Interregnum”, set in a very similar setting.

The second novel of SJA Turney, “Interregnum”, is set in fantastic world, but one very similar with the Roman Empire. The world of “Interregnum” has politics, military aspects and historical facts that resemble a lot with the scheming for power, the legions and the maddened emperors of the Roman Empire. Also looking over the map at the beginning of the novel, the Turney’s world looks very similar with the map of Europe, a little distorted though. This is the only element, if I am not mistaken, besides the story that will incline the novel towards the fantasy genre. Although I would have liked to see a bit more depth to this world, in terms of customs and religion, I have to admit that I find it to be an interesting setting.

The novel moves around quite a number of characters, shifting from different point of views. Above all I find the most attractive and powerful character to be Kiva, but I can’t honestly say that I grew very familiar with him either. All the characters have their place in the story, but because of the fact that the novel moves often from a point of view to another I think that these characters suffer a bit in their development. They are involved in familiar and predictable plot, but one turned by the author in an interesting one through a series of events and actions that will lead to some unexpected turns. The story benefits also from a lot of very good action scenes and very engaging battle scenes. I really liked these scenes, but I have to say that some of these scenes can be a bit brutal and gory.

Still, I found some of the aspects of “Interregnum” not sitting well with me. I found some of the characters actions inconsistent and misplaced. To give you an example, at the beginning of the novel after a young Quintillian assists at his first very brutal battle scene and recoils from the image of that battle scenes moments later he shots a running man with a bow pretty nonchalantly. Like I said the novel moves around a number of characters, but from these ones only one is a woman, Sathina, and it lacks heavily feminine figures. It is true that it is a military fiction, but I believe that the novel would have benefit from the presence of more feminine characters, be them minor ones and their absence weakens the story greatly.

Overall, I think that SJA Turney’s “Interregnum” would not be suitable for any awards, but it is a relaxing one with a military and action packed story.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A blog relocation

The wonderful Tia Nevitt who runs the amazing blog Fantasy Debut decided to relocate her blog to a new one, Debuts & Reviews. Not to worry though, all the changes that her blog suffers are for the better and are only made to enrich the content. Here are those changes in Tia’s own words:

What I’m Keeping
- Writer Wednesday. This proved to be a popular feature, so I will continue it here.
- Discovery Showcases. Now open to any genre, and posted sometime on Sunday.

What I’m Changing
- Debut Showcases. These will be posted weekly, and will be more round-ups than full-fledged showcases. I hope to cover a wide variety of genres, not only speculative fiction.
- Debut-focused reviews. I will now review any novel that fits in my areas of interest. I still expect to read a lot of debuts, since I will learn of them through the debut round-ups. As ever, I prefer to be queried, rather than sent unsolicited copies.

What I’m Eliminating
- Can’t think of anything.

What I’m Adding
- More genres. I have my favorites, but I’m not going to limit myself.
- More personality. Expect me to go off-topic more frequently. I enjoy lots of things, not just reading.

As I know Tia I am certain that her new blog will prove as successful as Fantasy Debut so, I recommend a visit to Debuts & Reviews to see more, I already bookmarked it.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Interview with Mark S. Deniz

Mark S. Deniz is an English writer, editor and publisher born in Burnley and currently living in Norrköping, Sweden. In 2001 he made his debut as writer when his short story, “Welcome to the Machine”, was published in the anthology “A Life Worth Living” edited by Bernice Summerfield. In 2007 he edited his first anthology together with Sharyn Lilley, “In Bad Dreams”, published by Eneit Press. Also in 2007 Mark Deniz founded his own publishing house, Morrigan Books , and its imprint, Gilgamesh Press. At Morrigan Books Mark published his next two anthologies, “Voices” together with Amanda Pillar and “Dead Souls”, with a third one scheduled for release later this year (both reviewed on my blog, here and here), “The Phantom Queen Awakes” edited again together with Amanda Pillar.

Mihai (Dark Wolf): Mark, thank you for your amiability and the opportunity of this interview.
You have experience as a reviewer, author, editor and screenwriter. But how did your passion for reading and writing start? How about that for cinema?
Mark S. Deniz: Thank you, Mihai, always nice to talk to other people passionate about the industry!
When I was six or seven I got a collection ‘Tales of Mystery and Imagination’ by Edgar Allan Poe. I’m still not sure who this says more about, me or my mother (as she bought the collection), and I was hooked. I mean everything just jumped off the page and I first thought ‘I have to read more of this’ before later thinking ‘I have to write like this’. Thankfully I’ve been able to succeed with the first…
Cinema…well funnily enough that was around the same time, in the summer of ’77, when I was six, my mother (again to blame) took me to see ‘Star Wars’ and everything came together at once: the love of an exciting story, good and evil, film, literature, the lot!

Mihai (Dark Wolf): Why an attraction towards the speculative fiction? What attracts you the most at the dark fiction?
Mark S. Deniz: I don’t actually like speculative fiction as a term, I think all fiction is speculative and this aim to group the areas of science fiction, fantasy and horror lessens them in some way. I am primarily a horror writer (and reader) and many years ago realised that some of the best horror is not horror per se but comes under so many other genres, as an element of the story. When I sit down and think of some of the films that have scared me the most, I notice that they are classed as something else.
Dark fiction, good dark fiction looks right into the soul, it examines the darkest sides of humanity and what we are capable of. It shows us that we are not alone in some of the thoughts we have about others, or indeed ourselves and that hate, contempt, disgust and fear are as prevalent as love, compassion, hope and happiness.

Mihai (Dark Wolf): As I mentioned in the first question you have an experience as a reviewer, author, editor and screenwriter, but which one is the most pleasant for you? Does one of this have priority for you?
Mark S. Deniz: Oh good question, and one that is hard to answer. Of those four you mention I would say that writing is the one I hark back to most often and the one I am seriously missing at present, due to not having much time to write. The one that is the main priority just now, is actually publishing, as that is craving more and more of my time and I need to do so much with that to make sure that Morrigan Books is a success. It’s a very rewarding job just now but it takes so much time it is unreal!

