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Thursday, August 30, 2012

TGIF - Feature & Follow Friday

Don't forget to check out my interviews with Lee Battersby and Adam Christopher for a chance to win paperback ARC copies of The Corpse Rat King and Seven Wonders.

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Feature & Follow Friday is a blog hop that is designed to provide some much-appreciated exposure to the bloggers participating, and to expand their following. Hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read, each of whom feature a chosen blog for the week, it's an interesting way to get to know one another.

Question of the Week: What is the best cover of a book that you've read and loved?

Last week I picked Clive Barker's US editions of the Books of Blood as some of the worst covers, so it's time to give some love to the UK covers that first made me a fan. Just to balance things out, I'll include the simple beauty of his original Imajica cover as well (although the re-release cover isn't bad).


      

Parajunkee also hosts a Social Hop for Facebook and Twitter, which I regularly take part in. So, if you're one of those people who aren't on Blogger, or who just don't like Google Friend Connect, it's a great way to keep in touch and follow one another.

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TGIF is another blog hop designed to provide much-appreciated exposure to the bloggers participating, and to expand their following. Hosted by GReads, it's an interesting way to recap the week, pose a question, and find some exposure with a different audience.

Question of the Week: 
How do you go about choosing what you read next? Do you have a schedule you follow, or do you read whatever makes you happy at the moment?

I am absolutely a mood reader, picking up whatever happens to appeal to my whims of the moment. I will schedule reads where I have a hard deadline (i.e. a book tour), but otherwise I go with whatever interests me.

Seven Wonders by Adam Christopher (REVIEW and GIVEAWAY)

Good afternoon, and welcome back to Day 4 of Angry Robot Week here at Beauty in Ruins, once again featuring Adam Christopher. We're kicked the day off with an interview, so now it's time to get into my review of Seven Wonders.

Read along, and when you're done, don't forget to check out the giveaway below and enter for a chance to win a paperback ARC copy of Seven Wonders.

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Growing up, I was an absolutely huge fan of comic books. Every Wednesday and every Friday we'd either grab our bikes or hop on the bus downtown to pick up the newest releases. Although I was primarily a Marvel man (The Amazing Spider-Man, The Uncanny X-Men, Excalibur, and The Incredible Hulk were my must-haves), I regularly hopped shelves into DC territory or some of the independents. At some point, however, I began to lose interest. Part of it was frustration with the expensive gimmicks of variant covers, foil covers, bagged editions, etc, but a bigger part of it was sheer boredom. I got the point where I could recognize all the rehashed story lines, and the novelty of massive reboots quickly began to wear thin.

I've tried getting back into comics and graphic novels over the years, particularly with the Dark Tower adaptations and the comic book seasons of Buffy and Angel, but it just wasn't the same. I still like the stories, but the medium just didn't work for me anymore. So, with that in mind, the idea of a comic book novel began to seem very appealing.

Enter Seven Wonders by Adam Christopher - not the first comic book novel I've read, but certainly one of the strongest. The first thing that struck me about it, right from the opening chapters, is that this was a more realistic take on superheroes, and one seemingly tailored for a maturing audience. It's dark, a little gritty, and surprisingly bloody. People actually die, violently and permanently. More than that, it's a bit cynical and jaded, with a city being oppressed by the last remaining super-villain, and supposedly protected by a team of superheroes who aren't in any rush to put their lives on the line to stop each and every act of villainy being perpetrated.

Oddly enough, for a book called Seven Wonders, the heroes are the least interesting part of the novel. Instead, for me, it was the conflict between Tony and The Cowl that kept me reading. Here you have an ordinary guy slowly acquiring superpowers, freeing him from the shroud of terror under which he's lived for years, and the last remaining super-villain, just as slowly losing his superpowers, putting his ultimate end-game for San Ventura (and the Seven Wonders) in jeopardy. The balance between police drama and superhero drama was a nice touch as well, deliberately contrasting themes of heroism, responsibility, and accountability throughout.

