Finishing up my look at the books and authors in the Weird Western StoryBundle. The bundle is only available through September 8; don't miss out!
Haxan by Kenneth Mark Hoover
Hardboiled detective story meets westerns with suggestions of something deeper, timeless, and terrifying. A deceptively simple, haunting novel that left me wanting to know more about who U.S. Marshal John Marwood really is.
About the book:
Thermopylae. Masada. Agincourt. And now, Haxan, New Mexico Territory, circa 1874. Through a sea of time and dust, in places that might never be, or can't become until something is set right, there are people destined to travel. Forever. Marshal John T. Marwood is one of these men. Taken from a place he called home, he is sent to fight an eternal war. It never ends, because the storm itself, this unending conflict, makes the world we know a reality. Along with all the other worlds waiting to be born. Or were born, but died like a guttering candle in eternal night. . . . Haxan is the first in a series of novels. It's Lonesome Dove meets The Punisher . . . real, gritty, violent, and blatantly uncompromising.
About the author:
Kenneth Mark Hoover is a professional writer living in Dallas, TX. He has sold over 60 short stories and is a member of SFWA and HWA. His fiction has appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, Strange Horizons, and many others.
A Book of Tongues (Hexslinger #1) by Gemma Files
For various reasons, I approached this book with some trepidadation, but at halfway through I'm glad to report that while raw, graphic, gritty, and told in large part through the point of view of the "villain" rather than the "good guy," A Book of Tongues is also great fun. The story is told in a unique, engaging voice with characters you love and love to hate at the same time. Note: while some books in the StoryBundle are suitable for teen/YA readers, this book is very much for adults only.
About the book:
Two years after the Civil War, Pinkerton agent Ed Morrow has gone undercover with one of the weird West's most dangerous outlaw gangs - the troop led by Reverend Asher Rook, ex-Confederate chaplain turned hexslinger, and his notorious lieutenant (and lover) Chess Pargeter. Morrow's task: get close enough to map the extent of Rook's power, then bring that knowledge back to help Professor Joachim Asbury unlock the secrets of magic itself.
Magicians, cursed by their gift to a solitary and painful existence, have never been more than a footnote in history. But Rook, driven by desperation, has a plan to shatter the natural law that prevents hexes from cooperation, and change the face of the world - a plan sealed by an unholy marriage-oath with the goddess Ixchel, mother of all hanged men. To accomplish this, he must raise her bloodthirsty pantheon from its collective grave through sacrifice, destruction, and apotheosis.
Caught between a passel of dead gods and monsters, hexes galore, Rook's witchery, and the ruthless calculations of his own masters, Morrow's only real hope of survival lies with the man without whom Rook cannot succeed: Chess Pargeter himself. But Morrow and Chess will have to literally ride through Hell before the truth of Chess's fate comes clear - the doom written for him, and the entire world.
About the author:
Gemma Files was born in London, England and raised in Toronto. Her story "The Emperor's Old Bones" won the 1999 International Horror Guild Award for Best Short Fiction. She has published two collections of short work (Kissing Carrionand The Worm in Every Heart, both Prime Books) and two chapbooks of poetry (Bent Under Night, from Sinnersphere Productions, and Dust Radio, from Kelp Queen Press). A Book of Tongues, her first Hexslinger novel, won the 2010 DarkScribe Magazine Black Quill Award for Small Press Chill, in both the Editors' and Readers' Choice categories. The two final Hexslinger novels, A Rope of Thorns and A Tree of Bones were published by ChiZine in 2011 and 2012. Since then, she has published We Will All Go Down Together, and Experimental Film, the latter of which won the 2015 Shirley Jackson Award, and has been nominated for the Sunburst Award.
Here's a look at a few more of the books and authors in the Weird Western StoryBundle.
Idyll (Idyll Trilogy #1) by James Derry
First off, several days ago I posted an interview with Walt Starboard, the main character in Idyll. I had just started reading the book and didn't have much to say at that point except that I was hooked. Last night I finished it, and wow. Riveting book, and I'll just say that nothing is the way it appears. The combination of western-style adventure and a science fiction tale of settlement on a far-distant planet work perfectly together.
About the book:
Idyll is a rugged planet—a new, simpler start for some 10,000 settlers who have fled Mother Earth. But a strange 'plague' of contagious sleep has devastated their Settlement, sparked by a mysterious mantra called the Lullaby.
After a three-year quarantine, Walt and Samuel Starboard set out from their ranch on a mission to cure their comatose mother and find their missing father. For days they ride through a blighted landscape: deserted cabins and gravestones and the ruins of towns destroyed by fire. Just when the brothers are about to give up, they stumble upon a second pair of survivors, two beautiful and determined sisters.
Miriam and Virginia Bridge offer new hope, but they also present new problems. Stirrings of emotion and shifting priorities threaten to set the brothers against each other. Can Walt and Samuel overcome years of festering resentment, or will their rivalry tear them apart before they can reunite their broken family? And will any of them survive the revelation of who—or what—unleashed the Lullaby on their home world?