M(DW): You’ve published a few short stories and worked with Eneit Press before starting your own publishing house, Morrigan Books. How did Morrigan Books come to life? What made you decide to start an own publishing house?
MD: Well, it was actually Eneit Press that was my first publishing house as I co-owned that one. How that came about is that I worked with another writer on a project to edit a trilogy of horror anthologies, ‘In Bad Dreams’ (taken from a God Machine song title). After being knocked back by a few publishing houses, we agreed that the book was too good to be left on the shelf and set up Eneit Press to publish it. Five honourable mentions in Ellen Datlow’s Best of last year proved we were right in our assumption.
Morrigan Books was started last February when it was clear that the two of us at Eneit Press had very different ideas about how a publishing house should be run. I was very keen to get a foothold in the market and planned three books for the first year. Due to in-house editor, Amanda Pillar, and her support we got off the ground with work for ‘Voices’. Later came Reece Notley, Tammy Moore and Jenn Moffat and Morrigan Books then meant business.

M(DW): You also founded another publishing house, Gilgamesh Press. Is it difficult to run two separate publishing houses?
MD: Well Gilgamesh Press is an imprint of Morrigan Books and is there to fulfil my desire to see Assyrian works in print. The idea with Gilgamesh Press differs a little from Morrigan Books and so the workload is nowhere near as intense.

M(DW): How do you feel that your publishing houses developed so far? What are your goals with Morrigan Books and Gilgamesh Press?
MD: Gilgamesh Press is awaiting its first two books next year and I’m very much looking forward to seeing them in print. It’s very much a grey area with the company as we have no books on sale just now, so it really is new and exciting there. Morrigan Books on the other hand is moving along at breakneck speed, we have five titles out already, with another due in a couple of months. We are scheduled up the end of 2010 with a further five books, meaning the catalogue will be up to eleven next Christmas. We are being noticed in the industry and stories and books are being nominated in all manner of awards. I think we could do so much more too if it wasn’t for time and money hindering us (which I am sure is the same for a lot of indie press outfits).

M(DW): You have a three years plan, with five titles already published and with the sixth on its way in the first two years. What should readers expect for the third year? What follows the initial three years plan?
MD: As mentioned the readers should expect another five books, which include: the sequel to T. A. Moore’s debut novel ‘The Even’, ‘Shadows Bloom’, Amanda Pillar’s debut science fiction dystopia, ‘The Fallen’, an Irish crime anthology, filled with well known writers and edited by Gerard Brennan and Mike Stone, and my two pet projects, two anthologies inspired by God Machine albums (you see a God Machine thread here), one containing only Australian writers and the other writers from other parts of the globe.
As to after the three years, that remains to be seen. My aim was to throw everything I had at the company, in terms of time and money and see where we were at the end of the three years. If we were doing well then I would continue and if we hadn’t achieved what I expected/hoped then I would review the company and where it stood. That will more than likely be looked at in more depth next summer.

M(DW): One of the Morrigan Books titles, Gary McMahon’s “How to Make Monsters”, was nominated for the British Fantasy Award. How do you think that the Morrigan Books titles have been received so far? Are the award nominations a goal for Morrigan Books?
MD: Well I’d be happy to win a few too ;) I think it helps a publishing company as it gets them noticed. It’s also good for getting the writers noticed and seeing as one of our goals is getting new, exciting talent noticed (like Gary) then it works out well for all involved.
I think we’re being noticed, I mean we receive ten or fifteen queries a week from people wanting to be published by us to the point where I’ve had to close all the query e-mails from further people submitting.
I talked to several people at Fantasy Con in Nottingham in September, who had never met me before but knew all about Morrigan Books and what we were up to and I think getting names like Katharine Kerr, Elaine Cunningham, Ramsey Campbell, Anya Bast, C. E. Murphy, Robert Hood, Gary McMahon and Kaaron Warren writing for us can’t hurt either.

M(DW): At Morrigan Books you published two anthologies edited by you, “Voices” and “Dead Souls”, and a third due to be published, “The Phantom Queen Awakes”. How does an anthology start? What steps takes such a project from the initial idea until the final collection of short stories?
MD: Well ‘Voices’ and ‘The Phantom Queen Awakes’ have both been co-edited by myself and Amanda Pillar and so they have been different animals than ‘Dead Souls’, which is my first solo edit. How they start is dependent on how you wish to get the stories for them. There seems to be mainly three ways to get the stories for the books: one is an open call submission, in which you advertise the anthology everywhere you can and then read all the stories that come in and decide which are going to be accepted for the anthology. The second is closed call submission, where you invite a selection of authors to submit and then pick those you prefer to feature in the anthology. The final and more exclusive is commission based, where you choose the amount of authors you wish to have in the book and then hire them to write a story for it, before they have even written the first word.
‘Voices’ was completely open call, ‘The Phantom Queen’ was mainly open call, but with commissions for: Anya Bast, Elaine Cunningham, Katharine Kerr and C. E. Murphy, due to different members of the Morrigan Books team wanting to see their work with us. ‘Dead Souls’ was actually a mix of open call and closed call, giving us the chance to get some exciting new talent as well as seeing the Morrigan Books’ faithful in action too.
There are several steps involved, as first we have to read the stories and select which we want. We then have to edit those we have selected and make sure that while the writer keeps their own voice, that they fit in with the other stories and feel like they belong in the anthology. We then have to come up with a track listing (as I call it) and as someone who has done music compilations for friends all my life, I love this bit, deciding which story should start, what should be in the middle, how do we conclude, should we have section breaks, etc.
It is then down to proofreaders to spot our deliberate mistakes before we get ready for typesetting and eventual printing.

M(DW): How difficult is it to edit an anthology? How many submissions does an editor read for anthologies such as yours?
MD: It varies, ‘Voices’ was a dream, due to a few factors: Amanda’s desire and commitment to get the best product out there, the fact that it was a very manageable book and the fact that we were very much on a wavelength with the whole scheme, sections, editing, etc.
‘Dead Souls’ was much, much tougher. I was doing the whole thing on my own and it made me realise how hard that is. It’s by far the biggest book we have done, with 24 stories, some needing hardly any work at all and some needing extensive edits.
‘Voices’ had about 140 submissions I think, whereas ‘The Phantom Queen Awakes’ was nearer 240. I think if we were to advertise one now we’d be looking at around 400, depending on the theme/subject.

M(DW): What qualities do you look for when it comes to the submitted short stories? Are these qualities the same with those for the longer fiction?
MD: There are different things we look for but ultimately my two musts are an engaging story that is written well. There are so many stories out there that are one or the other yet not both and I feel both are essential. I am slightly different to the rest of the team here at Morrigan Books in that I would take well written over decent story, before the opposite. I mean badly written or passably written just doesn’t cut the mustard does it?
For me the first is a standard in writing whereas the second is extremely subjective. The comments and reviews we have received for our books confirms that.
Longer fiction is a whole other world when it comes to selection. The stories are built up in a very different manner. However the principal mentioned above is the same.

