Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Host, Stephenie Meyer

I am hugely grateful to Chris over at The Book Swede's blog for hosting my review (getit?) of Stephenie Meyer's The Host published by Sphere, an imprint of Little Brown.

The book took the wind out of my sails and I think I might just be converted to becoming a dedicated sci-fi reader...okay, who am I kidding? But like before, I am happy to admit my prejudice was all in the head, and that I genuinely enjoyed this book. And to celebrate, I'm hoping to review Kethani soon, should Solaris decide to send it onto me after I begged and cajoled nicely on Friday.

Friday, May 30, 2008

**Kat Richardson - Competition Time!**

Pic courtesy of Kat Richardson's website

When I chatted to Kat about the competition she said: "Make them work for it. All the information about me is available on the internet."

So I poked around a bit and came up with three questions which I am sure you'll be able to track down.

Five lucky winners will win copies of both Greywalker and Poltergeist! So, hop to it, grasshoppers!

Competition rules:

UK residents only

Email me via the email addy on the right hand side of this page.

All three questions to be answered correctly within the email.

Email to contain your NAME and POSTAL address.


Kat has written a short story for an anthology coming up for the holiday season towards the end of this year. Find the name of the anthology. Other authors, amongst others, include Rob Thurman, Simon R Green and Kim Harrison.

Name two of Kat’s fabulous author friends who had signings recently in Beaverton, Oregon whilst Kat was hobnobbing in London-town.

And final question: what are the two ferrets called that Kat and Mr. Kat share their sailboat with?

Many thanks to the rushed-off their feet wonderful people over at Piatkus who granted the permission to have this fab competition.

You can buy both Greywalker and Poltergeist from Piatkus via the Little Brown website.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Kat Richardson Interview and Competition News!

I am genuinely pleased to present a fun interview with Seatle-based supernatural cross-over genre Kat Richardson (yes, that same Kat I managed to hold captive for two hours over at Murder One when she made a flying visit to London and the UK).

Kat's first novel, Greywalker has been received by readers with enthusiasm and the follow-up Poltergeist, has been recently released to the hungry hordes fans. Underground, the third in the Greywalker series will be with us very shortly (yay!). Kat's visit to the UK was both fun and business, having come to do some research on the fourth Greywalker, without further waffling from me, here's the interview!

(Competition news at bottom of the page.)

Q: What is your day like as a writer?

A: It's quite a bit like any at-home job. I get up and manage chores and errands and take care of the pets, then get to work on the paperwork and things that have to be done during “office” hours, such as business correspondence and mailing materials out. Once that's done, I do whatever writing or editing I have on top of my queue--usually this happens after 2 p.m and can last 4-10 hours. Sometimes its the fun stuff--writing something new--sometimes it's the necessary stuff--proofreading or editing. I generally write 2,000 words a day on average Monday through Friday and take the weekends off for personal stuff or promotional things. Occasionally I get to take myself on field trips to do research, which is tons of fun.

Q. Do you frequent coffee shops and what other writerly “habits” do you have (as you already have the grumpy cat!)?

A. Mostly I work at home. I never feel comfortable working in cafes or the library for long when I'm doing the actual writing; I can't pace around and talk to myself or play with my ferrets or turn up the stereo really loud. I'm more of the “hermit” type of writer. But I do like to hang out with some of the other local writers and talk shop--folks like Cherie Priest and Richelle Mead live close enough to hang out over lunch or happy hour drinks on short notice. Alas, our grumpy cat died last year, so the ferrets now have to fill in. (The cat was very old indeed and we miss him, but no plans to replace him right now.)

Q. Do you ever stop working, i.e. not write or think about writing?

A. Not much. Everything is grist for the writer mill, so even when I'm “off” I'm usually thinking about writing or noticing neat stuff I can use in the next book or story.

Q. Where did your ideas for Greywalker originate? Was it a dream, an experience or an idea that stuck and wouldn’t go away?

A. This is going to be a long answer, so bear with me, since it was quite a few things that came together in a good way.

I'd written a fragment of the idea while I was in college, but it wasn't very good and not much is recognizable now: the main character was male; he had a contact in the realm of the dead who passed him in and out of the “aether” through a magical doorway but couldn't do it on his own; it was set in Los Angeles; and was a lot “wittier”--though it was probably not so witty in retrospect. It was a lot more like the noir parodies that have come out since the 1990s. I don't think it was very good, really, and I didn't work on it for 10 years. I just stuck it in a drawer.

When we moved to Seattle, things started to come together. The weather here produces strange fog during the fall and early winter that often seems to move in disconcerting ways--especially around the old Pioneer Square district where the narrow streets, brick and stone buildings, and proximity to the water keeps the ground and air cold and wet. And that of course made me think of ghosts and creepy things of that sort.

I was also reading a lot of particle and quantum physics at the time and that got me thinking about the possibility of energy states that can be shown to exist can't be directly observed by humans. So there's the basics of the Grey there: physics and fog in Seattle.

I was also a big fan of the original Randal and Hopkirk, Deceased (starring Mike Pratt and Kenneth Cope). I liked the idea of a detective who could talk to ghosts, although what I ended up with was a far cry from the adventures of Jeff and Marty. I didn't think I could write a believable male protagonist in the midst of so many other complications, so I made the main character female. She was still in the hardboiled mode, though.

And that's where it came from. Back in 2000 I had very little to do for a few months while my husband was working out of state, so I started writing and the first draft of Greywalker was the result.