About the author:
James Derry has been writing or drawing stories since the day his parents let him borrow a ballpoint pen. That's when he created his first magnum opus in blue ink: a comic-book parody of Ghostbusters called 'Roastbusters.' Hey, he was ten.
He studied art in college, and eventually his aspirations shifted from being an illustrator to being a graphic designer. He returned to writing ten years ago after meeting his wife. He currently resides in Atlanta and spends large chunks of his free time working on (and reworking) a variety of fiction projects.
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
West of Pale (Dead West vol. 1) by J. Patrick Allen
I read this well before hearing about the StoryBundle, and really enjoyed it. The gentle setting, the countryside of post-Civil War Missouri and its communities of German settlers, makes a wonderful contrast with the creepy horror of the monster stalking the countryside. The story of Charlie, a young boy whose father was killed by the demon, and the world-weary monster hunter he recruits to help him, and their adventures through the frontier on the path of this monster that materializes through water, is engaging, suspenseful, and enjoyable.
About the book:
Six-guns, blazing hooves, and the horrors that stalk the night.
Everyone brought something from the old country. Grandfather's watch, and grandmother's china; great-grandfather's folklore, and great-great-grandmother's fairy tales. What is never discussed, however, are the undying characters of the folklore: nix and fairy, goblin and vampire, dragon and eldritch things who all came to America's shores in time with the rhyme of their tales.
After Charlie's father is murdered by something impossible, he discovers a letter that leads him across the wild west. The man who wrote the letter promised to help, if things went wrong.
And things could not go more wrong. His father's murderer is on his trail, materializing from lakes, rivers, and stray pools of water. He will not rest until Charlie has joined his father...
Dead West: West of Pale is the first book in J. Patrick Allen's Dead West series. This novel picks up right where his Pulp Ark New Pulp Awards (2016) nominated short story, "Dragonfly Shadow," left off (featured in 18thWall Productions' From the Dragon Lord's Library: Volume One).
About the Author:
J Patrick Allen grew up exploring the American West with his family. He climbed mountains, fished, camped, visited the family cattle ranch, and explored a castle. Author of the Dead West series, JP writes about the monsters we take with us. Every other week you can listen to JP on the Rocket Punch Radio podcast on iTunes and TuneIn, where he and his friends hold round table discussions about all things geeky. In 2016 his story Dragonfly Shadow was awarded Best Short Story from the Pulp Ark New Pulp Awards. When he's not hard at work he and his wife can be found curled up with a beer and a book or game.
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
Flash Gold Chronicles I-III by Lindsay Buroker
If you read my Reading Roundups at all, you may have noticed a lot of books by Lindsay Buroker. She's one of my favorite authors, and I was really excited to see books 1-3 of her Flash Gold Chronicles included in this bundle. I also read this series before finding out about the bundle, and it's a lot of fun. Set in the Klondike Gold Rush, it features all the great stuff you expect to find in a Lindsay Buroker book: danger, adventure, magic mixed with steampunk, appealing characters, snappy dialogue, explosions, and a touch (or more than a touch) of romance.
About the book:
A half-breed tinkerer who's been an outcast her entire life.
A mysterious sword-wielding stranger on the run from the law.
A family secret that people are willing to kill for.
All Kali McAlister wants is to build an airship and escape the frozen Yukon where she was born. But the secret her alchemist father left her with, a magical energy source called flash gold, has put her in danger. Everyone from con artists to gangsters is hunting her down, and now a tight-lipped man with a sword has come into her life, offering to help. Kali is used to taking care of herself, and is about as trusting as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs, but when her enemies threaten to overpower her, she may have no choice but to join forces with the mysterious man.
Set in the Yukon's gold-rush era, this collection contains three adventures of action, magic, and romance:
About the author:
Lindsay has early memories of convincing childhood friends, pets, and stuffed animals to play the roles of characters in her worlds, so it's safe to say she's been making up stories for a long time. She published her first novel, The Emperor's Edge, in December of 2010 and has written and published more than 30 more since then.
When she's not writing, she's usually hiking with her dogs, skiing, playing tennis, or eating entirely too much dark chocolate (she only does one of those things truly well, and she will let you guess which it is). She grew up in the Seattle area and still visits the Pacific Northwest frequently, but after realizing she was solar powered, she moved to Arizona where she lives in the mountains north of Phoenix.
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
Next time I'll take a look at Haxan by Kenneth Mark Hoover and A Book of Tongues by Gemma Files (still reading as fast as I can so I can tell you what I think!). Remember, the Weird Western StoryBundle is only available until Sept. 8, so don't miss out on this great collection of books at a great price!
For this week's Friday 5, here are five more books I've read and enjoyed (told you I had a lot of books to catch up on!) All fantasy this time. Links go to Goodreads.
