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[Sci-Fi Month] Read Along: The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, Week 2

[Sci-Fi Month] Read Along: The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, Week 2 published on 4 Comments on [Sci-Fi Month] Read Along: The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, Week 2

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We’re pleased to be a part of Sci-Fi Month (Put on by Rinn Reads).

We’ve taken on the enjoyable task of hosting Week 2 of The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. We are discussing the chapters “Port Coriol” through the end of “Cricket.” If you haven’t started the book yet, HERE BE SPOILERS.

If you have only completed the first four chapters, head over to the week 1 discussion at Over the Effing Rainbow.

This Read Along is specifically hosted by Lisa at Over The Effing Rainbow. She hosted week 1 and will host week 4. Week 3 will be hosted by Claire Rousseau. Keep your peepers open.

I’ve never been a Firefly fanatic. Heresy, I know. I enjoyed it. I especially liked the concept, the quirky characters, and the sheer fun a sort of “working-class” crew brought to space. The actors pulled off their roles perfectly. Firefly was about both the laughs and the feels.

For me, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet has been a fun experience, and the book fills the hole (at least for me) left by Firefly’s early demise. The characters are quirky and interesting, the book is funny, the science is “sciency” enough to satisfy most of us. The book asks some important questions, but it is always fun. So fun! Really fun.

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1. There has been significant conversation about AI, what it means to be alive, whether or not AI should have rights, whether or not a person can fall in love with a specific instance of AI, etc. This is a bit of a sticky situation. After the discussion between Pepper and Jenks, how do you feel about Lovey’s and Jenks’ relationship? Should they move forward with their plan?

I tend to be pro-rights. Bringing AI into the whole thing is interesting. But I lean toward letting individuals live their lives so long as it doesn’t harm the lives of others. This is complicated here by the fact that, potentially, AI could be dangerous. But so could every other being. With all of the inter-species relationships in this book (different alien species, I mean) I have to say that Jenks and Lovey should do what makes them happy. I do worry that it will create an issue with the captain. We’ll see!

2. In the chapter “Intro to Harmagian Colonial History,” we see Dr. Chef’s perspective of having been a mother, though he is currently male, and Sissix’s perspective that children aren’t people yet. Ohan is referred to as they/them. The Akarak are referred to as xyr/xe. These perspectives and preferences are perspectives actually held by different groups of humans in our own world. Do you think assigning these perspectives to aliens rather than humans make them easier or harder to sympathize with?

This is one of the things I like most about this book. It is hilarious, sure. It has me laughing out loud at night, almost waking my wife. But science fiction that asks questions about what it means to be human…science fiction that attempts to see from different sets of eyes, that’s what really gets my heart going.

Many of the characters are willing to treat others with respect. I like the idea that humans from different places will have different perspectives, and that aliens would come in all sorts of shapes, types and have all sorts of different perspectives and preferences, too.

3. How might the ship robbery have been different if the Wayfarer were armed?
This is a question that really comes up because of events in the chapter “Intro to Harmagian Colonial History,” but the in-book discussion occurs early on in the chapter “Cricket.” Sissix and Kizzy are noted as advocating for guns on board the ship. Ashby specifies that he doesn’t want any, and notes that anecdotally, he has never had this happen before and that it wasn’t likely to happen again. In thinking back on the events, we get inside Ashby’s mind in a third-person thought-bubble of sorts:

He touched his jaw. The bruises from the Akarak’s rifle were still fading. he revisited those horrible moments in the cargo bay, remembered how it felt to have strangers rip their way into his home. He recreated the incident, imagining a gun in his hand. Would he have fired? He couldn’t say. But imagining the addition of a weapon in that scenario made him feel safer. He no longer felt helplessness. He felt powerful. And that was what scared him. “I’m not comprimising my principles over this. That’s that.”

I don’t bring this concept up in a political sense. I am looking at it more as a cultural perspective. Sissix then ribs Ashby in a good-natured way, noting that his perspective was particularly Exodan. We see that Sissix has been influenced by cultural perspectives, by his own formative knowledge.

This particular situation worked out very well for the crew because Rosemary shared a language with the robbers. They lost items, stuff, but all lives were accounted for. Things could have gone differently. Sissix and Kizzy are both nervous about a repeat possibility, and Ashby is more afraid of what he’ll become if he kills than he is afraid of dying.

I love that the book is willing to take us through the thought processes of several characters who went through a similar experience, but came to different conclusions. This is one of the things that makes the story realistic. People internalize experiences in many different ways.

This particular situation would likely have had a much more violent ending if both crews were strapped with weapons. I do not make the specific argument that there are no situations in which guns would have been helpful or effective.

4. As I finished the fourth chapter in my section, “Cricket,” I thought it might be a good place to stop and talk about some of our favorite humorous moments so far. What scenes really tickled your funny bone? Who makes you laugh the most and why?

I don’t know if it is possible for me to pick a favorite character. I don’t know if it is possible to share a funniest scene. But I’ll choose one of each, as I asked the question, and it is only fair.