Q. Is Harper Blaine, probably one of the most capable heroines I’ve seen in a long time, anything like you?

A. Thanks, that's nice of you to say so. I wish I could say we're alike, but alas, I'm a bit of a ditherer and not very athletic--though I have done some dancing and running and so on. Harper is very driven and I'm very lazy. She set out to build her life to a specific shape and purpose and I seem to have gotten wildly lucky in getting to do what I enjoy instead of the usual office job. And much as I wish I had her ability to see a clear course and pursue it, I frankly wouldn't want to live her life.

Q. How much research do you do for your writing on the supernatural?

A. More than I'd expected to, to be honest. A friend of mine in the MWA (Mystery Writers of America--I'm on the Northwest Chapter board) said I had it easy since I could just make things up. But actually I read quite a bit on the topic and spend a lot of time looking for stories about hauntings and history that I can use. I also try to get an idea of what is “common knowledge” or accepted fact among people who study these fields or collect information on it and use that or break it deliberately. I don't always think it's true, but I try to give it some respect and treat it thoughtfully.

And right now, “Team Seattle”--a group of my local writing friends--is thinking of doing some urban exploration when we all have some time (exploring some of the abandoned or freaky sites around Western Washington) for research purposes. Creepy old places are usually full of good ideas for settings and ghost stories. And let's face it: that sort of thing is just plain fun.

Q. Has anything startling, in a supernatural way, ever happened to you personally?

A. I'm not sure. Odd things happen and I've certainly had episodes of deja vu, strange sounds, things almost seen, the sense of something “out there,” but with the exception of one creepy experience that might have been swamp gas--or might have been a ghost--and some really weird dreams, I can't say positively that I've seen a ghost or witnessed anything paranomral. Not for sure.

Q. What are your influences? Favourite authors, TV shows and movies etc.

A. Aside from my Dad--who was an English teacher--and my stepmother--who got me started reading adult mysteries, the big influences on my writing have been writers like Hammett and Chandler, Madeline l'Engle, Kenneth Graham, Jane Austen, Mark Twain (to whom I'm very distantly related) and later writers like Neal Stephenson, Richard K. Morgan, Patricia McKillip, and Neil Gaiman.

I also started reading comics and graphic novels a while ago and wish I could emulate the pacing of some of the writers I admire in that field: Alan Moore, Brian K. Vaughan, Warren Ellis, Ed Brubaker, and Frank Miller.

Movies are a bit harder for me to give a list of favorites (without running on forever). I tend to like one or two films, but not one particular filmmaker. I like noir films and the “screwball comedies” of the 1930s, like Bringing Up Baby. I like modern films that have similar feelings and pacing. Gotham (Ghosts Can't Lie) is one of my favorite “weird' movies (and had some influence on Greywalker). I also liked Memento, had a lot of fun with the recent Iron Man, Equilibrium, Serenity, still love Raiders of the Lost Ark out of all proportion, and Chocolat by Lasse Hallstrom. I'm a guilty fan of James Bond films--although the Pierce Brosnan ones were a big disappointment. Daniel Craig is getting much better material--and I loved him in Layer Cake. I like crime films like that and Guy Richie's london crime flicks. Acutally... I like caper flicks a lot--The Thomas Crown Affair, Topkapi, Ocean's Eleven, the Sting.... Oh, and I'll go see anything by Pixar or Studio Ghibli. The more adventurous or fantastical the film, the more I'll like it, I suspect.

Q. How would you sell your published books to someone should you be made to work in a bookshop for a week?

A. First I'd have to discover if the customer liked both Mysteries and Fantasy or ghost stories. If they don't, they probably aren't going to like the book. But if the customer did like all of that, I'd tell them there were some good novels over here about a Private Eye who works for ghosts and monsters. Of course, I'd also know they were potential Harper Blaine readers if they were interested in Jim Butcher, Simon R. Green, John Meaney, Tanya Huff, Charlaine Harris, or Laurell K. Hamilton and ask if they'd tried the Greywalker novels yet.

Q. Do you ever have days where the words just don’t come and if so, what do you do?

A. Oh yeah. What I do depends on how close I am to the deadline. If it's really close I just sit down and force myself, but if I have more time, I usually cut myself a mental break and go out for a walk or do additional research. If the problem is that I've come up against a dead end, then I assume I've made a wrong turn in my plot and I fall back and look over my outline until I identify where I made a mistake that forced me down the plot-road that died. Then I back up and figure out how to avoid that problem while heading in the direction I prefer. I'm not a very good “seat of the pants” writer; I usually work from a detailed outline. When I don't, I'm more likely to need to tear something out and re-write.

Q. Looking at your writerly bookshelf, can you name ten books or magazines or websites that you can’t do without relating to your writing?

Maybe not ten, but a few important ones. I can't do without the basic references like Chicago Manual of Style, Merriam Webster Online, and wikipedia (as a starting point). I also use The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits by Rosemary Guiley a lot. I use the site as a starting point into Seattle history very frequently. I also use my local library catalog online to find books on various topics and, of course, Google.

Q. Do you ever fully plot and plan your storylines or do they grow organically and you find your characters do their own thing?

A. I'm a plotter and I don't let the characters off their leashes much--I'm the god in my writing world, so its unusual for the characters to go off in a direction I don't initiate (because if I didn't kick their butts,they'd probably just stay home and eat whatever was in the fridge.)