The Magic Mines of Asharim by Pauline M. Ross
Another stand-alone installment in the Brightmoon Annals. The Magic Mines of Asharim follows Allandra, on the run after a terrible, tragic magical accident, as she takes refuge as a worker at the mine at Asharim, where instead of ore, the product being mined is magic. Then her fate catches up with her again; on the run once more, she finds herself with the opportunity and power to restore an Empire.
As with all of Ms. Ross's books, Magic Mines is filled with fascinating world-building, well-rounded (if not always entirely likeable) characters, and an original magic system. Highly recommended for readers who enjoy intelligent, original fantasy for adults with a good dose of romance. Full review
Ishtar's Blade by Lisa Blackwood
A young woman raised to be guardian to a king returns home to the side of her childhood friend and love, now the gryphon king. Treachery and danger are afoot, and Iltani must fully embrace her destiny as the "Avenging blade of the Goddess Ishtar." Enjoyable fantasy romance; I generally don't care for romances with humans who shift into animals (even mythical animals), but in this case it worked pretty well for me. An entertaining read.
Fate Fallen (Gallows #3) by Sharon Stevenson
More curmudgeonly urban-fantasy fun with demon hunter Shaun Gallows, his twin sister (and fellow demon hunter) Sarah, Shaun's human psychic girlfriend, evil fairies, dead fairies, dead evil fairies, and possibly the end of the world. Sometimes I had trouble following what was happening, but the characters are so great and it's all so much fun I didn't mind.
A Demon in the Desert by Ashe Armstrong
Move over, Clint Eastwood, there's a new gunslinger in town, and he's an orc. Yes, a gunslinging orc; what more do I need to say? Well, I'll say this too - Grimluk is a great character. A true gentleman, good with children, but completely badass when facing down bandits, zombies, corrupted officials, and demons. Oh, and dragons. This book takes all the familiar fantasy characters - orcs, elves, halfings (a hobbit by any other name) and plops them down in a world inspired by the Old West. A fun, exciting story, and I'm eagerly looking forward to the next installment.
Into Exile by Derek Alan Siddoway
**I was provided with a free review copy of this book.
In the Teutevar Saga, the medieval Europe of myth and fantasy is picked up and set down in a landscape inspired by the American west, filled with towering mountains, boundless grasslands, and nomadic peoples, some friendly, some not quite so much. Into Exile is a prequel to the series, showing how 2-year-old Revan, his widowed mother the Valkyrie Guinevere, and her spearmaiden, friend, and fellow Valkyrie Regenlief went into exile after the destruction of their home. It's a fairly short book, a novella, but filled with adventure, danger, suspense, and awe-inspiring landscapes. A highlight for me was the two lead female characters. Guinevere and Regenlief are strong women, determined to deliver Revan to safety away from the clutches of the traitorous White Knight. The characters feel like real women instead of men in disguise as they face incredible danger and hardships and fighting off countless enemies and their own fear and discouragement, risking everything for Revan's safety. If you've read other books in the Teutevar Saga, Into Exile gives some exciting and important back story, and if you haven't, it's a great introduction to the series. Full review
Another Friday Five, another Reading Roundup of five more books I've read and recommend. (All links go to Goodreads.)
Hunter, by Robert Bidinotto
If you're fed up with a society where bad guys get excuses made for them while their victims are forgotten, blamed, or made out to be worse than the bad guys, this book is a wonderfully satisfying read. The message isn't real subtle (even if you agree with it), and the attraction between the main characters wasn't very convincing at first, though it did develop to the point where I was really rooting for Annie and Dylan to work things out. But the ending peril and confrontation is a can't-put-down nailbiter which kept me up way too late one night. Full review here
Pride's Children: Purgatory (Pride's Children, Book 1) by Alicia Butcher Earhardt
In the tradition of celebrity potboilers like Jackie Collins's novels, but much more gentle and cerebral. Pride's Children: Purgatory follows a novelist, Kary, living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, who is retiring and private almost to the point of being neurotic; Andrew, a charismatic Irish actor just hitting the big time; and Bianca, "America's Sweetheart", whose pretty face hides her ruthless ambition. I found this a lovely, engaging book. Full review here
Blackguards: Tales of Assassins, Mercenaries, and Rogues, by various authors
I bought this for the Carol Berg story in it, "Seeds," which was awesome, and I enjoyed a lot of the other stories as well. A few didn't grab me so much, and a couple ended with cliffhangers or, at the least, inconclusive non-endings, so I wasn't wild about that. On the whole, though, a fun collection of fantasy stories about rogues, renegades, thieves, and assassins. Full review here
The Bonehunters, by Steven Erickson
Book 6 in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series. I mostly buy and read indie now, but the Malazan series is one of the few exceptions. Not an easy read, but definitely worthwhile if you like deep, thought-provoking fantasy with incredible characters and worldbuilding and an ethos where honor, nobility (not of birth but of character), selflessness, compassion, sacrifice, and love matter.