This is one of those questions that reminds me of the movie “Orange County.” When the English teacher, Mr. Burke, asks the students who their favorite Friends character is, Shaun is called upon and he says something like, “I don’t know, Ross, I guess.” And the teacher tells him no, that is the wrong answer. He accepts every other answer given. I feel like Corbin is the Ross of this question. I think every other character has funny moments, but Corbin…oh, man, that guy.

I am a little in love with Kizzy’s exuberant joy. Her scene from the chapter “Technical Details,” in which she sang “I ate a har – monica! These socks — match — my hat!” and “Step on –some– sweet–toast! Socks!” had me rolling. I can easily identify with singing the wrong lyrics of songs (Taylor Swift’s “Starbucks lovers,” anybody?)

One of my favorite lines from my four chapters was Kizzy’s: “But I am now starving. What sounds good? Noodles? Skewers? Ice cream? We’re grownups, we can have ice cream for lunch if we want.”

I also found Sissix’s molting angst humorous in “Intro to Harmagian Colonial History.” She is so cranky. Understandably so, but she just can’t catch a break. Then we find out that humans smell terrible to some species, but the humans didn’t even notice that Dr. Chef has been spiking their soap with anti-odor powder.

Interview & Giveaway: Julie Czerneda

Interview & Giveaway: Julie Czerneda published on 4 Comments on Interview & Giveaway: Julie Czerneda

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Julie Czerneda has graciously allowed Galleywampus to host a stop on her blog tour for This Gulf of Time and Stars. We also have a giveaway listed way down below.

About the Author

CzernedaCPC-008095wproSince 1997, Canadian author/editor Julie E. Czerneda has shared her love and curiosity about living things through her science fiction, writing about shapechanging semi-immortals, terraformed worlds, salmon researchers, and the perils of power. Her fourteenth novel from DAW Books was her debut fantasy, A Turn of Light, winner of the 2014 Aurora Award for Best English Novel, and now Book One of her Night`s Edge series. Her most recent publications: a special omnibus edition of her acclaimed near-future SF Species Imperative, as well as Book Two of Night`s Edge, A Play of Shadow, a finalist for this year’s Aurora.

Julie’s presently back in science fiction, writing the finale to her Clan Chronicles series. Book #1 of Reunification, This Gulf of Time and Stars, will be released by DAW November 2015. For more about her work, visit www.czerneda.com or visit her on Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads.

About the Books

The Clan Chronicles is set in a far future with interstellar travel where the Trade Pact encourages peaceful commerce among a multitude of alien and Human worlds. The alien Clan, humanoid in appearance, have been living in secrecy and wealth on Human worlds, relying on their innate ability to move through the M’hir and bypass normal space. The Clan bred to increase that power, only to learn its terrible price: females who can’t help but kill prospective mates. Sira di Sarc is the first female of her kind facing that reality. With the help of a Human starship captain, Jason Morgan, Sira must find a morally acceptable solution before it’s too late. But with the Clan exposed, her time is running out. The Stratification trilogy follows Sira’s ancestor, Aryl Sarc, and shows how their power first came to be as well as how the Clan came to live in the Trade Pact. The Trade Pact trilogy is the story of Sira and Morgan, and the trouble facing the Clan. Reunification will conclude the series and answer, at last, #whoaretheclan.

Interview

Galleywampus: You first started writing about Sira almost twenty years ago. Now that it has been over a decade since the Trade Pact Universe series concluded, what was the most challenging part of writing about Sira again? Did you know what she was up to all these years? Are you finding that Sira had changed for you in that time?

Julie: More like thirty, to be honest. It took me ten years to sell my first book, after all. Time does fly! There were a few challenges, that’s for sure. Mostly because I’d written so much else, and differently, in the interim. I talk about trying to regain my early “voice” in my post in “Writing Like I Used To”, but that was only one aspect. The details within the previous six books was another; fortunately, I had betareaders to help me (who joined me to talk about that at Publishing Crawl ). The plot, that was the thing. Glad you asked.

The story—Sira and Morgan—didn’t go away and come back. I find everything I’m working on, or thinking of working on, is in my head some place. Ideas pop out at the least convenient time. I dash from the tub. Write in the dark. Most often, the best of these occur to me when I’m supposed to be focused on what I’m writing right now, the stuff with a deadline. I’ve learned to give in, write the note, and put it some place safe. For Reunification? I’d years of jots and hints, most in a journal but an appalling number stuffed in file folders. I needed to organize. Somewhere BIG.

Like my office wall, the one without bookshelves. The one we’d freshly painted, having filled in the myriad tack holes that somehow had accumulated. (Innocent humming.)

Postit-wall20151031_160904w_proMy husband, being vastly clever, spotted the signs. You see, an author about to nest a new book acts much like a pregnant bird or dog. A certain glassy stare. A tendency to pick up random bits of paper and stick them in unpredictable places. Turning in place. Before I could pick up my first thumbtack, he’d obtained nice flat metal thingies meant for curtains and screwed them along the wall, handing me a box of magnets. (He took the tacks.)