I did say it's dark, gritty, cynical, and jaded, but it's also romantic (sometimes in a creepy sort of way), humorous (often in an ironic or sarcastic sort of way), and absolutely action-packed (with very real consequences to those actions). There is also a surprising amount of character development involved, with Tony nearly unrecognizable by the end, and The Cowl and Blackbird . . . well, I'll refrain from saying any more about that pairing, for fear of spoiling one of the most interesting developments in the story. Also, given that we're dealing with prose, and can't actually see the costumes, I must say Christopher does a solid job of differentiating the Seven Wonders themselves, which I expected to be a major challenge.

In terms of plotting, the book reads very much like a comic book, completely with chapter-ending cliffhangers and twists that seem to come out of nowhere. The same with the narrative, where dialogue 'bubbles' are regularly broken up with descriptive 'blocks' as we move from imaginary panel to panel. It's awkward at first, and has the potential to annoy or alienate some readers, but it also helps preserve that comic book feel.

If you like your superheroes all perfect and shiny, your mortality clear-cut, and the lines between good and evil explicitly defined, this may not be the novel for you. Similarly, if you're just looking for more of the same in terms of Dark Knight grimness and grittiness, this may take you in directions you're not comfortable going. However, if you're a comic book fan with an appreciation for all the different flavours of superheroes, and an avid reader with an appreciation for a novel that does something new (and does it well), then this is definitely worth a read.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Don't forget to check out my interview with Lee Battersby as well, for a chance to win a paperback ARC copy of The Corpse Rat King!

Adam Christopher INTERVIEW & Seven Wonders GIVEAWAY

Good morning, and welcome to Day 4 of Angry Robot Week here at Beauty in Ruins, this time featuring Adam Christopher. We're kicking the day off with an interview, before getting onto a review of Seven Wonders later this afternoon.

Read along, and when you're done, don't forget to check out the giveaway below and enter for a chance to win a paperback ARC copy of Seven Wonders.

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BOB: Thanks for taking the time to stop by, Adam. With the release of Seven Wonders just weeks away, I know you must be busy. Before we get started, can you tell us a bit about yourself?

ADAM: Thanks for having me here, Bob! My name is Adam Christopher, and I’m a writer! I’m the author of Empire State and Seven Wonders, both from Angry Robot, who are also publishing two more books over the next two years – The Age Atomic (a sequel to Empire State), and Hang Wire, an urban fantasy set in San Francisco. I’m also an author over at Tor Books, and my first novel for them, a dark space opera called Shadow’s Call, is out in 2014.

I’m from New Zealand originally, and moved to the UK in 2006. I’m a fan of superhero comics, tea, Lego, and The Cure.


BOB: Wow, thanks for getting Lovecats stuck in my head for the rest of the day! The journey to publication can be a long one, even with the rise of small presses and indie publishing. How has the experience of brining Seven Wonders to print differed from that of Empire State?

ADAM: I initially signed a two-book deal with Angry RobotEmpire State was the novel I pitched to the editor, Lee Harris, and publishing director Marc Gascoigne, over lunch when I went to visit their office back in August 2010. I’d met them both on Twitter a couple of years before, and we became friends thanks to a shared interest in books, comics, films, that kind of thing. I was working on my writing, and while I blogged about it now and again we never really talked about it, even after I met Lee in person at a few UK science fiction conventions. When I dropped Lee a line to say I’d be in the area and suggested we meet up for lunch, I didn’t intend to pitch anything and I certainly hadn’t prepared, so when Marc asked about the book I was currently working on I sort of rambled for about an hour, making a real mess of it. But Marc invited me to send it in when it was done, and I did, and then I got that magic phone call a few months later.

Angry Robot wanted two books – Empire State and something else. Empire State was actually the third novel I’d written (and at that stage I’d written a fourth as well), so a few days after they made their offer I met Lee at the SFX Weekender, a big multimedia SF convention, and we sat down to talk about the other books. I expected them to go with that fourth book, but to my surprise Lee asked to see Seven Wonders, and that was the second book they bought.

Getting Empire State to print – the first time I’d even seen this side of the publishing industry – was a learning curve, but an enjoyable one. I’d written Seven Wonders before even starting Empire State, and when it came time to look at it again it had been maybe two years since completion and I’d written two more full novels. So I took the opportunity to revise it extensively – my style and voice had developed in the interim, so Seven Wonders needed a bit of TLC. Having learned a great deal during the edit of Empire State for Angry Robot, I was able to pre-empt a lot of the work on Seven Wonders that I knew they’d ask for, so overall I think the process was smoother.