Dan's Lame Novel, by Dan Rinnert
If you've ever wondered what goes through a writer's head while they're working on a book, this is it. A lot of them might not admit it, but probably most writers (me included) deal with at least some of this stuff with each book - trying to come up with names, characters who won't do anything, trying to keep track of time in the story and how long it's been since we let our character eat or sleep, weird subplots that try to insert themselves (though I've never had anything quite as weird as carniverous alien fairies), how to end the darned thing. A short read, well-written, good for a couple of hours of funny entertainment.
To get caught up on Reading Roundup posts, I'll do five books at a time for the Friday 5 feature. Although today I'm actually featuring six books, to take care of a couple of series. (Links go to Goodreads.) I'm not posting every book I read on these features, just the ones I especially enjoyed and am happy to recommend.
Hunted (Flash Gold Chronicles #2)
Peacemaker (Flash Gold Chronicles #3)
Claimed (Flash Gold Chronicles #4)
Liberty (Flash Gold Chronicles #5)
by Lindsay Buroker
The rest of the volumes in the Flash Gold steampunk series, set in an alternate version of the Yukon Gold Rush. Great characters, sinister bad guys, cool magic/steampunk technology, fun Kali/Cedar interaction, adventure, and blossoming romance. Quick but fun and satisfying reads.
Dust and Light (The Sanctuary Duet #1)
Ash and Silver (The Sanctuary Duet #2)
by Carol Berg
I adore Carol Berg's books, and the Lighthouse duology (Flesh and Spirit/Breath and Bone) are two of my favorite books ever, so I was delighted when I found out about these new novels set in the same world. I was a little disappointed that Valen, the rebellious ne'er-do-well drug-addicted but good-hearted protagonist of the Lighthouse books, wouldn't be in the new books (except in passing references to the infamous Cartamandua recondeur, or renegade), but the new characters and story made up for it. Lucian is another one of Ms. Berg's patented tortured young men; he's just lost his whole family, except his much-loved younger sister, in a terrible fire in the midst of a devastating civil war, and now his career as a magical portraitist for the Registry, the ruling body over the pureblood sorcerers, is being seriously sabotaged for reasons he can't begin to understand and that turn out to be extremely perilous not just to his career but to his sanity and even his survival.
Already familiar with the world, I slipped back into it in all its richly detailed, terrible glory. We get more information on the civil war that forms the backdrop of Flesh and Spirit/Breath and Bone and a look at what life is like for a non-renegade sorcerer. Lucian is a well-fleshed-out character who grows from his sheltered upbringing and upstanding, law-abiding character (except for an incident when he was severely chastised and disciplined for a brief love affair with an "ordinary" (non-magical) woman) to realizing how unfair, brutal, and ultimately corrupt sorcerous society and the Registry are. I enjoyed the other characters as well, especially Bastien, Lucian's new boss, the city coroner and cemetary manager.
Ash and Silver picks up with Lucien, now known as Greenshank, as a knight-in-training in the top-secret Knights of the Ashes, discovering his badass side as he trains to protect Navronne from evil. He finds himself the focus of two plots, one involving the disputed throne of Navronne (the object of the terrible civil war being fought the last several years), the other having to do with damage to the parallel world of the Danae and the fate of a massacred city. There's a lot going on, but it's all lots of fun, and as always beautifully written, and Lucien/Greenshank grows into a really unforgettable character. (full reviews: Dust and Light | Ash and Silver
A few weeks ago, I saw this on Pauline Ross's blog (she originally got it from I Read Encyclopedias For Fun). The prompt was timely; I host a twice-monthly activity for the 8-11 year old girls from my church, and at the same time I was planning an activity that's always a favorite: the girls are invited to bring a favorite book to share, and we spend an hour talking about books and our favorite characters and the things we love about them. One little girl said, "I don't like to read, I like math," so I found this book in my older son's room: One Two Three... Infinity, by George Gamow. She was so excited to realize there are books about math that aren't just math textbooks, and while the other girls were drawing portrait galleries of their favorite characters, she copied equations and diagrams out of this book. That was awesome.
Another great thing about this activity is it gave me an excuse to haul out some of my favorite books from when I was that age. So here, inspired by the blogging prompt, are some of my favorite books when I was growing up. As far as possible and as best I can remember, the covers below are the editions I owned, or close to them. Links go to Goodreads.
I loved these books. Besides fantasy and romance, I've always enjoyed mysteries, and I gobbled up the Nancy Drew books like candy. I thought Nancy was so cool, she was smart and brave and had a car and friends and a boyfriend and could go wherever she wanted and do whatever she wanted and her dad the lawyer was her buddy, and the mysteries were always interesting. Spooky and dangerous, but not too much so. When I was in the 4th grade, in the early 70s, a girl in my class who lived on my street had the entire collection of Nancy Drew books that had been published up until then (the ones in the yellow hardback covers). She was the envy of all the girls in the 4th grade. We weren't really friends, but I asked if I could come over to her house just to admire her Nancy Drew collection, and she graciously agreed. It was a thing of beauty.