I start out just writing as it comes, but as soon as I hit the first plot-wall, I go back and write an outline. Usually it takes two or three versions of every novel in outline before I can finish the whole book. I don't outline for short stories or novellas, but I have gotten all the way to the end of a novel-length project successfully without an outline only twice. Neither of those books sold.

Q. How did you get into writing for the games market?

A. I hung out with a bunch of gamers online at the forums and I was one of the handful of people who were always writing “what if” fanfic and original round-robin stories in the forum. When projects came up, I volunteered and ended up doing some work, some of which I even got paid for. It sounds more impressive than it was, though we did have a lot of fun and there were great people at the forum and on the projects--I'm still in touch with a lot of them. But I was pretty green and I think a lot of my work could have been a better. Still, it was great fun, although I haven't done any game work in a while.

Q. What can we expect from you in the future? More Harper after Underground and any more game plotting?

A. I do have US contracts for three more books after Underground and the series is open-ended at this point. I hope the new books will also be picked up in the UK, but that's up to the publisher. I'm starting work on the fourth Harper novel right now and there are a Harper novella and a non-Harper short coming out in the next 12-18 months.

I'm hoping to do an additional series that's more SF than Fantasy, but that's on the back burner until Greywalker #4 is done. At the moment, there're no game projects on the horizon. If I could wave a wand and do any project, I'd like to try graphic novels, but only if I can work closely with the artist--I do have an old graphic novel project in suspension, but, like a lot of other things, the ability to work on it depends on a lot of factors that aren't all up to me.

Q. What do you do to relax and unwind after a day of writing?

A. Play World of Warcraft, read, take a walk, maybe watch a movie with my husband, and play with the ferrets. On weekends we hope to be doing more sailing this year--after all we do live on a sailboat. And go to the gym (yuck!)

Q. And finally, what is the single strangest request you’ve had from a fan?
A. I have never had a really outrageous request from a fan. Well... one does want to be killed--as a character in one of my books, that is. Is that weird?

Competition news!

Kat's amazing UK publishers, Piatkus (Little Brown) agreed to let me run a competition on their behalf. I am pleased to announce that FIVE lucky winners (UK Only) will receive copies of both Greywalker AND Poltergeist!

I am working up some fiendish questions and will post them tomorrow morning (Friday, 30th May). The first FIVE entrants with the correct answers about Kat and her books (and maybe her friends) will win copies of Greywalker and Poltergeist.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


I thought I'd step up quickly and introduce myself personally as well.

My name's Mark, I'm thirtysomething and as avid a reader as Liz, although my taste in books is a bit different. I grew up reading my dad's yellowed Louis L'Amour collection and collected Don Pendleton's The Executioner and the Mack Bolan series using my pocket money from the time I could reach the counter at the local 7-11; that should give you an idea!

From there I graduated on to fantasy after being handed a dog eared copy of Raymond Feist's Magician by a friend of mine. I got the book on Friday during break at school; come bedtime on Sunday night I had devoured it cover to cover. Suffice to say I didn't get much sleep that weekend. It all snowballed from there; I threw myself into books, loving the sensation of losing myself entirely in a good story. Liz can testify that when a story hooks me, I go 'away'. The body's there but the rest of me is far, far away.

Anyway. That's where I'm coming from. But being here, it's a bit daunting really - Liz does a cracking job and I don't want to let her down.

Because she'll beat me with a rolling pin while I sleep.


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Official Welcome!

I am very happy to welcome Mark as my co-host on MFB. To him will fall the duty to pick up on a few books coming our way to read and review whilst I do the mature student thing, i.e. panic, study and write exams.

I'll let him introduce himself in a post of his own.

And yes, he is a big fan of all things zombie, horror and pulp. Hence the intro pic of Ash from Evil Dead.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

**Lilith Saintcrow Competition Now Closed**

I am happy to report an influx of emails for Lili's competiton - so thank you very much. I have pasted the answers below the names of the winners. Congratulations! A parcel from the publishers will no doubt be winging its way to you in the next few weeks.

The winners are:

Ana M in Maidenhead

Alexandra W in Manchester

Sophie W in London

Dawn T in Chippenham

Steven F in Leeds

Thursday, May 22, 2008

**Lilith Saintcrow Competition**

I am thrilled to announce a new competition which will run for two weeks (or earlier if I get a full volley of emails sooner) to go hand-in-hand with the release of the new Lilith Saintcrow Jill Kismet series of books to come to the UK.

Thanks to the lovely people at Orbit, we have five copies of Night Shift to give away.

And because I can, I've put together a crossword puzzle using Lili's previous set of very successful books here in the UK - the Dante Valentine series.

See the puzzle below, along with the questions. Email me the answers to the questions, alongside the correct corresponding number and we are in business.

Same rules as before!

UK Residents Only

No multiple entries as a severe butt-kicking will be implemented!

Send me the answers, with the corresponding numbers - even if you don't get all of them, let me have your answers via email! You never know...

Email me on the address set out on the right with the answers, your name and snail mail (postal) address. Please mark the subject field JILL KISMET COMPETITION.