Looking at Seven Wonders on the shelf in my office, next to Empire State, I have a weird sort of feeling – the book was written before Empire State, but is being published after it. From my point of view it’s an older story… but it feels fresher because it had that big reworking once everything on Empire State was done and dusted!

BOB: It's fascinating (and a little dizzying) to look at the chain of events that bring a work into print. Given the subject matter of Seven Wonders, I have to ask where your geek alliances lie – Marvel, DC, or one of the newer kids on the block (Dark Horse, Image, IDW)?

ADAM: I have to say DC – they just feel more like home to me. I do read a lot of Marvel – more now than ever, actually – but I haven’t quite got the depth of knowledge that I do with DC. I’m actually looking forward to the Marvel NOW! Initiative, as that’ll be a good time to dive into some titles and characters I haven’t explored yet.

I’m also really getting into Monkeybrain Comics – they’re a new digital indie publisher, run by Chris Roberson. They only launched in July this year, but already they’re one of the most exciting players.

BOB: Reading a superhero novel is undeniably a different experience than that of a comic book or graphic novel. What advantages/disadvantages do you feel the novel format offers?

ADAM: I agree – comics and graphic novels are visual as well as textual, and superhero comics rely even more on the artwork. That’s why superheroes work so well in films, because you can translate the spectacle and grandeur of a comic page onto the big screen easily if you have enough money!

Novels are completely different, and putting superheroes into prose is definitely a difficult thing. I think it helps that I’m a total superhero comics fanatic, and Seven Wonders is my big epic superhero adventure, so when I was writing it I was pretty much visualizing it panel-by-panel, shot-by-shot – a mash-up of a graphic novel and a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster. Getting that visual aspect of superheroes across was vital.

Novels have a lot of advantages too – you can do into as much depth and backstory as you like, you can see into a character’s mind and see their point of view. You can really do anything you like, and you’ve got the space to explore it all. Of course, you can do that in comics as well, but it’s a different form that has different rules and different techniques.

BOB: Assuming you were offered the opportunity to adapt Seven Wonders as a graphic novel, who would you insist upon as the illustrator?

ADAM: I’d be hard-pressed to pick just one favourite artist – I love the work of Ivan Reis, Amanda Conner, Nicola Scott, Francis Manipul and Kevin Maguire. Away from that traditional modern superhero style, Alex Ross would be wonderful – his painted art has a real epic, majestic quality. Darwyn Cooke is another favourite, his work is so distinctive.

BOB: Some nice choices! Let’s take the concept of adaptation in a different direction for a moment. With comic book movies dominating the box office, who would you look at for your dream cast in Seven Wonders?

ADAM: I tend to cast most, but not all, of my characters as I write, which is a handy trick – I think that probably comes from the way I visualise the story in my mind, especially something as “graphical” as Seven Wonders.

So Detective Sam Miller is Emily Rose and Joe Milano a somewhere between Idris Elba and Jon Huertas. Tony is Milo Ventimiglia, no doubt about it. Jeannie is harder to cast, but Liv Tyler would be interesting.

The Seven Wonders… hmm, maybe Henry Czerny as Aurora, Erica Durance (with blonde hair!) as Bluebell, an aged-up Malcolm-Jamal Warner as Linear, Brian Blessed as Hephaestus, and Christa B. Allen as The Dragon Star and Patricia Velásquez as Sand Cat. SMART is a robot, and a big one at that, so its more the voice that is critical. How about Kevin Conroy? That would be the icing on the cake!

Although it might seem like a strange choice, I see Nathan Fillion making a good Cowl.

BOB: That is an interesting cast - I can definitely see a few of them, but I'd have to see the others in action to figure out how they mesh with what I imagined. If we can talk the mechanics of writing for a moment, do you have a habit, a trick, or an obsession in how and where you write?