This tale of a young teenage boy in Boston during the early years of the American Revolution was one of my favorite books when I was eight years old (I was reading well ahead of my grade level; I think it's more written at a 6th-8th grade level). I loved seeing historical events that I'd learned about in school on a personal level, what it was like for someone only a little older than me to live through them and play a part in them, and I was drawn to the honor and courage shown by Johnny, the young soldier Rab, and the other patriots. But mostly, I had a huuuuge crush on Johnny. Yes, Johnny Tremain was my very first book boyfriend. I may be weird in this, but in my crushes on fictional characters or celebrities, I never got jealous of whatever woman they might be in a relationship with; I always rooted for it to work out, either as vicarious wish-fulfillment or because I just wanted the object of my adoration to be happy. Anyway, I loved the budding romance between Johnny and Cilla and wished there was a follow-up book to show that they lived happily ever after.
Little House books
I had the full set of these, and read them over and over. Another fascinating glimpse of life into a period of history I had learned about in school, and I found I could really relate to Laura even though her life was so different from mine in the suburbs in the early 1970s. I could never really get into the TV show, even though it was hugely popular. The books were better.
Another one I read over and over, and I read my favorite parts even more often. I related to Jo, with her love of books and making up stories. I got a beautiful illustrated hardcover edition from my parents, probably for Christmas? But I don't seem to have it any more. Maybe it's still at their house. This is one of the first books that got me started on making up my own "fanfictions" (though I never wrote them down), mostly versions where a certain character doesn't die (do I really have to avoid spoilers on a book that's 150 years old?) but gets to live happily ever after with a special someone (usually an original character, or OC in fanfic terms, as the book character who might have been eligible was already taken).
I thought I was younger when my parents gave me the boxed set of this, either for my birthday or for Christmas (they're about a month apart), but according to the printing date inside (yes, I still have the original set), I must have been 13. So a little older than the age group I'm looking at here, but these books were so influential on me, I can't have a post on favorite childhood books without it. I love the world, vast oceans and small islands, and Sparrowhawk/Ged is one of my all-time favorite characters (and another early book crush). I wanted to explore the world more and have more adventures with Ged and explore different angles and directions the story could have taken, and this desire and the resulting daydreams were a direct contributing factor to my decision to try writing a fantasy novel of my own some thirteen years later.
Time for another roundup of some more books I've read and can recommend. I've got quite a backlog, and this won't be all of them, but the book I'm reading right now, The Bonehunters by Steven Erikson (book 6 of the Malazan Book of the Fallen) is about a gazillion pages long (over 1200 in the paperback, 17500 locations on my Kindle), so it's taking a while to read, which will let me get caught up with the reading roundups.
Oh, and while I'm here on the blog, if you're wondering about progress on For the Wildings, it's coming along steadily. I finished the major revision and am now on the editing pass where I fine-tune the dialogue, descriptions, action, and pacing. It's over 74,000 words, quite a bit longer than the other books in the series, so it's taking a while, but I am making steady progress.
And now, on with the books. Oh, and I'm trying out this nifty new feature on Amazon where you can embed a preview of a book on your blog. (These also contain my affiliate links for Amazon). The book title text links still go to Goodreads.
Nica of Los Angeles (Frames, #1), by Sue Perry
If you think you've had weird days at work, wait till you read about Nica's day. It starts with three new sets of clients for her new private eye business: pushy godparents looking for their missing goddaughter, a couple of sinister meth heads, and an otherworldly pair with strange abilities, and ends up with Nica embarking on an adventure through parallel worlds filled with talking buildings and murderous books to uncover and stop a danger that brings all three of her cases together and threatens all the dimensions. Witty, cerebral, surreal, terrifying, and entirely original urban fantasy/mystery. Highly recommended.
Ghost in the Stone (Ghosts, #5), by Jonathan Moeller
This series keeps getting better. Lots of exciting fun as Caina deals with a complex assassination plot, a mysterious force turning her fellow Ghosts to stone, an assassin she keeps crossing paths with who she finds herself attracted to, and, oh yeah, the spirit of a dead evil sorceress who's living inside her. Caina's a great character, tough, smart, focused on her ideals and willing to do whatever is necessary, but also vulnerable enough to make me hope everything will turn out ok.
Ghost Light, by Jonathan Moeller
The Fall of Kyrace, by Jonathan Moeller
A couple of exciting short stories from the world of the Ghosts series. Ghost Light has Caina facing another bizarre magical incident, while The Fall of Kyrace goes back into history to give some backstory. Fun, quick reads for fans of the Ghosts series.
Ghost in the Forge (Ghosts, #6) by Jonathan Moeller
And still this series keeps getting better. Caina, her new guy Corvalis, and the rest of the gang are off to a mysterious city of sorcerers to try to prevent them from auctioning off a devastating weapon to the highest bidder. Danger, action, and sorcery abound, and I liked seeing Caina grow as she deals with trust issues in her relationship with Corvalis and faces her prejudice against sorcerers in dealing with his sister, a renegade Magus. Plus, magical mechas. What more do I need to say?