I was off. First up were large sheets of paper; next came Post-its. Each had a separate plot point garnered from my journal and folders and I worked until they were all there, roughly organized by where in the three book arc of Reunification they’d matter most.

I’ll tell you a secret. The act of writing down plot points, then choosing—finding–where they belonged on the wall, is what locks them in my head. The whole mass is still up on the wall, but I haven’t so much as glanced at it since I stuck the last note in place. I like having it there; I don’t have to have it there. Please don’t tell Roger.

Did I know what Sira was up to? Interesting question. I knew Gulf would pick up her story mere weeks in character-time after To Trade the Stars, so as far as I was concerned, she and Morgan were still in the afterglow of Happy Ending. What I had to know was the momentum to conflict was building in the background, and powerful forces were about to collide.

Galleywampus: Love plays an important part in your books involving Sira. Why does this subject resonate with you?

Julie: Oh, it plays an important part in all of my books. Not only romantic love, although I’m a fan where it’s right, but the love of family, love between friends. To me it’s the thread that works through our lives and society as a whole, holding us together, giving life meaning.

In Sira’s case, I needed her to evolve into a sympathetic character and to represent what any Clan was capable of, given the opportunity. The powerful self-serving alien bent on human seduction has not only been done to death, it doesn’t interest me. Yes, the Clan have subverted their own reproduction into something cold and pragmatic, but they are a passionate race and this wasn’t always their way. The Clan are also xenophobic. Sira may have reasoned what her Human, Morgan, might be able to help her accomplish—to the good of her kind—but to any Clan, intimacy with something so alien as a Human is unimaginably repugnant. Without spoiling the story, if Sira hadn’t been capable of love and compassion, of growth into those feelings not only for Morgan, but others, I wouldn’t have a believable plot.

Morgan himself is her model. He’s deeply compassionate, with a strong moral centre developed from experience as well as personal inclination. He represents, in that sense, the best of us.

One of my favourite scenes is where Morgan confronts Sira, who’s developed a full-on adolescent crush on him (much to her confusion). He tells her she doesn’t know what love is and manages a decent job of muddling through sexual attraction versus true caring for another. Later, once she’s come to understand the difference, she does her utmost to shield him, from her Clan instincts and her kind.

Among my joys in their relationship is the interplay when they work together, which doesn’t always go smoothly. While Sira has immense abilities and power, Morgan has practically rebuilt his starship and treasures it. To work alongside as crew, she’s trying to learn and almost too enthused, especially when he knows a mistake in space happens only once.

Galleywampus: How does your background in biology fit into your science fiction writing?

Julie: I’ve mentioned in an earlier interview (it’s a tour, after all) on Fantasy Book Café that I create my aliens and their worlds using that background, along with my fascination with the odder aspects of living things. Spider sex, for one. Birds seeing in ultraviolet. Parasites. Nature offers a buffet of wonderful details I couldn’t make it up!

That’s world-building. My biology background is the source of my story ideas too. The Clan Chronicles came about from my wondering what would happen if an intelligent species bred for a costly trait. How far would they go? Species Imperative is my take on how an innate biological drive, in this case migration, could impact on a peaceful, well-tuned galactic civilization. Beholder’s Eye? Oh, there I’m playing with all things biological, but at the core is my speculation on what an almost immortal species would be like—and how might one come about. In the Company of Others features space exploration and settlement, but it started with my own dismay at species that seem harmless being released where they become horrendous pests to the local wildlife.

It’s fair to say there’s nothing about my biology background that isn’t in my science fiction. (And sneaks quietly into my fantasy as well.)

Galleywampus: You are a DIY fan. What has been your favorite recent DIY project?

Adding flock to simulate various types of vegetation.
Adding flock to simulate various types of vegetation.

Julie: When I’d finished Stratification, the prequel trilogy within the Clan Chronicles, I’d planned a break to try my hand at my first fantasy novel. (I talk about my reasons at Fantasy Book Critic I was determined not to sound like a science fiction author trying their first fantasy novel. I started by changing everything possible about my writing process, from my office décor to where I’d start. I wanted to have an intimate setting, Marrowdell, where everything took place within a single valley and village. I wouldn’t write a word, I vowed, until I could “see” the place for myself.E---Marrowdell-Model-in-glass-case-CPC-001045aw_pro Being a thorough sort, I researched pioneer settlements, including pacing one out, and came up with the rough size of my valley. From then, it was a process of determining scale, and I was off.

Understand I didn’t have details of the story or any outline. I was delighted to discover those as the landscape came to life. It took 28 eight hour days to complete. Here’s an abbreviated photo blog of the process.

Once finished, I put it where I could refer to it while I wrote. It gave me everything from line-of-sight to how long it’d take someone to walk from point A to B, shadows and light by time of day, and, most importantly, where “magic” had clawed the ridges to either side.

Thanks for such great questions!

Galleywampus: Thank you, Julie! And enjoy the rest of your tour!