ADAM: Not really – as a born procrastinator I’ve spent years looking for tricks, but have so far failed to find any! Writing is a job, which means you have to treat it like one – sit down and write. I do try and stick to a routine, writing 2-3,000 words a day in 1,000-word chunks. I have two writing spots, upstairs in my office, which is more formal and business-like (which I find best for editing and rewriting, and having a large monitor is handy for comparing documents and cutting/pasting bits in and out and making notes), and downstairs in my library. The library has a big comfy chair and I’m surrounded by books. I tend to start projects here on my laptop, and write maybe 90% of the first draft in this more relaxed environment.

BOB: Damn - I keep hoping somebody will find that procrastination trick for me. I'll have to find it myself . . . one of these days! In terms of story, what comes easiest for you, and where do you struggle the most? Is it the title? The first paragraph? The last chapter? The cover blurb?

ADAM: I like to have a title right at the beginning – I don’t know why, but it makes the writing a lot easier! Which is all in my head, of course. I enjoy the opening pages of a new project, before you get to the real meat of the thing. Endings are probably the hardest bit, as I often don’t quite know where to stop!

Cover blurbs and the like are the responsibility of the editor, usually, although it’s usually pretty easy to cribs bits and bobs from the pitches and synopses I’ve already written. I actually love writing these little things – there is something quite satisfying about distilling an entire novel in a couple of paragraphs, or something even shorter, even if it makes you tear you hair out when you’re trying to trim the blurb down word by word.

BOB: When you’re not writing, what authors do you look to for entertainment or inspiration?

ADAM: I read a lot – all writers should, across many different genres. I used to ignore this advice, sticking to my beloved science fiction, but now I read crime, thrillers, even Westerns. It all helps with the writing, too. I always worry when I hear a writer saying they don’t have time to read.

My reading includes, of course, comics. Lots of comics – I probably read on average about four or five issues a day. As well as trying to keep up with new releases, I’m going through a lot of older material, including Daredevil from the 1970s and the terrific runs of Batman and Detective Comics from 2000.

We’re also in this amazing golden age of US TV, so that tends to be about the only stuff I watch these days – Justified, Longmire, Person of Interest, Fringe, Community… some of the best writing around is now in US television. Stephen King used to say that writers should throw out their TVs, but I wonder if he’s changed his view in the last few years!

BOB: I'm partial to our home-grown Canadian shows myself, which means I'm currently mourning the final season of Flashpoint. Before we let you go, what can we look forward to from you next? I know you've mentioned a few projects, but is there another novel in the works, or perhaps a short story to tide the fans over?

ADAM: The next scheduled releases, as I mentioned, are The Age Atomic (Angry Robot, May 2013), Hang Wire (Angry Robot, May 2014), and Shadow’s Call (Tor, early 2014). In the meantime, readers who pick up the limited edition hardcover of Seven Wonders from Forbidden Planet will find a brand new and exclusive short story in the back, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Comic Con. I’ve got another project I’m working on now in a new medium for me, which I’m excited to be part of but which isn’t going to be announced for a while yet.

And then I’ve got four novels to write next year – in first draft, at least! – I’m actually working ahead of my publication schedule by about two books, as Hang Wire and Shadow’s Call are already done, as is the first draft of The Age Atomic.

So, hopefully there’ll be some news to share soon enough. But until then, I’m just going to have to be a big tease and say “watch this space”.

BOB: Well, I’ll let you get back to writing, but thanks again for stopping by.

ADAM: Thanks, Bob!

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a Rafflecopter giveaway


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Don't forget to check out my interview with Lee Battersby as well, for a chance to win a paperback ARC copy of The Corpse Rat King!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday: The Dead of Winter by Lee Collins


Don't forget to check out my interview with Lee Battersby for a chance to win a paperback ARC copy of The Corpse Rat King . . . and be sure to come back tomorrow for my interview with Adam Christopher and a chance to win a paperback ARC copy of Seven Wonders.

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"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

The Dead of Winter by Lee Collins

Cora and her husband hunt things – things that shouldn’t exist.

When the marshal of Leadville, Colorado, comes across a pair of mysterious deaths, he turns to Cora to find the creature responsible. But if Cora is to overcome the unnatural tide threatening to consume the small town, she must first confront her own tragic past as well as her present.