1. Name of the Character in Lili’s newest book series to be released in the UK.
2. Other name for “vampire” used in Dante’s world
4. Type of stone in Dante’s Tattoo (same colour as the Devil's eyes)
5. Dante’s female friend, also a Necromance
7. Most common name for a psion (see glossary in Lili’s books)
9. What is Dante doing the first Time the Devil comes calling?
10. Where Dante grew up (2 words)
14. Egyptian god of the dead


3. Santino’s demonic name
6. Dante’s demonic lover
8. Demonic endearment which Japh uses for Dante
11. Egyptian name for the soul
12. Necromance nickname, not complimentary
13. Dante’s job
15. Dante’s ex-lover’s name

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Aviary Gate, Katie Hickman

Synopsis (from Katie's site)

Elizabeth Staveley sits in the Bodleian library, holding in her trembling hands a fragment of ancient paper. It is the key to a story that has been locked away for four centuries, the story of a British sea captain's daughter held captive in the sultans harem.

Constantinople, 1599. There are rumors and strange stirrings in the sultan's palace. The chief black eunuch has been poisoned by a taste of a beautiful ship made of spun sugar. The sultan's mother faces threats to her power from her son's favorite concubine. And a secret rebellion is rising within the palace's most private quarters.

Meanwhile, the merchant Paul Pindar, secretary to the English ambassador, brings a precious gift to the sultan. As he nears the palace, word comes to Pindar that the woman he once loved, Celia, may be alive, and hidden among the ranks of slaves in the sultan's harem. Can this really be the same Celia who disappeared in a shipwreck? And if it is, can the two be reunited?
I was absolutely thrilled to receive this from Bloomsbury and couldn't wait to get stuck in, having read Katie's previous book, Daughters of Britannia and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Allow me to share the first line of the one page Proluge with you and tell me, honestly, that you do not immediately want to go make some tea, get some biscuits out and settle down in a quiet spot to read this in one fell swoop!
The parchment, when Elizabeth found it, was the amber colour of old tea, frail as leaf mould.
Just that one line hooked me, and I had to have more. Immediately!

The book is set both in present day, moving from Oxford to Istanbul, and in the past, in the year 1599 with the setting being Constantinople (now Istanbul).

Katie Hickman using a guile to tease out the story of Celia Lampard, her fiance Paul Pindar and the scholar, Elizabeth Staveley, who is researching their story in modern times.

She gives a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes of the Sultan's Harem. Her research is immaculate and her characterisation stunningly vivid. Her prose is rich and luxurious but not nauseatingly flowery. She writes well, with a good grasp of the lives of these hidden women. The book abounds with political intrigue, romance, spies, poisons and spoiled concubines.

This is an excellent read and it masterfully written, bringing several storylines together in a very clever finale. My only regret is that it had to end!

I initially didn't much like Elizabeth as she came across as a bit aloof but then the author cleverly revealed Elizabeth's innate sadness and the dislike evaporated. There are some amazingly strong female characters in the book, such as the Sultan's mother, who is ruthless, cunning and a highly intelligent manipulator. She is a catalyst for much that happens in the story and genuinely found myself warming to her although you knew that she might not be the nice lady she pretended to be.

I would really recommend this book for a long slow luxury read.

Thomas Emson Interview

I am very pleased to have Thomas Emson's interview to present for your reading pleasure. Thomas has written Maneater, his first English language book, published by Snowbooks.

Describe your writing day for us – are you a “I have to write 2000 words a day” kind of guy or do you write until you can’t focus anymore?

ANSWER: I try to write everyday, usually in the morning. I think it’s important to treat writing as a proper job, and the more you do that, the easier it becomes to get to your desk and write. When I’m working on a novel, I set myself a weekly word target – it’s between 8,000 and 10,000. That means I need to write an average of about 1,150 to reach my minimum word target. Weekly targets are easier than daily ones. If you set yourself a 2,000-words-a-day target, and you miss a day, you feel miserable. With weekly targets, if you miss a day – or even two – you can always catch up. And when you tot up your words at the end of the week and discover you’ve done more than 10,000 words, it gives you a buzz.

Are you a tidy writer or do you thrive in chaos?

ANSWER: I wouldn’t say I thrive in chaos, but my desk becomes chaotic when I’m working on something. I’m working on a novel at the moment, and my laptop is lodged between piles of papers and books. I’m a bit messy, really, and I should try to be a bit more organized. But I do know where everything is, and I’m sure if I tidied my desk I wouldn’t be able to find the things I need to find. After I finish the novel, I will clear my desk. I’ll store the notes in a box file. And then, I’ll start making another mess for another novel.

Have you ever attended any writing courses or conference?

ANSWER: I did a B.A. in Communications at the Normal College in Bangor, North Wales, and during the third year we did a creative writing module. Ifor Wyn Williams, a brilliant Welsh-language novelist and screenwriter, who sadly died in 1999, and Rhiannon Davies Jones, a much-respected novelist in the Welsh-language, taught me. They really helped me begin to understand what writing was about, and Ifor helped, particularly, with structure. I wrote horror, then. And I think Rhiannon Davies Jones – who wrote literary, historical fiction – was a bit shocked by what she read. But they were both very supportive. I’ve never attended any classes or conferences since, but I’ve read a lot of how-to books.

What prompted you to write Maneater? Was it a single idea, an image or a character that came to mind?