Author’s links

Author’s Website
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads
Amazon

Giveaways

1. We are so very fortunate that DAW has provided us with a hardcover copy of This Gulf of Time and Stars to the winner (US or Canada);

2. Audible has given us a copy of the audiobook (1) (US or Canada) to give away as well!

Sample from the audiobook version of This Gulf of Time and Stars, narrated by Allyson Johnson, courtesy of audible.com:

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Credits

Cover Credit: Matt Stawicki (www.mattstawicki.com)
Author Photo and Model Photos Credit: Roger Czerneda Photography (http://photo.czerneda.com/Home.php)

Interview: Lesley Conner, Managing Editor for Apex Magazine

Interview: Lesley Conner, Managing Editor for Apex Magazine published on 1 Comment on Interview: Lesley Conner, Managing Editor for Apex Magazine

lesleyLesley Conner is a writer, social media editor and marketing leader for Apex Publications, and Managing Editor for Apex Magazine. She spends her days pestering book reviewers, proofreading, wrangling slush, doling out contracts, and chatting about books, writing, and anything else that crosses her mind on the @ApexBookCompany Twitter account.

Most of her nights are spent with a good book and a glass of wine. Her alternative history horror novel, The Weight of Chains, was recently published by Sinister Grin Press. To find out all her secrets, you can follow her on Twitter at @LesleyConner.

Jason Sizemore and Lesley Conner are co-editing an anthology coming out in early December called Best of Apex Magazine: Volume 1. This looks like an awesome anthology, and I’ll be standing in line for a copy. Well, sitting at my computer, clicking and clacking for a copy.

 

Apex Magazine is also in the middle of a subscription drive.

 

The magazine is attempting to hit these Kickstarter style “stretch goals” :

  • $500 – A 5th piece of poetry UNLOCKED
  • $1,000 – New short story by Chikodili Emelumadu UNLOCKED
  • $2,000 – Interview with Chikodili Emelumadu
  • $2,500 – A 6th piece of poetry
  • $3,000 – New interview with Ursula Vernon
  • $4,000 – 2nd reprint exclusive to Apex Magazine eBook/subscriber edition
  • $5,000 – New novelette by Ursula Vernon set in her “Jackalope Wives” world
  • $6,500 – Stretch Goal! We’ll open to Apex Magazine submissions in December, 2015, rather than January, 2016

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Subscriptions are $17.95 until the end of the drive. It will conclude on November 13th.

Subscribe to the magazine at the Apex website or at Weightless Books (gift subscriptions are also available);

 

Support Apex Magazine via Patreon;

Or you can donate subscribing.

If you miss the drive, don’t sweat it, you can still support the magazine later.

 

Lesley was kind enough to provide us with an interview, allowing us an inside look into the workings of an online literary magazine.

Interview

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Galleywampus (GW): How long have you been at Apex? How did they find you, or did you find them?

Lesley Conner (LC): I’ve been part of the Apex for around 5 years now. I met owner/publisher Jason Sizemore at a convention called Context. We kept in contact after the con through Facebook and when he posted about needing a blog editor, I applied. Jason didn’t feel I was a good fit for that position at that time (I did end up filling that roll at one point) but he did think I’d be able to help out with social media. That’s where I started – managing the Apex Publications Twitter and Facebook accounts – and from there I learned other skills and took on more responsibilities until one day Jason asked if I would take over the role of managing editor.

ApexMag04_1024x1024GW: What does it mean to be the “managing editor” of Apex Magazine?

LC: Boiled down to the simplest terms, being the managing editor of Apex Magazine means that I make sure everyone else has what they need to be able to do their jobs.

Doing that involves a lot of different tasks. I divvy out all of the submissions to our submissions editors as they come in, read stories being held for further consideration, and answer queries. Once we’ve selected the content for the magazine, I search for artwork, fill out contracts, make sure we have our interviews set up, help find and select nonfiction and reprints, collect the authors’ bios and payment information, and help proofread and deal with copy edits. On release day, I send out our newsletter, send the final issue to all the contributors and our editorial team, write blog posts and a press release.

The day after release, we start all over again.

GW: You wear a lot of hats for Apex. Which hat fits you the most comfortably?

LC: After 5 years, all of my roles at Apex fit relatively comfortably – Apex is a part of who I am – but by far my favorite task is searching for cover art. My grandfather was an artist and my dad has a degree in art. I grew up in house where art hung on every wall and I’ve always loved spending hours roaming through art museums. I, in no way, think this makes me some sort of art expert, but I have a passion for it and I think that comes through in the pieces that I select for Apex Magazine and Apex Book Company.

The reader response to the cover art for Apex Magazine has been amazing. I love to see so many people excited about a beautiful image, and being about to shine a spotlight on wonderful artists like Adrian Borda, Carly Sorge, and Beth Spencer has been great.

cover_db7f1550-ec87-43e8-be58-d3d70a99598a_1024x1024GW: What can you tell me about slush wrangling?

LC: Ah, slush …

When Apex Magazine is open to submissions, we receive between 800 and 1100 submissions a month. I divvy those out to our slush readers. Our slush readers are amazing and I’m incredibly grateful to have such a wonderful group of dedicated readers. They are the first eyes that see the stories sent in to Apex. Any they feel should be held for further consideration I read, and from those, I send the best of the best up to our Editor-in-Chief Jason Sizemore.