M(DW): In your latest anthology, “Dead Souls”, you have some reprinted stories and some original ones. With which one is it easier to work, with the reprinted ones or with the original ones?
MD: Reprints are, on the whole, much easier. I mean the story has already been published somewhere and so the editing of those is not too arduous. Also you’re usually taking a story you know and may already have an idea of how that could be tweaked to just take it up a notch. This is the first time I’ve worked with reprints and all of the stories were relatively painless.
On the other hand, if the original story is pretty much done, then you have as little to do with that as with a reprint. Gary McMahon’s ‘A Shade of Yellow’ was a prime example of this, as there was practically no editing required (save for a few typos) and the proofreaders found nothing amiss either.

M(DW): Did your experience as an editor improved with each collection of stories edited? Do you feel that you have more to learn about anthologies?
MD: It would be easy to say yes but it’s been a very different kettle of fish for each book and I have definitely learned a lot with each. Working with a co-editor and solo are two completely different worlds and they help to shape how I am as an editor. There are a lot of editors I would love to work with: Gary McMahon, Pete Kempshall, Ellen Datlow, Stephen Jones, Pete Allen, Robert Hood, Cat Sparks, Ian Whates, etc. and I would work with Amanda Pillar again in a shot, as I feel we are a perfect partnership when it comes to many aspects in the editing process. Yet, I loved the challenge of working on my own and am very excited about doing that again soon with the Ishtar book (no title as yet).
I have a lot more to learn about anthologies and about editing. I mean, I’m aiming to be as successful and well known as Datlow and Jones in the next twenty years or so and for that I need to learn a lot more, a hell of a lot more. Every book is a step in the right direction, even if it isn’t as acclaimed as a previous one, it has still taught me something valuable, something I need to learn to progress and improve.

M(DW): Does the editing experience help you improve as a writer? Do you think that an editor should avoid including his own stories in his anthologies?
MD: At the moment I have been feeling the opposite, which has scared me. I mean I can’t just sit down and write now, as I’m constantly analyzing what I do, making the whole creative flow that much more difficult. I’m thinking this will change with time though, as I remember when first read for pleasure after becoming an editor that that was a real grind too. However, now, only a year or so later I find reading for pleasure just as it was before.
I’ve just started working on a collaborative novel with somewhat heroine of mine, Carole Johnstone, and I’m hoping that can give me the kick I need to get writing again.
As to an editor having their own stories in an anthology, I think that is totally OK, as long as there is someone else to edit. Take ‘Grants Pass’, both Jennifer Brozek and Amanda Pillar have stories in the book. However, Jennifer and I edited Amanda’s and Amanda and I edited Jennifer’s. I have a story in ‘In Bad Dreams’, as originally I was a co-editor and so this was similar to the ones I have just mentioned. When we decided to publish that I feel I should have pulled the story then, as it was then into the realms of self publishing, which I am not as fond of. I mean if you are the publisher, editor and writer then where is the stop sign? I am a writer trying to make my way in the jungle of literature but Morrigan Books is not a vehicle to assist in that goal. This is why I removed my short ‘Russian Roulette’ from ‘Grants Pass’, as Jennifer had taken the story before Morrigan Books took the anthology.

M(DW): At what are you working now and what future plans do you have, as writer and as editor?
MD: Now, I’m co-editing the international version of ‘Scenes from the Second Storey’, an anthology inspired by the album of the same name by the band the God Machine. This is one of my all time favourite albums and has inspired so much of my work. The international version is to be a 40th birthday present to myself and will be launched on my 40th birthday next year. This will be co-edited by first time editor, Greg Ballam.
I’m also co-editing the first of the Gilgamesh Press anthologies, ‘In the Footsteps of Gilgamesh’, an anthology based on the old stories from Mesopotamia but given a science fiction, horror or fantasy edge. I’m working on this one with my sister-in-law, Berolin Deniz, who is making waves of her own in the area of gender literature in Sweden.
Then comes my next solo project, three novellas about the goddess Ishtar (also from Gilgamesh Press) and these will be written by Australian heavyweights: Deborah Biancotti, Cat Sparks and Kaaron Warren, three authors I adore and three I am very much looking to working with (again)!
As a writer I am working on a post-apocalyptic novel with Carole Johnstone, (mentioned above) which is an examination of free will, choices, sacrifice and love (all written in journal form).
And then it’s just the usual run of the mill publishing duties, which take up around 80 hours of my working week. ;)

Thank you very much for your time and answers.
Thank you for the very interesting and thought-provoking questions!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Another title goes in the shopping list

One of the titles that went straight to my shopping list the instant I saw it is the upcoming anthology edited by Stephen Jones and which will be released in December by Ulysses Press, “The Dead That Walk”. But the fact that Stephen Jones is one of my favorite editors is not the only reason for the inclusion of this anthology on my shopping list. Looking over the line-up of “The Dead That Walk”, that I found on Stephen Jones' website, offered me other great reasons.

The Dead Walk Among Us! Of all the ghoulish monsters, zombies are the most horrific. Reanimated corpses of real people—perhaps even a former friend or relative—these undead brethren rise from the grave to devour your delicious, living flesh. Far more sophisticated than the brain-eating mobs popularized in movies, zombies are as diverse as living humans, and this collection presents the complete blood-rich history of zombie literature set in the early 19th century, the Great Depression and the futuristic zombie apocalypse of tomorrow. Bringing together the greatest zombie authors—Stephen King, Richard Matheson, Clive Barker, Harlan Ellison, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Ramsey Campbell, Joe R. Lansdale, Kim Newman, Michael Marshall Smith, Joe Hill, and many others—The Dead That Walks offers terrifying tales of dread that will drag you screaming into a nightmare world where dissolution does not mean the end and those who survive are next on the menu.