A stunning supernatural novel that will be quickly joined by a very welcome sequel, She Returns From War, in February 2013. (Oct 30, 2012)

True Grit meets True Blood. Awesome. Angry Robot's announcement of their final book release of 2012 couldn't have come at a more opportune time. From the sounds of it, they're ending an already strong year on a great note, with plans for an even better 2013 already in place.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Maxine in Ruins by R.J. Sullivan (GUEST POST)

Maxine in Ruins
By R.J. Sullivan

(A newly composed bonus scene related to Haunting Obsession written specially for Beauty in Ruins)

1965

            Maxine Marie heard a noise at the front door, and without checking the window to peek outside, she sprang to the door, wrapped both hands around the doorknob, twisted, and pulled the door open. "Where have you been all night, Mister?"
           
            The tall wiry man on the other side looked taken aback, but only for the moment. "Oh, now all of a sudden you care where I've been? Because you didn't care at all this morning." He tried, and failed, to step steadily, but Allen Goodwin's stumbling gait betrayed his intoxication with every step.
           
            "Allen, don't be that way. I was worried sick, you know I was." She knew her normally devastating gaze was tainted from bloodshot eyes and dark circles. She knew this because she' d spent the last six hours crying and rubbing her eyes, then examining herself in the mirror.

            At first, she tried to fix herself, make herself the beautiful Hollywood starlet he'd fallen in love with three years ago. Then she decided tears and a look of distress might just serve as her best weapons.
           
            Allen shook his head. "Don't tell me how you care so damn much, Maxine. You were supposed to report to the set this morning. I couldn't even rouse you. Then when I did...."
           
            Maxine bowed her head. "I wasn't very nice about it, I know. I’m sorry, Allen."

            "Oh, sure, you can apologize to me just fine, but who the hell had to call the studio? Who had to lie to the director? Again? Food poisoning, three times in one week? Did you really think they'd believed that?"
           
            "Well, it could have been...."

            Allen's scoff cut her off. "It was poisoning, alright. Poisoning by champagne and pills."

            "What do you know about it?"
           
            "I know it wasn't professional."

            His anger took Maxine aback. "Oh, I'm so sorry. Allen Goody-Goody Goodwin, famous award-winning screenwriter. Always so professional and elegant.  What do you know? You sit back here on your little typewriter and write your professional little words.  Then you hand them to the actors who have to actually go out in front of the camera and perform them."

            Behind his glasses, Allen closed his eyes and he drew a deep breath. "I can't believe you just said that."

            "Oh, what's the matter, is Allen Goody-Goody offended? Was that too unprofessional for you?" Maxine put a sway in her step as she approached him. "You didn't mind me being so unprofessional three years ago." She extended her arms and clasped her hands around his neck. "Your wife sure didn't know what Goody-Goody was doing with me for all those weeks, did she?"

            "Stop it." Allen unclasped her hands and stepped to the side. "This isn't what I wanted. I wanted to write great stories for you. I wanted us to be partners. I wanted to turn you into a great actress."

            "Oh, really? Me?" Now she saw red. She couldn't keep the mocking tone out of her voice. "You'll spare precious pages of you amazing writing just so you can transform me into a great actress? Oh! Thank you so much, Mister Goody! I'm so grateful to you for turning me into a great actress."

            "That's not what I meant."
           
            "Yes, it was. I'm not educated like you. I'm not professional like you." She grabbed the half-empty bottle of champagne and poured herself a fresh glass. "I'm just the one in our partnership that everyone's waiting to slip, to flub her line, so they can all point and laugh" She downed the drink, feeling the bubbles burn past her throat. "I'm the one who gets humilaited while you're back here writing great stories for me."

            "Are you done?"

            "I haven't even started, Mister."

            "Fine, but I am. I'm finished. I've carried both of us for years. I can't manage my own career, and yours. I can't lie for you anymore."

            "You’re a coward." She tipped the bottle toward the glass and poured herself another.

            Allen shrugged. "Well, maybe. Maybe I tried to mold you into something you couldn't be. Maybe I wanted to save you, but you don't want saving. Not really. I don't know what you need, but it's not me."