Reading stories is only part of slush wrangling. Another big part of it is making sure that we have a quick response rate. Apex’s goal is to respond to every submission within 20 days of when it was submitted and sometimes it’s necessary to send reminders if we’ve had a story for a while. It is incredibly easy to fall behind and then you’re playing a forever game of catch up.

Finally, I also answer queries from the writers. If writers have any question at all, they can send me an email and I will try to reply with an answer as quickly as possible. If I don’t have the answer, I go and find it.

GW: Apex and its published stories have won and been nominated for several awards. Are there any particular awards Apex has been nominated for, or that your company has won, that you feel most proud of?

LC: It’s always thrilling to hear that a story or poem Apex published has been nominated for an award. It’s that moment of validation that we’re on the right track and that people are enjoying what we’re doing.

Then winning an award! That’s even better. Apex has had stories win the Nebula in short fiction for the last two years – Rachel Swirsky’s “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” in 2014 and Ursula Vernon’s “Jackalope Wives” in 2015. Both stories are amazing. But that’s not surprising. Both authors are incredibly talented.

Apex Magazine was also nominated for the Hugo Award for best semi-prozine in 2012, 2013, and 2014. Even though I wasn’t the managing editor at that time, working for a magazine that has been nominated for such a big award is amazing. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t hope that we snag another Hugo nomination.

ApexMag09.15_1024x1024GW: Set the record straight. Are there any common misconceptions, or things people might not know, about online magazines?

LC: I don’t think people realize how much work goes into running a monthly publication. It isn’t just finding stories you like and posting them online. It’s finding the perfect stories and figuring out how to put them together in a way that is cohesive. It’s copy edits and proofreading and sending all of the contributors the proof copy to make sure we haven’t missed anything. It’s finding cover art, and nonfiction, and reprints, and excerpts. It’s marketing and promoting and building eBooks and updating the website and unforeseen problems that pop up at the worst time. And it’s doing it month after month without a break. There’s a tight schedule to keep and, no matter what is going in your personal life, that schedule marches on and the new issue has to be ready by the first Tuesday of the month. If one person falls behind, then we’re all scrambling.

That type of schedule can be draining, but it’s also incredibly rewarding. I get to work with some of the best scifi writers of our time and with new writers who are just beginning to get their feet wet in the publishing word. The excitement over discovering an amazing story in the slush pile doesn’t fade. And recognizing names that repeat in the slush pile and seeing an improvement in the writing never fails to bring a smile to my face.


GW:
When you wake up and have taken care of all of those incredibly important “life things,” and head to where you work, what’s the first thing you do?


LC:
First, I feel I should point out that I work from home, so the important “life things” I do before work are more or less just brushing my teeth and pouring a cup of coffee. I jump into Apex work when I’m still sort of groggy from sleep, so I tend to work on things that don’t take a lot of deep thought first thing in the morning.
When we’re open to submissions, the first thing I do is deal with those. Anything new that came in over the night gets assigned to a reader, I send out rejection letters on stories the slush readers have decided to pass on, and let authors know if we’d like to hold their story for further consideration. I know authors want to hear back about submissions as soon as they possibly can, so finishing this first thing is a good way to start off the day.

ApexMag0815_1024x1024When we aren’t open to submissions, I tend to check my email first thing, dealing with any that can be completed quickly. This helps whittle do my to-do list and makes things seem more manageable. Anything that needs a closer look, I save until after my coffee has taken hold.

GW: Books: do you read monogamously or polygamously? In other words, do you read one book at a time, or juggle multiple books?

LC: I really want to say I read monogamously – that seems like the proper, less mind-twisting answer – but it isn’t true. Most of the time I’m reading three books: one on audio that I listen to while I do chores and exercise, a hefty hardback that sits beside my seat on the couch that I read in the evenings, and either a graphic novel or paperback that I take with me whenever I leave the house. That way I always have something close at hand to read.

For the most part I don’t find this problematic. Since I visit all three on a daily basis, it isn’t difficult to remember what is going on in each story and most of the time I can keep the story lines separate. The only time I can’t is if I happen to be reading two novels that are the same genre with similar plot lines. If I happen to be reading two scifi novels set in space, it could get tricky. The other thing I find is if I’m reading two books that are the same genre at one time I tend to get really bored pretty quickly. Recently I was reading two novels that both dealt heavily with teen romantic angst. It was a bit of a slog to get through them both.

About Apex Magazine

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Apex Magazine received a Best Semiprozine Hugo nomination in 2012, 2013, and 2014. Apex placed two stories in the 2010 Nebula Award category of Best Short Story, and their stories won the category in 2014 (“If You Were a Dinosaur My Love” by Rachel Swirsky) and again in 2015 (“Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon. Dozen of their stories have been selected for the annual Year’s Best anthologies over the past five years.

Review: Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older

Review: Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older published on

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About the Book

Paint a mural. Start a battle. Change the world.