The Mages of Bennamore, by Pauline M. Ross
Another intelligent, engaging tale from Ms. Ross's Brightmoon Annals. Prickly, secretive Fen is facing middle age without family, friends, status, or security in the rigidly-ordered Holdings when her employer commits socially correct suicide after his fleet sinks. Badly in need of new employment, Fen, a Recorder (something like a secretary and business manager) accepts a job with the new mages in town, sent from conquering Bennamore to grace the people of the Holdings with their magic. Highly recommended if you like intelligent, original fantasy with a hefty dose of romance and characters who've already experienced a good bit of living. (full review)
Klondaeg Saves Fromsday (Klondaeg, #1.5) by Steve Thomas
A Very Special Holiday Episode in the saga of Klondaeg the Monster Hunter. Klondaeg goes to spend Fromsday, the holiday honoring Fromdon, god of coconuts, with the frog-people, and, with the help of a dangerous and stubborn tree-ape, helps a father and son discover the True Meaning of Fromsday. A fun and hilarious sendup of all those heartwarming Very Special TV Episodes, but not without its own heartwarming message.
Smite Me, Oh Dark One, by Steve Thomas
Discover the true origin of the "farmboy with a destiny" in this tale from the world of Klondaeg the Monster Hunter about the pantheon of gods (including O'Plenty, God of Pots of Gold and Other Treasures, Fromdon, God of Coconuts, and Buti'col [say it out loud; took me a while to get it!], Goddess of Whatever Passes For Love These Days). Acerbus, God of Darkness, tries to avoid carrying out his duty to destroy the world; hilarity and millennia of fantasy tropes ensue. Very funny, and also thought-provoking at the same time.
And that's it for now. This is only half of the books on my list; I'll be back with the rest soon!
So the cold I thought was getting better when I wrote the post on Saturday got worse again yesterday, now today maybe it's a little better again... *sigh* But at least I'm able to sit up and write instead of being sick in bed, so here's a look ahead at my plans and goals for 2016:
For the Wildings, the conclusion of the Daughter of the Wildings series, is first up. It's still going through major revisions, with some editing stages still ahead, but is progressing steadily. I still don't want to give a release date, but will likely be in a couple of months. Now that things are settling down after the holidays and I'm not quite as sick as I was, I should start to be able to spend a little more time on it.
After that, I'll be returning to my Estelend word, the world of Chosen of Azara, The Warrior and the Holy Man, and "A Cure For Nel". This world is built around the idea of physical features in the landscape (caves, springs, trees, water spouts, etc) that are Sources of magical power, and certain people are born with the ability to take in and use that power. The Source-Fixer (crappy working title) and Heir of Tanaris are both complete in first draft and will be my next two published novels, coming out this year (I hope; they both need a lot of work).
Along with getting these three novels ready for publication, I've committed to writing 1000 words of new prose every day, whether short stories, novels, or writing exercises that might turn into a story. Blog and forum posts do NOT count! My writing goal for the year is 250,000 words (allowing for Sundays off and other days when new writing just isn't going to happen, like Christmas and travel days). I almost made it 300,000 words, but while I'm still developing the habit, I don't want to overshoot myself. I may raise my goal to 300k later this year. It takes me about 30-45 minutes to write 1000 words, so it takes some portion of my 3-4 good working hours a day but not too much.
So, with writing 1000 words a day, that's a lot of new stuff. A lot of it is going to be short stories. My plans for those vary - put them in collections for sale, post some of them here, use some of them for freebies for my email subscribers. This is an exciting new direction for me, having more work to release and to be able to give away. And it should help fill in the intervals between novel releases.
In the background, I'm also planning a follow-up series for Daughter of the Wildings. If you've read City of Mages, you might have noticed a whole new source of conflict mentioned in the book, which isn't related to the main conflict of the Daughter of the Wildings series but which I want to explore more fully in another series. Of course, Silas and Lainie will still be the main characters :-) I've got the basic plot idea for the first book and I'm working on the overall story arc for the whole series, but can't give any kind of timetable yet for when to expect it. Hopefully, if the prep work comes together, I can start putting my 1000 words a day towards that project later this year. As with DoW, my plan is to write the whole thing all the way through, so the whole thing is finished and readers won't be left dangling for years wondering when (or if) the next book will ever be written. Should worse come to worst, if nothing else, I (or my heirs) can post any of it that remains unpublished online.
I've also got ideas for a couple of Silas and Lainie short stories :-D and there are a lot of possibilities left open in the books to fill in with more stories.
And I'm still mulling over the sequel to Urdaisunia. The DoW follow-up gets priority, but it's there in the background, humming along in the back of my mind.
And one of these days I'll also get to revising my Very First Novel Ever and its sequel.
So I've got no shortage of stuff to work on; the main issue is prioritizing and managing my limited energy as best I can.