            Maxine turned toward him, glass in her hand. "You don't mean that. We've both been drinking. It's brought out your mean side. It’s brought out my mean side, too."

            "Don't be a child."

            "What!" She turned on him, and before either of them knew what happened, she flung the glass at him. It hit him square in the chest, thumping off him like a missile, leaving a foamy splash across his jacket as it ricochet and shattered on the floor.

            He drew in a breath and bent at his hip, but said nothing.
           
            Maxine screamed. "Don't you call me that! Don't ever call me that."

            Allen shook his head and stepped toward the door. "I'll be back for my things later."

            "Wait. Allen,, you don't mean it."

            But he was already gone.

            She slumped to the floor. Alone, defeated, humiliated, at first, unable to speak. For a long time, she cried into her hands, "I'm not a child, I'm not a child."

****

            Hours later, she lay on the bed. Alone. Lonely. It wasn't fair. She'd slept all afternoon, and now she'd be awake all night. 

            Her gaze fell to the new, full bottle of champagne still chilling in a bucket on the nightstand, right next to her prescription tranquilizers. "I'll never get to sleep. What can I do?"

            She knew what she'd do. She'd learned this trick. Pop a pill, sip a drink. She'd be out, and before she knew it, the sun would be shining through the blinds and she could start over with a  brand-new day. Then she could think about Allen Goody Goody, and plot how she'd get her revenge.

            But first, a pill. Then a drink.

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R. J. Sullivan resides with his family in Heartland Crossing, Indiana. His first novel, Haunting Blue, is an edgy paranormal thriller about punk girl loner Fiona "Blue" Shaefer and her boyfriend Chip Farren. R.J. is hard at work on the next chapter in Fiona's story, Virtual Blue, coming soon from Seventh Star Press.  R.J. is a member of the Indiana Horror Writers.

Website: http://www.rjsullivanfiction.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/R.J.SullivanAuthor

Twitter: @RJSullivanAuthr

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Haunting Obsession by R.J. Sullivan

“She wants to be loved by you…alone!”

Daryl Beasley collects all things Maxine Marie, whose famous curves and fast lifestyle made her a Hollywood icon for decades after her tragic death. Daryl’s girlfriend, Loretta Stevens, knew about his geeky lifestyle when they started dating, but she loves him, quirks and all.

Then one day Daryl chooses to buy a particularly tacky piece of memorabilia instead of Loretta’s birthday present. Daryl ends up in the doghouse, not only with Loretta, but with Maxine Marie herself. The legendary blonde returns from the dead to give Daryl a piece of her mind—and a haunting obsession he’ll never forget.

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A huge thanks to R.J. Sullivan for stopping by today and not only taking part in a guest post, but writing a new scene just for Beauty in Ruins. Make sure you check out his links above, and check back next week for my review of Haunting Obsession.

TuesDecay - Forgotten Bike


This week's edition of #TuesDecay (follow along on Google+ to see all the posts) features a long-forgotten and very well-rusted bicycle, resting casually against an old birch tree deep within the Niagara Glenn, as if just waiting for its owner to come back. I'm not entirely sure how it got there, especially since I only stumbled across it while challenging myself to a foolish climb, but it's kind of sad and haunting at the same time . . .

Monday, August 27, 2012

Lee Battersby INTERVIEW & The Corpse-Rat King GIVEAWAY

Good aftenoon, and welcome to Day 1 of Angry Robot Week here at Beauty in Ruins, featuring Lee Battersby. We kicked things off this morning with an encore review of The Corpse Rat King, one of my favourite reads of the year, and now it's time for the day's main event, my interview with the man behind the mayhem, Lee Battersby.

Read along, and when you're done, don't forget to check out the giveaway below and enter for a chance to win a paperback ARC copy of The Corpse Rat King

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BOB: Thanks for taking the time to stop by, Lee. With the release of The Corpse-Rat King just weeks away, I know you must be busy. Before we get started, can you tell us a bit about yourself?