Sierra Santiago planned an easy summer of making art and hanging out with her friends. But then a corpse crashes the first party of the season. Her stroke-ridden grandfather starts apologizing over and over. And when the murals in her neighborhood begin to weep real tears… Well, something more sinister than the usual Brooklyn ruckus is going on.

With the help of a fellow artist named Robbie, Sierra discovers shadowshaping, a thrilling magic that infuses ancestral spirits into paintings, music, and stories. But someone is killing the shadowshapers one by one — and the killer believes Sierra is hiding their greatest secret. Now she must unravel her family’s past, take down the killer in the present, and save the future of shadowshaping for generations to come.

Full of a joyful, defiant spirit and writing as luscious as a Brooklyn summer night, Shadowshaper introduces a heroine and magic unlike anything else in fantasy fiction, and marks the YA debut of a bold new voice.

Review

This is a unique, clever, sometimes-scary, always engaging story featuring family, music, art, gentrification, friendship, racism, cultural anthropology, cultural appropriation, community, zombies, spirits, self delusion, and self confidence. Among other things.

This is the most unique YA urban fantasy I’ve read, without qualifications. It has been a while since I read an urban fantasy and didn’t see a lot of stuff I had already read in five other urban fantasy series. I’m not saying I don’t enjoy these, as there’s something comfortable in familiarity. But sometimes you want to feel a little less comfortable.

The book isn’t overly complicated, but there’s a lot going on; the characters are intelligent, passionate, and brave; the teens talk like teens; the motivations (except, in my opinion, of the primary antagonist) are believable, understandable, true. The setting is vivid. I love how the tower is utilized by Older in so many ways. I love the cityscape of Brooklyn, which acts as a powerful place.

Just about everything clicks in this dark tale. Spirits in the city are deeply linked to the cultural heritage of the neighborhoods, and that heritage must be seized by a Shadowshaper in order to keep the magic alive. Nobody can come from outside and own it. Sierra is a powerful character, and she goes through some things that many teens go through–like not liking what she sees in the mirror– and some things most don’t go through–like being pursued by a throng haint, a shadow monster covered in mouths. I got a kick out of the numerous cool old men in the neighborhood, particularly in one scene at the University.

I like Sierra, which is nice, because I don’t always like the heroes and heroines in YA novels. She’s spirited, makes generally good choices, and keeps her head in tough situations. Also, she doesn’t spend a lot of time complaining, which is nice.

There are aspects of this novel that feel like they live in a universe nestled right alongside Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. And for me, that’s high praise: American Gods is a favorite of mine.

This book has led me to pick up a copy of Older’s Half-Resurrection Blues: A Bone Street Rumba Novel. My understanding is that these books are decidedly not YA, which suits me just fine.

About the Author

61ynfd6lqpL._UX250_Daniel José Older is the author of the Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series from Penguin’s Roc Books and the Young Adult novel Shadowshaper (Scholastic’s Arthur A. Levine Books, 2015), which was nominated for the Kirkus Prize in Young Readers’ Literature. His first collection of short stories, Salsa Nocturna and the Locus and World Fantasy nominated anthology Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History, which he co-edited, are available from Crossed Genres Publications. You can find Daniel’s thoughts on writing, read dispatches from his decade-long career as an NYC paramedic and hear his music at ghoststar.net/ and @djolder on twitter and YouTube.

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Author’s Links

Website
YouTube
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads

Interview: Tim Marquitz, writer of ZILF!

Interview: Tim Marquitz, writer of ZILF! published on

About the Author

11146109_776005002517862_703355410499549462_nIf you aren’t reading the books of Tim Marquitz because you haven’t heard of Tim Marquitz, you should probably know that you no longer have that excuse. You’re looking at his face right now. Look at it. You saw his name up in that title. It’s right there in damned bold font. I made it bold myself. You’ve now heard of Tim Marquitz.

Tim Marquitz is the author of the long running Demon Squad series, the Blood War Trilogy, co-author of the Dead West series, as well as several standalone books, and numerous anthology appearances including Triumph Over Tragedy, Corrupts Absolutely?, That Hoodoo Voodoo that You Do, Widowmakers, At Hell’s Gates 1&3, Neverland’s Library, Blackguards, SNAFU Survival of the Fittest, Future Warfare, and Hunters (Cohesion Press), In the Shadow of the Towers (Night Shade), and Unbound (Grim Oak Press).

Tim also collaborated on Memoirs of a MACHINE, the story of MMA pioneer John Machine Lober.

Tim is co-owner and Editor in Chief of Ragnarok Publications.

He’s a damned magician is what he is. If you’ve been burned before by having to wait years for the next book in a series, he’s the balm for your burn–apply liberally.

We have been fortunate to secure an interview with Tim on the kick-off date to his Kickstarter campaign for the novel ZILF!.

Author’s Links

Ragnarok Publications
Webpage
Twitter
Facebook

About the Kickstarter

Join Ashford Dane as his post-apocalyptic existence is thrown into chaos by the sudden arrival of a ZILF!