On the reading front, I've set my Goodreads reading challenge to 30 books for this year. (I realized that some of my 62 books last year are my own books that I added, but since I read each of them 5-6-7 times before publishing them, I suppose that counts :-P) One of my specific goals is to finish reading (or make significant progress on) the Malazan Book of the Fallen series, by Steven Erikson. I love these books; Wheel of Time and Song of Ice and Fire just didn't do it for me but Malazan is amazing. And - bonus - the series is complete at 10 books. I've just started reading book 6, The Bonehunters; since these are massive books and very deep and heavy, it's probably optimistic to expect to read 5 of them in a year. But I'm going to try. I'm also planning to get started on the Stormlight Archives series by Brandon Sanderson (another of my favorite authors). And Larry Correia is a new favorite, whose books I'll be reading more of this year. But mostly, as the last few years, most of my reading will be indie authors. I'll keep doing reading roundup posts to share my recommendations.
As for my health, I've taken the concept of "one little word" (where you pick a single word to use as your theme for the year) and selected "nourish" as my word. This year I'll be taking baby steps to nourish myself, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Most likely, I'm never going to recover from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, but I can do things to help my body make the most of the health and energy it does have and increase them a little. And since a major factor in crashes and relapses is stress, finding ways to relieve/reduce stress and keep myself in better balance will reduce my crashes and increase my good, usable time and energy. Any success I have in this will hopefully manifest itself in greater writing productivity.
That's my plans and goals for the new year; wishing you health, happiness, and progress on your own goals and dreams in 2016!
And now, back to work.
I've been doing a lot of reading lately and I promised a monster Reading Roundup post, so here it is, with lots of great books I recommend. There should be something here for just about everyone. If my reading keeps up at this rate, I should start doing these posts more often! Books are listed in the order I read them in. (Links go to Goodreads.)
To Whatever End (Echoes of Imara #1) by Clare Frank
I really enjoyed this. I'm always interested in fantasy with a married couple as the main characters, and To Whatever End fit the bill nicely. Cecily and Daro are trying to live a quiet life after fighting in a revolution that put a new king on the throne, then Daro is kidnapped by a corrupt magician/scholar for nefarious purposes, and Cecily has to draw on the help of their former comrades-in-arms to find and rescue him. Overall, I highly recommend To Whatever End to readers looking for an exciting, magical fantasy adventure where the roles are switched and the woman comes to the rescue of the man. (full review)
Witchfinder by Sarah A. Hoyt
A wild ride through a universe with parallel Earths, some of which have magic and some of which don't, some of which know about the others and some of which don't, some of which permit the use of magic and some of which forbid it on pain of death. Avalon is one of those where magic is permitted and that knows about other worlds, and Seraphim Ainsling, Duke of Darkwater (in this Regency-inspired setting), has undertaken the illegal task of rescuing magic users who are in danger on other worlds. His quest blows up when he stumbles into a plot involving the throne of Avalon and sinister doings in Fairyland, a much more dangerous and terrifying place than the name suggests. The plot is intricate and non-stop, and I enjoyed the characters, trying to do the right things despite seemingly impossible odds. There's also a nice dose of romance, not obtrusive but enough to keep romance-loving readers happy. There's both a m/f and a m/m pair; normally, m/m isn't really my thing, but Mrs. Hoyt had me rooting for this couple to find their happy ending. Highly recommended if you're looking for intelligent and refreshingly original fantasy.
The Profiteer by Evan Asher
Light-hearted and enjoyable contemporary romance, with appealing characters and a balanced, intelligent look at the issue of the big outsider businessman moving into the small town.
Dragon Blood #1-3: by Lindsay Buroker
Balanced on the Blade's Edge
By Lindsay Buroker, so you know it's awesome and lots of fun. This series is set in a new world (though it could fit in very well with the world of the Emperor's Edge series). A sorceress is awakened from a 300-year hibernation to find that magic is now forbidden in her land, which is under imminent attack by their centuries-old enemy. She teams up with a dashing military commander and, in later books, one of his pilots, a seemingly mad scientist who defected from the enemy, and other interesting, well-done characters to fight the enemy and discover magical secrets that threaten their country. I especially appreciate the more mature characters, established adults rather than green young 'uns just coming of age. Mechanical flight exists in this world and much of the books are airborne. I have my own issues with flying (white-knuckled terror, holding the airplane up by the sheer force of my will), so those parts were, um, especially exciting. A great new (maybe not so new any more) series for fans of Ms. Buroker's Emperor's Edge series.
The Thief Who Spat In Luck's Good Eye (Amra Thetys #2) by Michael McClung
Follow-up to one of my favorite books I've read recently, The Thief Who Tugged On Trouble's Braids. Amra and her sorcerer pal Holgren are back, undertaking a quest to find a magical city and claim the rich reward being offered, only to find themselves trapped in a web of magic and ancient plots being spun by the gods. Exciting and terrifying, and with a dose of romance that I always appreciate. Lots of fun.
Taboo (The Unfinshed Song #2) by Tara Maya
Continuation of the story started in The Initiate (reviewed here), magical fantasy in a setting based on Native American and other prehistoric cultures. As relations between rival tribes grow more tense, Dindi breaks taboos by seizing the chance to learn magic even after she's failed the required tests, and Kavio, while illegally teaching her, also has to find a way to save his people from trecherous enemies.