ANSWER: Laura Greenacre, the main character, was there at the very beginning. Her name never changed, the way she looked in my head, her personality, they’ve stayed the same from the time I started the novel – back in 1999 – up until publication. I certainly had specific images in my head before I started planning and writing: the scene where Laura scythes through the swimming pool at Templeton Hall; the scene where she battles the mercenaries (you can read an early, completely different, version of this scene at my author’s page on the Snowbooks website); and her attack on the offenders’ home official when she was younger. Initially, I think, I just thought I’d write a werewolf novel. With those images, with that character, I went about it rather meticulously, I suppose. I planned things quite carefully, writing scenes on cards, and building the whole thing like a bricklayer would build a house. I wrote a rough first draft, and then it was put aside. Until last year, when I went back to the draft, and cleaned up three chapters – which I sent to an U.S. writing competition, called the PNWA Literary Festival, and to Snowbooks. Emma Barnes at Snowbooks loved it and wanted to see the rest of the manuscript, and it also made the Top 10 in the Adult Genre Novel category at the PNWA event. I finally got a decent draft to Emma in June last year.

I was simply exhausted when I finished reading it, did you find that you felt the same once you’ve typed that last sentence?

ANSWER: It’s great to hear that my book can exhaust a reader. When I was working on the last draft, I was really flying. It was a real buzz, hurtling through this story. I think I’d calmed down a bit after writing the big battle scene at the end, and writing those last couple of more downbeat chapters relaxed me.

What motivated you in the dark days when the words wouldn’t come?

ANSWER: I’m quite clinical about writing. I treat it is as a job, and I don’t really have the dark days you mention. Words will always come. They might not be the best words every day, but words will come. I’m very much a disciple of Philip Pullman’s on this. He says writers should no more suffer writers’ block than plumbers suffer plumbers’ block. There’s a great quote where he says that an amateur thinks they’ve got to wait for inspiration to be a professional, but a professional knows that if they waited for inspiration they’d always be an amateur. That sums it up. It’s a job of work, a job of work we are privileged to do and a job of work we love – so let’s do it and count our blessings.

Your characters in Maneater are all very focussed to the point of selfishness in some instances – did you purposefully create a menagerie of characters that were so very raw and in some instances, almost unlikeable when taken out of context?

ANSWER: Very good question. Conflict is vital in fiction, and the way you create conflict is to make one character want one thing and another character want the opposite. All the characters in Maneater want things, and they’ll stop at nothing to achieve their goals. Although the novel was planned, I did let the characters lead me astray somewhat. I think this makes for better fiction – it doesn’t feel so contrived. As to being likeable, I don’t think likeability is important in a character; I don’t even think characters need to be sympathetic – I think ultimately characters have to be memorable. I didn’t want Laura to be “nice”; I didn’t want her to be sweet and kind. She does have a moral centre, I think. But what drives her is anger and revenge, and nothing’s going to change that. If she thinks it’ll help her cause, she will kill. Character motivation is vital. Kurt Vonnegut jr. said that on every page someone should want something – even if it’s a glass of water. I think this is brilliant advice. It just clarifies the point that characters need a driving force. If you’ve got a character that wants a glass of water and on the same page a character that wants to stop him having a glass of water, then you’ve got conflict, and you’ve got drama.

I love the fact that each of your chapters hold key images and that they were short and punchy. In most other books a lot of chapters are made up of different scenes and do become quite dull. Was the short chapters a deliberate choice on your part?

ANSWER: Thank you. I’m really pleased you liked that aspect. It was a deliberate choice. It helps keep the story moving, I think. And also, there’s nothing worse when you’re on a train or a bus, you’ve started reading a chapter, and then you arrive at your destination before you finish the chapter. With short chapters, you can easily scoot through before journey’s end.

How much research did you do into lycanthropy and the legends about werewolves?

ANSWER: None at all. I think most of what we know about werewolves comes from Hollywood: the full moon; the silver bullets. I wanted to avoid those symbols. I wanted to place my werewolves in a realistic situation, which is why I used Newcastle and London – and most of the research I did involved finding out about those cities, trying to be as accurate as possible. Laura and the other werewolves are traditional in many ways, and I like that, but I think Maneater’s a modern take on the myth: it’s traditional horror wrapped up in modern thriller. And, of course, the great thing about myths is that you can make things up. After all, it does say “Fiction” on the back of the book.

Did you struggle to write from any of the characters’ point of view?

ANSWER: No, I found it enjoyable and relatively easy. Again, it’s all about character motivation. I think if you know a bit about your characters before you start, about what they want, you can easily get into their heads because you know what drives them. Michael Templeton, for instance, is completely vile: he’s a cruel, nasty, coward. But he has a clear motivation, so it was pretty easy writing from his point-of-view. The trick was not to make him a pantomime villain, and I hope I haven’t done that.

What are your plans for the future? More writing in the same noir genre?

ANSWER: I’ve finished a vampire novel, and I’m working on the re-writes, now. I hope very much that Emma and her colleagues at Snowbooks might like it enough to publish it. It’s Part One of a trilogy. It’s set primarily in 21st Century London, but you’ll also get whisked off to Ancient Babylon, the Middle East in the 1920s, and Ceaucescu’s Romania. I’m also working on a Welsh-language non-fiction book on crimes in Wales. I was commissioned last year. I’ve had Welsh-language horror and thriller fiction published in the past, but the non-fiction’s a new venture. After I finish the vampire novel, I’ll start on another novel about a road trip from Hell, and then, if the vampires receive a good reception, Part Two will get underway.

What was the very first thing you did when you found out that you are being published?

I forwarded Emma’s email to my girlfriend, Marnie, with the note, “You have to read this.” She did, and then rang me to squeak down the phone at me.

Who are your literary heroes?