Yeah, you know what I’m talkin’ about. If not, look it up. I’ll wait…

Comfortably situated at the end of the world Ash stumbles across a group of soldiers traveling through his neighborhood and meets Vix, the hottest pseudo-corpse since Lily Munster. Lonely, and mostly bored off his ass, Ash invites them to dinner only to have uninvited guests show up for a nibble. A cannibalistic nibble, that is, and these guys like their meat burnt.

Ash’s home and a lifetime of supplies go up in flames and he’s forced to flee with the soldiers. Nowhere else to go he joins their mission: To hunt down the only scientist capable of saving Vix from the horrible infection that threatens to turn her into a full blown zombie.

Things just go downhill from there, hordes of zombies standing between them and their goal. But hey, if they succeed maybe then Ash’ll stand a chance of escaping the dreaded friend zone.

Like the Demon Squad novels, ZILF! will be jam-packed with crazy action, adventure, and excitement, as well as chock full of witty one liners and topical humor (likely requiring some kind of cream) with all the zombie tropes turned on their decayed little heads in fun and interesting ways.

The plan is to have Carter Reid, that guy from the Zombie Nation and the cover artist for the Demon Squad novels since book three, whip up an awe-inspiring cover that, not only will I be proud to showcase, but that YOU’ll be super stoked to stare at endlessly, wishing you were standing right there with Ash and Vix. On top of that, Carter will craft five scenes from ZILF! to be included in the book in black and white. (I will post pictures of Carter’s ZILF! art as soon as I have something.)

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Interview

Galleywampus (GW): How did your idea for a zombie comedy take shape?

Tim Marquitz (TM): As I often do, I found myself scrounging for fun zombie entertainment, something in the vein of Zombieland or Shaun of the Dead. Sadly it’s rarer than you think. Anyway, while I was searching I started thinking about the standard zombie tropes and imagining what a fun zombie romp would include. Then it hit me that I could simply write my own and get exactly what I wanted. So I started brainstorming and came up with my protagonist, Ashford Dane (a nod to Evil Dead.) As soon as I envisioned him my brain immediately kicked into gear and I knew just who I needed to play as a foil against Ash’s nerdy, LARPing self: a hot zombie.

GW: What can you tell us about your protagonist, Ashford Dane?

TM: Ash is your stereotypical gamer/LARP nerd. He lives alone, no girlfriend, no prospects, but he’s fairly well versed in hitting things and knows all the zombie lore from years of role playing. As such he was ready when the end of the world came along.

GW: What does ZILF mean? I mean, obviously, it couldn’t possible mean, uh…

TM: That’s exactly what it means. Zombie I’d like to …. That said, ZILF isn’t erotica, it’s comedy, however juvenile.

GW: Who would make the sexiest zombie?

TM: I have to say Keira Knightley. She’s beautiful and she’s halfway to being a skeleton already yet she still looks amazing. Another step toward the undead wouldn’t hurt her a bit.

GW: You’re about to take out some zombies. You put on your gigantic earphones and flip on your Walkman: who is playing? In other words, best music to play while killing zombies.

TM: For fun I’d turned on Carcass and blast Reek of Putrefaction. I think “Maggot Colony” would be the perfect complement to zombie killing.

GW: Zombies: Fast or slow?

TM: I prefer the visual of the slow zombie but my preference would be to mix them up, give the good guys a bit of a challenge by never knowing which ones they’ll be facing down.

GW: How has writing this novel differed from your other works, like Demon Squad or Clandestine Daze?

TM: It’s actually much closer to my Demon Squad stuff than Clandestine Daze. The humor is lowbrow and it’s a little off the wall. That said, the idea was to play more into the idea of normal people battling against the apocalypse than the Demon Squad, the power levels way different. This is more a traditional zombie romp in scale but if you like the DS books you’ll find plenty to enjoy here, the pacing and action and visuals all there.

GW: What is the best part of Kickstarting a novel? What’s the hard part?

TM: You know, I’ve never Kickstarted a novel before. This is something new for me. Ultimately though, I think Kickstarting it provides me with a bunch of opportunities I wouldn’t have otherwise. The ability to include fun interior art pieces and to create merchandise and actually include the readers in the book make this way more fun than me slapping down a bunch of words by myself. Also, from a marketing perspective, it seems like the idea could break down a few doors and get the book out to a wider audience.

The hard part is all the preparation and fulfillment. I’m no longer just writing a novel that I publish right after. I now need to create all the rewards and write the extra bits and pieces if the stretch goals are reached. Then I need to organize everything and get books and rewards out to people quickly. There’s a whole lot more to the process than my normal way of doing things.

GW: What are you working on next?

TM: I have a couple projects I’m working on. The first is a comedic dark fantasy novel entitled War God Rising. Like ZILF it’s fun and action-packed and off the wall. Then there’s my Tales of a Prodigy novel, which stars my eunuch assassin from the Neverland’s Library, Blackguards, and Unbound anthologies. It’s way darker and more serious than ZILF or WGR but I’ve been wanting to write that one for a while now. After that I have a monster novel I’ve been invited to write.