- "Introduction: Shoot'em in the Brain" by Stephen Jones
- "Where There's a Will" by Richard Matheson & Richard Christian Matheson
- "For the Good of All" by Yvonne Navarro
- "The Things He Said" by Michael Marshall Smith
- "The Last Resort" by Mark Samuels
- "Bobby Conroy Comes Back From the Dead" by Joe Hill
- "The Crossing of Aldo Ray" by Weston Ochse
- "Obsequy" by David J. Schow
- "Zombonia" by Nancy Holder
- "Cool Air" by H.P. Lovecraft
- "Call First" by Ramsey Campbell
- "Joe and Abel in the Field of Rest" by Lisa Morton
- "Midnight at the Body Farm" by Brian Keene
- "Dead to the World" by Gary McMahon
- "The Long Dead Day" by Joe. R. Lansdale
- "A Call to Temple" by Kelly Dunn
- "Haeckel's Tale" by Clive Barker
- "The Rulebook" by Christopher Fowler
- "Black Canaan" by Robert E. Howard
- "The Silent Majority" by Stephen Woodworth
- "Sensible City" by Harlan Ellison®
- "Granny's Grinning" by Robert Shearman
- "Amerikanski Dead at the Moscow Morgue or: Children of Marx and Coca Cola" by Kim Newman
- "Tell Me Like You Done Before" by Scott Edelman
- "Home Delivery" by Stephen King

The cover artwork is made by the same amazing artist who is Les Edwards.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Stephen King's "Under the Dome" contest & snippet

On the 10th of November Stephen King has a new novel coming up, “Under the Dome”. And until we can enjoy the King’s latest work Hodder & Stoughton puts together a very interesting marketing campaign. Over the Internet, but not only, there are more than 5000 snippets scattered across websites and locations throughout the UK for us to find out and with the help of them we can reconstruct the novel and have a chance for some wonderful prizes. There is one hidden here on my blog, you just have to look under my blog for the “Under the Dome” snippet.
After you find it you can head for the website dedicated to Stephen King and his latest novel and find out more clues, snippet locations and more about this competition. Good luck to all!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

"Tender Morsels" by Margo Lanagan

"Tender Morsels"
Format: Hardcover, 496 pages
Publisher: David Fickling Books
Review copy provided through the courtesy of the publisher David Fickling Books

Liga endures unspeakable cruelties at the hands of her father, before being magically granted her own personal heaven, a safe haven from the real world. She raises her two daughters in this alternate reality, and they grow up protected from the violence that once harmed their mother. But the real world cannot be denied forever . . .
Magicked men and wild bears break down the borders of Liga’s refuge. Now, having known Heaven, how will these three women survive in a world where beauty and brutality lie side by side?

Margo Lanagan is an Australian author whose works have been recognized with two World Fantasy Awards for the Best Short Fiction (“Singing My Sister Down”) and the Best Collection (“Black Juice”) and a nomination for the Michael L. Printz Award for the same “Black Juice”. Her latest novel, “Tender Morsels” gathered also recognition with a nomination for the Michael L. Printz Award, but also some controversies around it.

“Tender Morsels” is categorized as young adult fiction, but is exactly from there the controversies are coming. Margo Lanagan’s novel, in its first part, presents to the reader a few violent acts that certainly do not look aimed for a young audience, since those are acts of sexual abuse. However, these acts are only scratched at their surface, none of them being explicitly depicted, I only guessed their development. Still, I don’t find these acts to be misplaced. After all, it is not necessary for the young audience whom is the main target of the novel to learn about these acts of violence from this book. It is just necessary to open the TV, the radio or the newspaper and see a world that seems to lose its innocence and acts of violence more explicit and more brutal than those from “Tender Morsels”.

Margo Lanagan’s novel has at its base a German fairy tale, “Snow-White and Rose-Red” with the best known version written by the Grimm Brothers. But “Tender Morsels” is not just an interpretation of that tale, but also a fairy tale on its own, one beautifully created by Margo Lanagan. The author manages to capture beautiful images in her story and creates two worlds that magically captured me. Margo Lanagan entangles in her story realities of our world and dreams that many of us had or have, but she also challenges these realities and dreams. In particular I liked the fact that although in “Tender Morsels” we have two distinct worlds, one a desired and peaceful heaven and the other a harsh and difficult one, it seems that both of them miss elements that will make them perfect, but both of them have wonderful aspects.

I have to admit that sometimes looking over the difficulties of the world from “Tender Morsels” I wished for the main characters to remain in their corner of paradise. But here is the exclusive merit of the author, who not only captures many emotions in her story, but also made me feel most of them. I also liked that the characters have their unique and strong voice and I could feel them manifest it in each dialogue they have within the story. Still, I have to say that I couldn’t attach myself too much of any character, but I believe that this is because I do not have a common ground with any of them.

Despite all this I cannot honestly say that I enjoyed “Tender Morsels” in the fullest. I usually go with readings that have a bit more action, at least some, and Margo Lanagan’s novel seems to miss these. But although the novel doesn’t match my criteria of favorite readings I have to say that Margo Lanagan writes beautifully and “Tender Morsels” is a thought provoking fairy tale.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"The Cabin in the Woods" movie novelization

More often than not I am dissapointed by the movie adaptations of the novels I read. But it seems that it is not the same way when it comes to the other way around, a movie turned into a novel. I haven’t read many movie novelizations, but those I read I usually ended up liking them a bit more than the movie. And one of those titles is Tim Lebbon’s movie novelization of “30 Days of Night”. It seems that Tim Lebbon has a new such movie novelization coming up, for “The Cabin in the Woods”.

The Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon movie, “The Cabin in the Woods”, plays with a classic theme of horror movies, a group of teenagers spend a weekend in a mysterious cabin and was due to be released in February 2010, but it is postponed for 2011. The Tim Lebbon’s movie novelization was also scheduled for February 2010, but in the light of release date of the movie being delayed I am not certain about the novel date release. What I am certain is that I will certainly look forward to see the movie and how Tim Lebbon turns it into a novel.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cover art - "The God Engines" by John Scalzi

Once again Vincent Chong pulls out from his magical pen a wonderful artwork for a novel cover. This time is John Scalzi’s novella, “The God Engines”, and which will be released by Subterranean Press. It looks really good and I wish I see more cover artwork such as this one in the future.