ANSWER: Early influences were Stephen King (I wouldn’t be writing had I not read “Salem’s Lot”), James Herbert’s “The Rats”, “The Fog”, and “The Dark”. Clive Barker’s “Books Of Blood”. Canadian author, Michael Slade, has always provided visceral amusement. I love John Fowles’s “The Collector”, and I’m a huge fan of Michael Connelly. Lately I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Patrick O’Brien, George MacDonald Fraser, and Ian Fleming. James Bond in “Casino Royale” is the perfect example of an unsympathetic but memorable character. And Elmore Leonard is someone whose writing I admire and enjoy.

Can you name five (or more) books or websites on writing that you have found invaluable in your work?

ANSWER: “On Writing”, Stephen King; “Telling Lies For Fun & Profit”, Lawrence Block; “The Paris Review Interviews, Vols. I and II”; “On Writing Horror”, ed. Mort Castle; “The Elements Of Style”, Strunk and White; wikipedia.

Any advice to struggling writers out there?

Treat it like a job. Sit down every day, or on designated days, at a specific time – and write. Half-and-hour, an hour, two hours; 200 words, 500 words, or 5,000 words – it doesn’t matter; whatever suits you. And learn your craft. Think of it like any other trade – plumbing, bricklaying, carpentry – keep working at it and try to get better.


Do visit Thomas at his beautiful site to find out more about Thomas and what he is up to or visit Snowbooks to buy Maneater.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Looking to the future...

I have got quite a few good fun things lined up for MFB.

More competitions - watch this space!

More interviews from authors, the likes of Thomas Emson, Maria V Snyder, Karen Miller and Kat Richardson.

Two, or even three more people will be joining me on the site, to help read and review. Mark has already signed up - thank you very much - and will shortly be making an appearance with his first review. I have two more interested parties to guest review on here - it will purely depend on workload.

Stay tuned and enjoy the ride. For all of my regulars, thank you very much for your support. Keep emailing words of courage. It is much appreciated.

Competition has ended!

Thanks to everyone who emailed me for copies of the very excellent Poison Study. The publishers will shortly be sending off your copies to you.

Congratulations to all of you!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Contest - Poison Study, Maria V Snyder

Five lucky winners will be able to win copies of Maria V Snyder's first novel, Poison Study thanks to the lovely Belinda at Mira Books. The first five people to email me to the address below will receive a copy each.

These are the rules: (liberally copied from The Book Swede's very eloquent site)

UK Only, for now

Send an email to: myfavouritebooksatblogspot@(nospam) containing the subject (aka header) "POISON STUDY" (and removing the "no spam" part of the address. )

No multiple entries, or the Foot of Annoyance shall Connect with your Rump, and Disapproval shall be Made Known

Please also include any Message Boards you frequent, if any at all

Make sure your email contains your full mailing address (snail mail!).

Entries received three months after the contest closed will be sent back in time and re-entered.
Be warned that you won't win, though!

Kat Richardson Signing at Murder One - The Event

Mr. Kat, Kat (in the middle), Donna from Piatkus

Mr. Kat and Kat (and Jayne from Serenity on T-shirt)

Kat holding audience captive with Max from Murder One in the background

Kat, Donna and fan, Graeme

Mr. Kat, Kat, Donna

I was really nervous going into Murder One today to meet Kat Richardson. I've been to uncomfortable signings before where the author tried really hard to be kind and generous with his / her time but in the end just too many people made demands on their time and things became a bit rushed and stilted.

This even though was one of the quietest I had been to as yet, and also probably the scariest. We were a handful only. And to give Kat and Mr. Kat their due, they rose to the occasion and really treated everyone who came out to meet them with kindness and genuine warmth.

Trisha who looks after the romance/paranormal romance section at Murder One is an absolute darling and quickly made sure everyone was at ease. Donna from Piatkus oozed friendliness and had hugs for all. Kat and Mr. Kat regaled us with their travels around London, their other writerly friends in Seattle and gave us an interesting insight into what life was like for authors with works in progress. I took the snaps above, as the visit continued - it turned into more of a "get together" than a signing as other members of the public came in and out of the small romance section to pick up new books to read. We shuffled around them and vice versa. It was genuinely nice to be able to chat to Kat, Mr. Kat and Donna to find out what was being planned for the series, what was currently happening at Piatkus and just general chitchat about the most random things, from movies, to books, to other authors, book cover designs and the list suddenly seems endless. I can't remember all the things we chatted about - conversation flowed and it was altogether shocking how quickly two and a half hours could fly by in a blink of an eye.

Many thanks to Trisha, Kat, Mr. Kat and Donna for a fantastic signing - I really had fun and came away clutching my signed copies with absolutely glee.

Poison Study, Maria V Snyder

Information about Maria’s first book, Poison Study and a snippet about Maria:

Published in October 2005, Poison Study won the 2006 Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel, won the Salt Lake Co. Library's Reader's Choice award, was a 2005 Booksense pick, was nominated for four other awards, and received a Starred Review from Publisher’s Weekly. She has also published numerous freelance articles in regional magazines and in local newspapers. Teaching fiction writing classes at the local college gives her the enjoyable opportunity to encourage novice writers and to keep improving her craft.

I am pleased to say I fell for Poison Study, hook, line and well, poison chalice and I cannot wait for the next instalment which I’ve got tucked away on my TBR pile.