GW: Thank you, Tim.

Book Tour + Giveaway: The Five Warriors by Angela J. Ford

Book Tour + Giveaway: The Five Warriors by Angela J. Ford published on

TFW front cover 6

About the Book

Title: The Five Warriors
Author: Angela J. Ford
Genre: YA Fantasy
What if…

  • your best friend started a rebellion in the middle of a war?
  • your lover awakened a deep evil and helped it grow?
  • your people were too cowardly to face a battle?
  • you stole an ancient power source?
  • you gambled with the fate of the world?

Join five powerful warriors each with a unique ability and magical weapons. Their quest is to discover where the transformed creatures are coming from and put a stop to it.

Along the way they run into treacherous immortals, sea monsters, powerful beasts of the air and talking animals.

Each has their own reasoning for joining the quest, but one carries a deadly secret which just might be the destruction of them all.

Interview with a Character

Interview with Marklus

Excerpt

Starman stood at the shore of the great Dejewla Sea and stared at the enormity of the swaying body of liquid. The water shone like sapphires, beckoning him to crawl into its watery graves and swim and dive as if he were a child of aqua. Waves rippled across the surface but any animals that used to dwell near the Sea had long since disappeared. He could smell the richness of the soil as the plants close to the water stretched their roots deep, bloating themselves on saltless seawater.

Alaireia, on the other hand, had already dropped her pack of supplies and was loosening the black belt that carried her long sword. “It’s good we’re camping here for a time,” she was saying, sitting on a fallen log to unstrap her black boots as Starman continued to be captivated by the Sea. “I, for one, would like one last swim before we enter the desert. Swift claims it is a dry, barren place.”

“It smells like dead fish,” Starman said, wrinkling his nose.

“Starman?”Alaireia asked, standing barefoot on the shore. “Are you coming for a swim?”

“Oh.” Starman’s face turned red. “I…I…uh…”

Alaireia laughed as she waded into the water to see how it felt. “The water is fine!”

“Uh…” Starman turned to go, almost tripping over his feet. “I’ll go downstream with the others,” he stammered.

“Wait, Starman,”Alaireia called. He turned around, still blushing, but she stood knee high in the water, staring into it. “What did you say it smelt like?”

Starman opened his mouth to reply when something leaped out of the water, snatchingAlaireia and dragging her under. “Fish! Crinte!” Starman shouted all at once. “Help! The fish have Alaireia!” He drew his sword and ran to the waterside, but all was still again. Eyes like saucers, he ran back to the trees. “Crinte! Marklus! Swift! Hurry!” he yelled.

He ran back to the Sea only to shout and leap back in surprise as a monster surged out of the water, its long, brown-spotted tentacles waving in every direction. Along the length of eachtentacle suction holes moved in and out as if the creature were breathing in air and water at the same time. Its round head had barely emergedbut it was the center of the tentacles with two, horrifyingly large, ink black eyes. Starman could see a mirror black image of himself drowning in the sticky elixir of those eyes and immediately leaned over to vomit in a bush. As he wiped his mouth on the back on his hand he saw Alaireia, wrapped in one of the sucking tentacles. It was one of the most beautiful and terrifying sights he had ever seen as she rose with the creature, streaming with now muddied water. Her black hair hung long and her shoulders were bare as she gripped the tentacle in both arms, her face a mass of concentrated fury as she struggled for release.

“Alaireia!” Starman yelled, dashing into the water with his sword raised. A tentacle reached out for him and he slashed at it, ripping it open and causing black blood to leak out. Starman almost gagged as the stench of decaying fish overwhelmed him in the water. Despite it he moved closer to the great creature. It towered above him, lifting Alaireia higher into the air. Starman slashed at the next tentacle that tried to capture him, but ultimately failed as one wrapped its slimy length around him and hugged his body uncomfortably close. Still waving his sword, he proceeded to chop at the thick length that held him, but the creature was unforgiving. It reared its head even further out of the water, displaying a wide gaping mouth. It opened it and roared.

About the Author

_Q7B3624

Angela J. Ford is an imaginative and entertaining writer who creates stories of fanciful worlds that enable young adults to confidently believe in possibilities and overcome differences to be stronger together.

Born in Ann Arbor, MI, and raised in Alabaster, AL, she moved to Nashville, TN, where she currently resides, to pursue a degree in Music Business at Belmont University.

Although her career has not been largely focused on creative writing, it has been an integral part of her lifestyle. Brought up as a bookworm and musician, she began writing The Four Worlds, a fantasy action, adventure series at the age of 12. The storyline of those books was largely based off of creative games she played with her sisters.

Originally finished when she was 16, after college, Angela began to re-write the Four Worlds Series, bringing it from a child’s daydream to an adventure young and old alike can enjoy. Inspired by fairy tales, high magic and epic fantasy, you’ll enjoy your adventures within the Four Worlds.

If you happen to be in Nashville, you’ll mostly likely find her at a local coffee shop, enjoying a white chocolate mocha and furiously working on her next book. Make sure you say hello!

Links

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