Captain Ean Tephe is a man of faith, whose allegiance to his lord and to his ship is uncontested. The Bishopry Militant knows this -- and so, when it needs a ship and crew to undertake a secret, sacred mission to a hidden land, Tephe is the captain to whom the task is given.
Tephe knows from that the start that his mission will be a test of his skill as a leader of men and as a devout follower of his god. It’s what he doesn’t know that matters: to what ends his faith and his ship will ultimately be put -- and that the tests he will face will come not only from his god and the Bishopry Militant, but from another, more malevolent source entirely...
Author John Scalzi has ascended to the top ranks of modern science fiction with the best-selling, Hugo-nominated novels Old Man’s War and Zoe’s Tale. Now he tries his hand at fantasy, with a dark and different novella that takes your expectations of what fantasy is and does, and sends them tumbling.
Say your prayers... and behold The God Engines.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Interview with Steven Erikson

Steven Erikson hardly needs an introduction. The Canadian writer is the author of the well known fantasy series, “Malazan Book of the Fallen”. The 9th novel of the series was released this year, “Dust of Dreams”, and “Malazan Book of the Fallen” will see its conclusion in the forthcoming novel, “The Crippled God”. Steve Erikson also published three novellas in his series, “Blood Follows”, “The Healthy Dead” and “The Lees of Laughter’s End”, with a 4th one forthcoming, “Crack’d Pot Trail”. He also published two novellas unrelated to the Malazan series, “The Devil Delivered” and “Revolvo” and three novels and short stories and novellas as Steven Lundin. I had the pleasure to make an interview with Steven Erikson.

Mihai (Dark Wolf): Steven, thank you very much for the opportunity of this interview.
Your “Malazan Book of the Fallen” series is already a well-known one, but how did the Malazan world come to life? What is the initial idea that lies at the foundation of your world?
Steven Erikson: The Malazan world originated as a roleplaying game, employing the GURPS game system. We were looking for something original in tone and atmosphere, and a setting that felt genuine and consistent. One thing we deliberately moved away from was the collection of tropes prevalent in fantasy fiction (and gaming). It all began with the dispensing of good and evil, and then the switch away from the traditional Medieval Europe technological and cultural foundations (and mythical as well).

Mihai (Dark Wolf): The world was created together with Ian Cameron Esslemont, but how did you start working together on this project? Did you also have disagreements while building your fantasy world?
SE: We were both working as archaeologists, which is how we met, and later on we both attending the University of Victoria (Canada), enrolled in a Creative Writing program. As flat-mates we had plenty of time to game. I can't recall much in the way of disagreements: Cam ran a number of campaigns. I ran others. The two played off one another and were the better for that dynamic. That relationship continues to this day with the novels.

Mihai (Dark Wolf): You wrote “Gardens of the Moon” in 1991, but if I am not mistaken it took three re-writings and 8 years before it was published. Did you feel at one point along these 8 years the need to quit trying to get it published? Are there huge differences between the initial draft and the final release form of the novel?
Steven Erikson: I did quit. At least six of those eight years the novel simply sat on a shelf. I finally returned to revising it once we'd moved to the UK and I had signed with Hodder & Stoughton (as Steve Lundin, Sceptre imprint) and my first contemporary fiction novel was about to be published. My agent was amenable to trying to pitch it to fantasy publishers and so I rewrote the thing (but not extensively; further rewrites followed once I had a publisher and editor on board). The initial draft of the novel started at the siege of Pale. Everything that preceded it came at this stage of revision. The very first version, of course, was a film script, and that one started in Darujhistan, with Crokus on the night he's hunted by the assassins.

M(DW): You signed a publishing deal worth ₤675,000 for your next nine novels. How did you feel when you received this offer? Did you expect or dream at one point while writing your first novel at such a deal?
SE: Well, we dream many things, don't we? My dream had always been reaching the point where I could write full time. The offer, when it came, was tailor-made. It gave me something I'd never before known: security and stability. I'd grown up poor; our family had always struggled; even at the point of signing I was in debt on Canadian student loans (the first thing I addressed upon moving back to Canada). The specific amount of the offer floored me. I never expected anything like it, but oddly enough I wasn't intimidated. I knew I could write this series: the only question was whether anyone would want to read it; and I was concerned that my publisher not come to regret their decision.

M(DW): The deal being made for other nine novels, may I ask if you already have had in mind the structure of the next novels in the “Malazan Book of the Fallen” series or you worked on them after signing the contract?
SE: I admit to some coyness at first. When the deal was being made for the first novel, it was a one-off contract, with first rights of refusal for the next one. It was only after 'Gardens' came out that I made mention of my grander scheme: ten books. And since by that point I was finishing up the second novel, Deadhouse Gates, I suspect it was seen as encouraging, in that I was able to deliver manuscripts at a decent pace, and I didn't balk at the notion of doing one a year. It's hard to consider the notions of everyone else involved -- I was, I suspect, both confident and naive, as only unseasoned writers can be. The series never felt too big, never felt impossible, or frightening. All I knew was an immense, burning impatience. I had the arc laid out in my mind: I knew where it was going and where and how it would end and I just wanted to get there.

M(DW): Together with Ian Cameron Esslemont you stated that one of your goals in writing the Malazan series is to challenge the classic fantasy elements. Do you think that the fantasy genre was passing a stereotypical moment when you started to create the Malazan universe? Do you feel that fantasy needs an invigoration through such challenges?
SE: All forms of artistic expression need challenges; they wither and die without them. I don't think there was any stereotypical moment coinciding with the publishing of Gardens of the Moon. While it was bucking the trend, it would have done that at any point in time, if you see what I mean. The canon may seem a fixed, solid thing, but in truth it's always in transformation -- even when the works in question do not change, our relationship with them does. To look at a Warhol print today is a different thing than looking at it the day it was first shown. The product is set in a specific time and place, but we move ever forward, and that relationship, that interplay, continually evolves. Thinking on that, maybe the fantasy canon at the time of Gardens (and more accurately, the time of our gaming) had reached the point in my mind and in Cam's (though you'd have to ask him for confirmation) where the tropes verged on pastiche: the farmboy with royal blood, the evil dark lord, the brash princess, the bold knight, blah blah blah. We were fed up with it, so we fucked with it and had a good laugh doing so.

M(DW): With such an amount of details and such a complex world how do you keep track of the necessary data for keeping the Malazan world in a proper order?
SE: Badly. I fill dozens of notebooks. I make lists and end up repeating them in notebook after notebook, since trying to hunt down a single reference in some obscure page in a notebook is such a pain in the ass. But those details are small stuff. The big shemes are tattooed on the inside of my skull. Written into my DNA, whatever. None of that ever wavered.