The main storyline is clever – Yelena is about to be hanged for a murder which she quite readily confesses to have committed. She is offered a reprieve from the executioner’s block: become the food taster for the Commander of Ixia. Or die for the murder she committed. Yelena chooses to become a food taster. Valek, the chief of security, feeds her a poison, Butterfly’s Dust, to ensure her loyalty – she has to appear every day for the antidote or she will die an agonising death. Her training as food taster begins immediately and she swots up on poisons, what they taste like, what their symptoms are under the tutelage of Valek, the chief of security, spy and assassin.

But that is only one part of the story! I won’t try and tease out the other story lines as that will give the plot away. Which would not be fair.

The book abounds with political intrigue, assassins, magicians, ruthless generals and dangers to both Yelena, the commander and her newly made friends in the Commander’s household.

The action takes place in Ixia, which is a country ruled by a benign military dictatorship, headed by Commander Ambrose who has implemented a strong command structure and a very regimented approach to managing the lives of the people in Ixia. The author describes their lives well, explaining about uniforms and pre-determined job roles and contrasting it vastly and interestingly from all the other fictions your read where monarchs and aristocracy rules.

The author’s style of writing is fast, flowing and modern. Yelena stays a constant treat as she relearns her confidence in herself and others. She comes to trust in her own prowess and is seen to grow dramatically in the book from a downtrodden, foul little creature from the dungeons to someone who is confident, openly intelligent and capable. As we learn more about her background, things become clear and you applaud her in your heart for the murder she committed in order to … well, read the book!

The story evolves and moves at a really good pace. I couldn’t believe how quickly I had finished the book, even through I was trying to drag it out. I’m not at all regretting finishing it as I know the next one is ready for me to pick up when I want to. The third book will be out shortly so I will have to pace myself.

The thing about Poison Study that makes it different is that the character, Yelena seems to be a true innocent, regardless of her back-story. However, the author managed to convey this very well with some good scenes but you are never in doubt that Yelena can be taken for a fool. She is highly intelligent, brave, honest and fair in her dealings with other characters in the book.

There is a thin thread of romance that runs through the story, which is written in very well, rounding her character off, quite nicely, helping her grow and become a fuller, more robust character.

To be honest, I can see myself re-reading this in the next few weeks again, purely as it is such a good, fun read. I am sure, like with a good movie, if I reread it, I will be able to pick up on more subtle things, which I had missed out the first time around.

I have to give Poison Study high marks – it is a really good, fun book, with an interesting setting, a well thought out heroine and various very clever plotlines knitted together to make for a rollickingly good read. I can only imagine what happens next!
Magic Study - the second installment has just been released through Mira Books and if you follow the link, you will be able to purchase it directly from the publishers.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Greywalker, Kat Richardson

Kat Richardson pulls off a very credible and well-put together heroine called Harper Blaine in this first instalment of the Greywalker series.

The book opens with a general fantasy no-no - a massive jaw crunching head banging fight where we find Harper giving as good as she gets. But the fight scene works well because it serves to tell us a lot about Harper. She is resourceful, clever, doesn’t give up, she knows when she needs to beat a hasty retreat and to hedge her bets. She makes her escape, but only just. She suffers severe head trauma and dies for just under two minutes. The head trauma allows her to see and step into the Grey, making her a Greywalker, as someone who can move in both the mortal world as well as that of the Grey.

During the course of the book she fights her new perception of the world and it is told in a sympathetic but no nonsense way. The introspection is limited and it works to enhance the strong character of Harper. She does not fall into the arms of the first trendy undead person she meets. She works things through in a very logical and progressive way and it was refreshing to find that Kat did not stick with stereotyping the various characters that Harper meets along the way.

Greywalker is one of those rare books that works well on several levels - as a all round good book to read because the main protagonist is someone who can kick butt and chew gum at the same time and looks good doing it; it is a supernatural mystery with two very interesting cases being worked at the same time. The cast of characters seem to live their lives and isn’t there just to help her out (I tend to call it Living in Pause). Kat’s style of writing is clear and crisp with some excellent one-liners. I really am looking forward to the next book, Poltergeist and will no doubt happily report back once that is under the belt.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Book Give-Away

I've got a hand full of books that need a new home. They have all been read but they have been looked after really well.

I don't want to split them up, as some form part of a series. Anyone interested in these, please do leave me a message or email me with your snail mail address and I will be able to post them onto you. First come, first served.

They are listed as follows:

Thief of Lives - Barb and JC Hendee
Traitor of the Blood - Barb and JC Hendee
Sister of the Dead -Barb and JC Hendee
Dhampir - Barb and JC Hendee - all of these are in paperback, except for Dhampir which is a mini hardback.

The Stolen Child - Keith Donohue - in paperback

Dawnthief - James Barclay
Moonshade - James Barclay
Nightshade - James Barclay - all of these are in paperback

Betrayal - Fiona McIntosh
Revenge - Fiona McIntosh
Destiny - Fiona McIntosh - all of these are in paperback

The Eight - Katherine Neville - paperback

Junk - Melvin Burgess - paperback

I am prepared to send these worldwide, providing that they will definitely be going to a good home and you're not emailing me purely because they are free! Let your conscience decide...

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Gods End: The Fall, Michael McBride

Michael McBride’s first offering "Gods End: The Fall" has all the boxes ticked to make it a classic apocalyptic novel with clever twists. It’s a clever novel, playing on current events, in the Middle and Far East, the general worry gnawing away at everyone’s minds – what happens if there is a large scale attack, or more scarily, what if it a nuclear attack? Michael McBride is a very clever manipulator, as most authors have to be, weaving fact, fiction, fantasy and religious tones into a very scary novel.