The Black Parade by Kyoko M.
I interviewed Kyoko M. quite some time ago and I'm not sure why it took so long for her first book, The Black Parade, to rise to the top of my TBR list, but it finally did, and am I glad. Fun story about angels, demons, and a woman whose calling in life is to help ghosts pass to the other side. Great characters, high stakes, exciting fight scenes, and an appealing romance. I also appreciated the respectful treatment of religious themes. Urban fantasy/paranormal isn't my usual reading, but I enjoyed this one a lot.
The Ravine by William Meikle
Dark, creepy, and intense western horror. Well-written in simple but evocative prose, featuring heroes both likely and unlikely who rise to the occasion, and really chilling (and gross) evil beings. I will probably never eat fish again after reading this. There are a few characters I wish could have had a better fate, but overall I found the story very satisfying. Highly recommended if you like some western in your horror, or some horror in your westerns.
Sweeter for the Pain by Evan Asher
By the author of The Profiteer (above), lightweight, enjoyable contemporary romance. Sweet-natured and a fun, quick read, though the mystery isn't very mysterious and the villain, to me, was pretty obvious. Nicole doesn't strike me as the brightest bulb in the chandelier, but I admired her willingness to go beyond the scars and gossip to see who Finn really is, and it was heartwarming to read about Finn learning to reach out and love again. Some spicy scenes but not explicitly detailed.
Operation Rubber Ducky by Cora Buhlert
Three weird and hilarious short tales of toy animals and evil aliens. Perfect when you want a fun, quick read.
The Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson
Brandon Sanderson is one of the few traditionally-published novelists I still read, and this novella is a treat for fans. Highly original magic system, as to be expected from Mr. Sanderson, and an appealing, well-rounded main character, Shai, who uses magic to forge everything from paintings to souls. Really enjoyable read.
I've been reading some awesome books lately, so it's time for another Reading Roundup! (Links go to Goodreads.)
A Guardian Reborn (The Guardians #3), W.H. Cann
Like the previous two books in the Guardians series, in A Guardian Reborn, shiny spaceships, futuristic technology, and exciting space battles blend with magic (unsullied by pseudo-scientific explanations) and wizards good and evil in an engaging mix of high fantasy and space opera with a touch of romance. The formal, slightly old-fashioned narrative style and omniscient viewpoint might make this book a little difficult for some readers to get into at first, but the engaging characters, tensions between the evil Empire and the Republic battling to preserve freedom in the galaxy, and the exciting battles both magical and involving space ships and laser cannons kept me reading.
Fans of Star Wars will especially enjoy these books, as will fantasy fans looking for a setting very different from the usual low-tech fantasy and science fiction fans in the mood for a little magic. (Full review)
Savage Storm (Rys Rising #2)
New Religion (Rys Rising #3)
Love Lost (Rys Rising #4)
by Tracy Falbe
I'd read the first book in the Rys Rising series and liked it, though I struggled a little bit with it, not being familiar with the world which was previously introduced in the Rys Chronicles series (Rys Rising is the prequel series). In Savage Storm, though, the saga really takes shape and takes off. Exciting and adventurous, with memorable characters, high stakes, and a broad, epic sweep. The action continues to rise in New Religion, then Ms. Falbe brings it all back home in epic style in Love Lost, the intense, exciting, heart-wrenching conclusion to the series, filled with vivid characters, a colorfully-drawn landscape, awe-inspiring magic, intense battles, romance, heartbreak, ambition, and heroism.
The Fire Mages (Brightmoon Annals), Pauline M. Ross
The Fire Mages is another standalone novel set in Pauline Ross's Brightmoon World, the world of her first novel, The Plains of Kallanash. I enjoyed Plains very much, and Fire Mages even more. Though set in a different country and culture, with different characters, The Fire Mages has another original social structure and interesting magic system. If you enjoy high fantasy in a unique setting with cool magic and well-conceived, multi-dimensional characters, I highly recommend The Fire Mages. (Full review)
Monster Hunter International (Monster Hunter International #1), Larry Correia
Wow, this was awesome. A diverse cast of memorable characters, great monsters and fantasy creatures (these aren't Tolkein's Elves and Orcs!), a battle to save the world from evil creatures from beyond, lots of shooting stuff and blowing stuff up, courage and heroism and a touch of romance, all told in a fun narrative style that kept me up reading way too late four nights in a row. And one of the best opening paragraphs in fiction, EVAR! Lots of fun.
Our Husband, Stephanie Bond
Something light and fluffy as a change of pace from the more heavy-duty reading I've been doing lately. Three women discover they're married to the same man when they come to visit him in the hospital after he's in an accident. He dies, then it turns out he was murdered! Though they're naturally jealous and suspicious of each other, a shared sense of confusion, grief, and betrayal brings the women together and grows into friendship as they try to figure out who really killed their husband. No big surprises, but still fun.
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