M(DW): What process of the world building do you enjoy the most? Did it happen sometime to create an element of world building and then to be unsatisfied with the final result and start it all over again?
SE: An interesting question. I think the initial mystery is what draws me in. A blank page and a pen in my hand and a map about to be drawn. I can't imagine world building without a map (which isn't to say it needs to be printed in the book or offered to readers). you start with geography and geography guides you into culture, because the two are so tightly interconnected it's impossible to invent a civilization or society without acknowledging and understanding the effects of geography. So, that initial creative process: coast lines, mountain ranges, major rivers, drainage basins, deltas, island archipelagos, vegetation, altitude, latitude, resources: these comprise the bones of culture and history. Without them there is no authenticity. Without them, you cannot truly know the place and the people you're writing about.
It sounds rather menthodical, but I think it has to be, and I think this process is the reason I can't recall ever being dissatisfied with any element of the built world. It's internally consistent. It makes sense. It's where people live and how they live, and that can be a bad place and the life can be brutally hard, or it can all seem idyllic, but in the end it's the starting point for a story and you work with what's there.

M(DW): You wrote also short fiction set in the Malazan universe in the form of three novellas. With an experience in lengthy works how different was to work on the shorter fiction? Do you feel more comfortable writing longer or shorter fiction?
SE: All of my early schooling in creative writing was in the short forms of fiction, so I'm comfortable enough with those forms. There are some differences to be sure: in novels you can wander from the path; in the shorter stuff you can't. But in terms of discipline, I probably do an unwise thing, in that I seek to apply the rigour of short fiction writing to my novels. By that I mean I pack in as much as I can, line by line (the way you do writing a short story), and I do it across a thousand pages or more. Makes for challenging reading, and I do hear often how the second or third re-reads reveal so much more to the reader, and accordingly, the novels survive well repeated readings.
My comfort level is pretty consistent, no matter what the form.

M(DW): The novels in the Malazan series were published in an almost constant rhythm of one novel per year. Is this a self-imposed rhythm or was a condition of the publishing contract? How difficult is to manage such a rhythm?
SE: It has been my normal pace. The contract did not explicitly state 'one novel per year.' It stated it the publisher anticipated one per year. I didn't quite match that once or twice, but generally it's been all right, and indeed I've found time to squeeze in a novella or two as well. This is what was driving me from the very first: the notion of becoming a full time writer was bound to the sense in my head that I was chafing at the bit, and that once unleashed things would blaze at a fierce pace -- for as long as I can manage it. So far so good. Anyway, it's not difficult. It's nice.

M(DW): There was one time while writing your novels when you felt that you had enough with “The Malazan Book of the Fallen”?
SE: No, as you might infer from all of the above. I need to reach that end and I'm almost there. And with the other shorter stuff, I can always switch gears and screw around with other voices and styles.

M(DW): I think that working so much in the same universe has created a comfort zone for you as a writer. How hard would it be to put an end to your series and leave that comfort zone?
SE: A writer's comfort zone isn't quite the same as a reader's, I think. My comfort zone is fully transferable: it's the process, the ritual, if you like, of creativity. If I think of future works that are contemporary, or historical, or in some other genre, I don't feel at all uneasy at the prospect of writing them. Now, might be it could be different should I attempt one, and am left floundering, but then, I read all genres already and they feel fine -- I see what's being done and how it's being done. So, while I'm not worried, we'll just see how it is when it comes.

M(DW): If it were possible in which part of your created world would you like to live in?
SE: Not sure. I'd probably try and find a cave no one knows and just hide there till the end of my days.

M(DW): How about the characters, is there one of them which is a reflection in fiction of Steven Erikson?
SE: They all are. No way around that. At the same time, they are each and all alternate versions, some of them so alternate I barely recognize them myself. No, I'm not being facetious. One moves from the familiar to the unfamiliar in small increments, so small it's sometimes hard to notice it's happening at all. This is the power of voice in fiction: you're invited, taken in hand even, and led along. Everything seems fine. Normal. But then the shadows start to gather... On the creative side of the process, it's much the same progression, and if you're fearless enough for it, a character can take you a long way away from anything you thought you knew, or even imagined.

M(DW): After the publishing of the 10th book in the Malazan series if a commercial demand will arise or the public will ask for a continuing of the series will you keep writing novels in your series?
SE: I'm committed to two trilogies following the ten-book series, both related to the Malazan universe. Plus, there's the Bauchelain/Korbal Borach novellas and a few spin-offs from those. Finally, to add to the Malazan fix for readers, there's Cam's stuff.

M(DW): If it were the case in the future would you write another series as long as “The Malazan Book of the Fallen”?
SE: You reach a certain age when planning in terms of decades seems rather foolish. So, no, I wouldn't. It's one of the reasons I reduced the future stuff to trilogies.

M(DW): Speaking of commercial demand it seems sometimes that our modern society takes one successful product and tries to take advantage in the fullest from it. Such is the case with successful novels which are then brought in different mediums such as graphic novels, movies, TV shows and so on. Do you feel that this is just a commercial and materialist process or it can make a novel reach new audiences and make it even more successful?
SE: It can do either. Comes down to integrity (yeah, listen to this idiot, talking integrity in the same breath as film and television!). Also, there are many varied ways of measuring success. The private ones are the most precious, because all the others are essentially out of your hands. When you give up rights, there's no telling what will follow. One of the first formal acts of any media producer is to emasculate the original creator as quickly and effectively as possible. I understand their reasoning: we're snarky bastards for the most part (we use the word 'integrity' after all), and sometimes our egos are a match to theirs and that spells trouble for sure. Anyway, I'm not entirely serious here. LoTR was produced with admirable integrity: I hope it's not unique in that regard.

M(DW): I know that the Dabel Brothers are working on a graphic novel based on your series, but are there any other projects based on your novels? In which medium would you like to see your series adapted?
SE: Both Cam and I are amenable to various representations: our own stipulation is that it be done well, and this comes down to actually knowing the people involved.

M(DW): Not always the movie adaptations of novels have the desired result and they are rather disappointing, but I am still curious to see such adaptations. Would you like to see the Malazan series adapted into a movie? Who would you like to direct such a project or to act in the movie adaptation?
SE: I'd love to see an adaptation, but it would be a formidable challenge. I'm not sure television-based format would work as well as the big-screen, however, except perhaps for the novellas, which are scaled down to a suitable size. The problem with the Malazan Book of the Fallen, of course, is the sheer immensity of the series and each novel as well. Would I like to direct? Not a chance, wouldn't know where to start. Act? Sure, some bit part in the background. I can see Cam as Aragan...