The fledgling democratic state of Iraq is invaded by Syria, triggering a series of events leading to the brink of World War III. Unbeknownst to the recently redeployed American troops, the Middle Eastern countries have formed a secret alliance, baiting the armed forces into traps both in the Persian Gulf and the now-defenceless United States. As the world speeds toward its demise, fulfilled prophecies give rise to the physical manifestations of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, who usher the earth into its next phase of evolution. Pestilence's mosquitoes and Famine's locusts spread genetic mutations that alter man and animal alike, creating War’s fearsome reptilian army, The Swarm.

Faced with imminent annihilation, those who survive mankind's own extinction agenda must find each other across a rapidly changing landscape to rally their numbers in the face of Death's legion of genocide. Will humanity prove itself worthy of surviving to usher in a new era of life on earth…or will it succumb to God's End?

The novel is written very cinematically. Fantastic descriptions are used, but not flowery prose, I hasten to add. The surviving characters are interesting and well drawn. There are some very vivid and startling scenes that stayed with me after I read them and I would say that if you are a fan of the horror genre, you will be able to pick out the influences immediately. There is definitely Hitchcockian overtones with a bit of Poe and Stephen King mixed in. What is interesting is to follow the group of survivors and see how the author manages to bring them all together and then rudely leave us at the end of the book in a worthy cliff-hanger.

I get the impression that the first book was written in a burst of writerly creativity and it is going to be interesting to see how the story progresses into the next two books. I am pretty certain that he’s honed his style on this one and even though there are a few rough edges, which can be forgiven as it is quite a difficult thing to write, bringing a handful of character successfully together, the next two books in the series will be more slick.

A worthy edition to any horror / sci-fi / futuristic reader’s shelf.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Author signing at Murder One

The very popular and succesful Kat Richardson, author of Greywalker, Poltergeist and soon to be published Underground, will be in the UK for a research visit and to sign some books over at Murder One. (Yes, if time allows, I'll put a review up on Greywalker!)

When?!? - May 15th, between 5 - 6pm (and maybe drinks afterwards)

Naturally, yours truly will be there, desperately trying not to be tonguetied. I will try to remember to take a camera this time around and take a few snaps. Of Kat, not me. Of course.

Thomas Emson's Blog

A new blog, by a new author - as visually stunning as the book he wrote. Go over and have a look.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Succubus Blues, Richelle Mead

I can seriously kick myself for waiting this long to read Richelle Mead.

I've had this beauty sitting on my TBR pile for a little while now but have always somehow bypassed it.

Initially I thought it was going to be completely sex-driven, a romp, a bit of Sex in the City or worse, a badly written urban fantasy / speculative fiction with monotonous sex scenes. (Who knew I could fit the word "sex" into one sentence that many times?!)

I was wrong, so very wrong. Succubus Blues introduces us to a very charming, witty, feisty and funny protagonist, Georgina Kincaid who is a succubus by demonic trade, yet she has a day job as an assistant bookstore manager. We get to meet her boss, Jerome, an archdemon with a thing for John Cusack, his best mate, Carter, an angel who resembles a bit of a hippy/street person, Peter and Cody, vampire mates and Hugh, an imp. These are the immortals. On the mortal side of things we meet various work colleagues, Doug, Paige and as love interests we have Seth and Roman.

I enjoyed the book tremendously, laughing out loud at some of her more genuinely real faux pas i.e. she chats to a young man whilst helping out as a barrista in the store's coffee shop. She carries on about how tiring it has to be for her favourite author to answer so many of the same brainless questions time after time, encouraging said young man to make sure to ask the visiting author intelligent questions thereby making sure he stands out in the crowd of faceless fans...needless to say, the young man turns out to be the author in question...can you say: ground please swallow me now? It is achingly real and funny as it would be totally something I do in a fit of stupidity.

It is rare where a protagonist is rendered so cleverly - I never once failed to believe in the storyline. Something is killing lesser immortals in Seattle and it shakes up the community, specifically Georgie and her friends. Especially when Georgie starts getting letters from the disturbed being causing all the havoc. We follow her as she puts the pieces of the puzzle together, we watch her mess up her relationships and we believe in her as a genuine character. There are some excellent scenes with strong imagery in this - she's a succubus with a heart and she longs for a bit of humanity - she can't love without causing destruction and without it, she can't continue to live as she lives off mortal men's anima to sustain her own life force.

Succubus Blues is a very clever book and I am looking forward to the other instalments. I'll place the other Richelle Mead books in my "wanted" list right now.

For Mary-Katy H

Dear Mary-Katy

Many thanks for your lovely email regarding the Meg Rostoff book - I replied to you today.

I am so glad you like the site! Keep visiting and email me any recommendations!

Ready Steady Book

The most excellent Mark from The Book Depository dropped me a lovely email thanking me for mentioning TBD on my MFB blog and he also let me have the link to another of his very good sites which he runs. (I don't think he ever sleeps!)
Ready Steady Books is a fantastic literary site with snippets of very useful information for booksworms, writers and publishers and other people who have an interest in the literary world.
I have also fixed the comments problems which means that those of you who are not on blogger can now leave comments. Yay! Thanks Mark for pointing the obvious mistake out to me.
Happy reading everyone!