Thank you very much for your time and answers. It has been an honor and a pleasure.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Cover art - "Sword of Justice" by Chris Wraight

Next summer Black Library will launch a new series, Warhammer Heroes, which will feature a range of novels dealing with the Old World’s most iconic warriors. On the blogs of Black Library and of Chris Wraight I find the image that will be the base for the cover art of the first novel in this new range of novels, “Sword of Justice”. Now, I can’t say that I am a big fan of characters on covers, but when those covers are good I enjoy them. And this is one of these cases since this is a wonderful artwork, designed by Darius Hinks who also designed the covers for Mark Charan Newton’s “The Reef” and Adam Roberts“Splinter” among others.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

2009 Man Booker Prize

Tuesday 6th of October the winner of the 2009 Man Booker Prize for Fiction was announced: Hilary Mantel for the "Wolf Hall" novel published by Fourth Estate.

In the ruthless arena of King Henry VIII's court, only one man dares to gamble his life to win the king's favor and ascend to the heights of political power.
England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years, and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of Europe opposes him. The quest for the king's freedom destroys his adviser, the brilliant Cardinal Wolsey, and leaves a power vacuum.
Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell. Cromwell is a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people and a demon of energy: he is also a consummate politician, hardened by his personal losses, implacable in his ambition. But Henry is volatile: one day tender, one day murderous. Cromwell helps him break the opposition, but what will be the price of his triumph?
In inimitable style, Hilary Mantel presents a picture of a half-made society on the cusp of change, where individuals fight or embrace their fate with passion and courage. With a vast array of characters, overflowing with incident, the novel re-creates an era when the personal and political are separated by a hairbreadth, where success brings unlimited power but a single failure means death.

Congratulations to the winner!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Fantasy Art - Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

© The artwork presented on this post is used with the permission of its author. All the artwork is copyrighted. Please do not use the images without the permission of the artist or owner.

Stephanie Pui-Mun Law is an American artist, working mainly with watercolors and with a passion for Fantasy Art. She graduated from the University of California, Berkely in 1998 and worked three years after graduation programming for a software company. Afterwards she concentrated on her artist career and began to work for various game and publishing clients, such as Wizards of the Coast, Harper Collins, LUNA Books, Tachyon Books, Alderac Entertainment and White Wolf. In the 2002 Stephanie was nominated for the ENnies Awards at the “Best Interior Art” section and in 2005 she won the Silver Award of the same ENnies for her cover art for the Blue Rose role-playing game.

Interview - Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

Mihai (Dark Wolf): Stephanie, thank you very much for the opportunity of this interview.
You started to paint from an early age, but may I ask what triggered your passion for art? What made you take the pen and start drawing?
Stephanie Pui-Mun Law: I don't think there was a trigger -- I can't remember a time I was not interested in drawing. My grandmother used to babysit me sometimes in her piano store, and I'd be content to pass hours with scrap paper and pencils.

Mihai (Dark Wolf): You followed your passion for art on the benches of school too. Do you believe that the art classes you followed helped you to improve your technique? Do you think that an artist can achieve more through art classes or through self-teaching?
Stephanie Pui-Mun Law: Definitely through self-teaching. Classes can help give you ideas for new things to try, but the motivation to do the art and to better your skills can only come through practice and exploring on one's own.

Mihai (Dark Wolf): You said that your artwork is “greatly influenced by the art of the Impressionists, Pre-Raphaelites, Surrealists, and the master hand of Nature”. But who are your favorite artists?
Stephanie Pui-Mun Law: The list is always changing and expanding, but a few of them: Daniel Merriam (the reason I picked up watercolors about 9 years ago), Michael Parkes, John Singer Sargeant, Alphonse Mucha, Edmund Dulac, John Jude Palencar, Charles Vess.

M(DW): Your favorite theme is fantasy. What did attract you towards this genre? Do you like to explore the fantasy genre outside the art field as well?
SPML: I started reading fantasy books when my father took me from the teen section of the library one day when I was about ten years old and over to the fantasy/sci-fi racks. I was in heaven. I didn't realize that such a genre existed until that time, although even before then my artwork was already exploring the subjects of myth. I loved drawing fantasy creatures, and magical beings even then.

M(DW): You said in an interview that the fantasy art was highly discouraged on almost every class you attended. Do you believe that fantasy art is underappreciated? Why do you think that the fantasy genre is seen restrainedly?
SPML: Well I attended college mainly for the computer science program. Art was a side interest that I was pursuing because I just wanted to take art classes as well. That being the case, I did not pick a school with its art program in mind. I picked it for the computer science. Berkeley's art program was (probably still is) focused on abstract expressionism, and not on any sort of representational or illustrational work. In that type of environment any kind of representation artwork, nevermind fantasy, is frowned on, in favor of conceptual projects. In a school that offered an illustration program however, I don't think there would be any such restrictions.

M(DW): You work mainly using watercolors. Did you try the other methods too? What made you favor the watercolors the most?
SPML: I did mostly pencils and inks when I was in high school. Dabbling with colored pencils when I wanted to work in color. When I got to college I started using acrylics. That was mainly because we were told to pick a medium for our painting class. Ostensibly an open ended offer, but really it meant, "Pick either oils or acrylics" because watercolors were not a serious painter's medium. I picked acrylics because I do like to work on paintings at home and without a dedicated studio, the fumes associated with oils just become too much. Also I liked the quicker drying time of acrylics. I played with intaglio printmaking (a very old technique of acid-etched metal plates that you then ink by hand and run through a hand cranked printing press) during my college years as well. On my own, I also discovered the fun of digital painting during that time, and started creating digital paintings.
So by the time I graduated and decided to try showing my portfolio to art directors, most of my fantasy-themed work was digital because that was what I had used for my personal work outside of classes. I sent in a portfolio to Wizards of the Coast, and got back an encouraging response from an art director which boiled down to, "Nice work, but we don't really accept digital artwork at this time. Send me your portfolio when you have some more work in a traditional medium." Anyone reading this who has been doing artwork for the fantasy gaming industry will probably be amazed at that, because ironically digital is probably what the majority of the artwork created for games these days is. When I submitted my first portfolio it was a bit of a transition time I guess.
At any rate, I visited a gallery in San Francisco during that time and came across the work of Daniel Merriam, who created these wonderfully vibrant and fantastical watercolors. After seeing those paintings, I considered my own acrylics technique, which had been moving more and more towards gradual buildup of glazes and layers rather than thick paint, and I realized that watercolor would be perfectly suited to that way of working. So I picked up watercolors, and created a new batch of work.
When I submitted my portfolio a second time to WotC, they responded by sending me some work. In the interim time, the art director had also changed and their new policy was digital = good! By then however, I was in love with watercolors!

M(DW): Your main inspiration derives from mythology, folklore and legends. Is there a specific mythology or folklore you prefer?
SPML: Not in particular. I like to constantly expand my knowledge of the stories of different cultures and delve into the numerous mythologies of the world.

M(DW): How does an element from mythology, folklore or legends end up in painting? What process takes this element from the source of inspiration to become a painting?
SPML: Usually a particular story or a phrase catches my fancy, and from there a specific idea comes to mind. From these little tidbits of inspiration I create the painting. I usually have a storehouse of these little seedling ideas at the back of my head to pick up when the next space of spare time hits. For example, I've been mulling over Baba Yaga's three knights for a tryptych at some point - the white knight of bright morning, the black knight of dark night, and the red knight of the day's red sun. Just the phrasing of those brings to mind a myriad of ideas that I can start sketching thumbnails for in my sketchbook.

M(DW): Nature plays an important role in your art as well. How does the nature influence your works? Is there a specific animal or bird you prefer to draw?
SPML: I appreciate the random nature and patterns of growth - of plants, of trees. There is an enchanting grace to all of that, and a kind of flow and movement.

M(DW): Your works are easily recognizable and a personal style can be seen in them. Did you try to reach a personal style when you started your career? How difficult is to build a personal style?
SPML: No I did not. I tell all artists who ask, "How do I develop a style?" It's not something you consciously create -- because if you try to force it, it's not being honest to your art. A style is what just happens when you draw and paint every day, what comes naturally to your hand, concepts and themes that are important to you. It evolves as your personal mode of expression.

M(DW): You worked three years in programming for a software company. How did this job come to terms with your passion for art?
SPML: It doesn't! Programming was what I set out to do because I didn't think that it was actually possible to make a living from art. It was the practical side of my brain. It was only after college when I realized that I wouldn't be happy if I didn't at least give a very serious attempt at making art my career that I set out with a plan. In the end however, programming has turned out to be very helpful. I'm able to be fairly self-sufficient in terms of creating and maintaining my website, handling all the e-commerce aspects of the website, and setting up and running my own databases. So in the end, the years of studying computer science were not wasted. As I said earlier, I think the better part of learning art is self-taught anyway.

M(DW): Which was the first art commission you received when you started your artist career?
SPML: Aside from occasional paintings for my mother's friends, the first serious commission was some Magic: the Gathering cards for Wizards of the Coast.

M(DW): I’ve recently read a book, T.A. Moore’s “The Even”, which you illustrated and I know that you have other such projects too. How is the work on such a project? What involves the illustration of a novel?
SPML: The author or the art director for a publisher usually contacts me. We work out the specifications of the project, and then depending on how much input they want to have, they provide me with anything from basic descriptions of the illustrations they want, or else the whole novel and let me pick and choose what to illustrate from there. I'm open to either approach, as long as I'm interested in the initial concept that they present.

M(DW): Speaking of novels, do you have a favorite author? What book would you like to illustrate if it were possible?
SPML: Not particularly. I'm a pretty voracious reader and will pick up almost anything, of any genre, fiction or non-fiction!

M(DW): You also have personal books where your artworks are gathered. How do you select your art pieces that are featured in a particular art book? How were your art books received so far?
SPML: Most of the books I've put together are themed, so it's not very hard to select. For example the Inklings books are all my ink drawings. There is pretty much a complete collection of most if not all of the ink drawings I've done in the past few years in those. The Tarot book is all the tarot artwork. I've not put together any sort of general encompassing book yet.

M(DW): One such book is “The Art of Shadowscape Tarot” and it refers to your tarot deck project, a project that started in 2004. How did this project come to life? Does the work on the illustration of a tarot card necessitate a different approach than the usual art piece?
SPML: I had been interested in the imagery of the tarot for a while before then. The concept of the archetypes depicted in the major arcana particularly, given my interest in mythology. I was involved in a few multi-artist projects on various web forums where the deck of 78 images were completed by numerous artists. One of these projects, someone even attempted to get published, but we were told that it was too mismatched and not unified enough to really be feasible as a marketable deck.
So I started considering doing my own deck. What held me back for the longest time was that I knew that 78 images was a big project, and I was afraid that by the time I finished the last card, the first one would be of a vastly divergent style or skill level. So I waited until I felt my skill level had reached a minimum that I would be happy with in the unknown future year when I finished the project. It ended up working out. I can tell the disparity between the first and last cards, but it's not something I'm unhappy with in the end!
As for the approach -- no, it's really no different from any other piece of art I do. I research the concepts that I want to present, and the symbols I want to use, and then I start drawing. The only difference I suppose was when I got to the minor arcana and I decided I wanted to have each suit color-themed, and so that made choosing the colors to work with for each piece a little easier since it was pre-set!

M(DW): You are also working on a zodiac project. How is this project developing? Did the zodiac project offer you a new challenge?
SPML: It's another subject that I've been wanting to paint for a long time, so it was a welcome opportunity. Along with a chinese zodiac someday! The main challenge with the zodiac (as with the tarot) was to pick my way through the history and traditions of hundreds of other artists having approached the same subject before, and to really find the aspects of each image to make my own.

M(DW): I’ve seen that your art was transformed into jewelry, pendants, rings and earrings. How did this project start? How do you feel to see your artwork turned into jewelry?
SPML: I do the jewelry myself, and it's always been another side hobby of mine.

M(DW): What is the moment in your career that offered you satisfaction the most so far?
SPML: Every time I finish a new painting! At least, I try to make that the goal. If that isn't happening, then either I'm not painting what I should be painting, or else I'm not doing the best work that I can.

M(DW): At what are you working right now and what other future projects do you have?
SPML: For now it's just the zodiac, and then I plan to take some time to work on some more personal pieces for a bit.

Thank you very much for your time and answers. It has been a pleasure.

For more information about Stephanie Pui-Mun Law and for news and a complete portfolio please visit Stephanie's website, Shadowscapes.

© The artwork presented on this post is used with the permission of its author. All the artwork is copyrighted. Please do not use the images without the permission of the artist or owner.