LEE: In no particular order: I’ve been about the Australian SF scene for about a decade. I’ve sold slightly more than 70 stories, won some awards, appeared in a few “best ofs” here and there, taught SF online and at Clarion. I think Daleks are the coolest monsters ever, except for dinosaurs. Old-school cybermen are pretty fucking cool, too. My favourite artist is Rene Magritte. William Blake is brilliant, too. I’m a fan of Nottingham Forest. I love Lego. Dino-daleks would make me lose my shit. I’m married to the beautiful Lyn, who is also an SF writer and much more talented than me. On any given day my favourite pop band is one or more of Madness, David Bowie, They Might be Giants, Pink Floyd, Warren Zevon, the Small Faces or The Who. I’ve been a stand-up comedian, tennis coach, and jewellery salesperson in previous days. I think old Dr Who shits all over new Dr Who. I have two biological kids, three inherited ones, and far too many dogs (one).

I’m a Beatles man rather than a Stones man. I don’t much like dogs. I love abstract art. I competed at the state athletics competition in both the 200 metres and triple jump when I was 11. I hate cats. MST3K makes me laugh like a drain. I love giganotosaurus’, and would keep one solely to eat all the cats. Viv Richards is my all-time favourite cricketer, but Ian Botham comes pretty close. I have a very cool day job, which finally makes up for the almost 20 years of utterly shit day jobs I had previously. I think the Goon Show is the funniest thing ever recorded, bar none. I blog at the Battersblog. When I die I want them to play ‘Days’ by The Kinks at my funeral. Also, David Bowie’s ‘The Bewlay Brothers’. My favourite colour is burgundy. I drink more Pepsi Max than is healthy. My favourite poem is “Little Johnny’s Confession” by Brian Patten. I probably swear too much. I’m currently wearing black underpants. I have attached my CV to this application and look forward to an interview at your convenience.

BOB: I was with you until the end. Dinosaurs and Daleks, oh yeah, but I gotta go with Coke Zero over Pepsi Max (LOL). The journey to publication can be a long one, even with the rise of small presses and indie publishing. How has the experience of bringing a novel to print differed from that of your short stories?

LEE: Time frames, certainly, and the level of involvement in the process. Strangely, I feel more involved in the novel process than I do with short stories. With shorts I tend to take a fire-and-forget approach, because of the volume I produce: I send a story off, the editor buys it (hopefully), I provide a short bio and maybe a picture, and generally, that’s it. With the novel, because I’m working with a publisher outside the uber-houses, I’ve been able to build dialogues over months with the editor, the publicity manager, the webmaster… the long time frame is offset by the feeling that I’m very much part of the team, which is quite nice. I’ve got good relationships with many magazine editors with whom I’ve worked, but often it takes several submissions to build up that kind of dialogue. The downside is that I’ve had to alter my story-telling thought processes to deal with that change in time frame: I’m used to finishing a piece, sending it off, and then scrubbing my mind clean and starting again with a whole new set of narrative reference points. I’m just finishing up editing the second Marius dos Hellespont novel, ‘Marching Dead’. I’ve been living with these characters and their world now for the better part of two years now. I’m not used to that level of internal engagement.

BOB: In my review, I mentioned that The Corpse-Rat King brought to mind the talents of Gilliam, Bullington, and Gaiman. What were your inspirations going into the story, either literary or cinematic?

LEE: I don’t really think I had any overt inspirations going into the novel: I had a story I wanted to write, and a way of telling it that I wanted to explore, but that was about it. Once I was into it, what emerged was a desire to touch upon certain subjects I’ve found interesting, rather than a desire to emulate any particular person or artist. I watch a tonne of documentaries on a regular basis, so there was this vast storehouse of factoids I wanted to scroll through. So you could probably say my inspirations were the History Channel and UKTV……

Generally, I’m inspired by artists that cross boundaries of form or genre, people who work across a range of different art forms. People like David Bowie, Spike Milligan, David Hockney, Brian May, Alice Cooper, Tara Moss, James Thurber, Gahan Wilson… artists who have achieved a level of fame and success in one art form and have then been able to create further careers in a different sphere altogether. It’s a general aspiration on my part, but polymaths fascinate me, and eventually I’d like to achieve something in a similar vein.

BOB: You could do a lot worse than Bowie, May, and Cooper for inspiration. Assuming you were offered the opportunity to adapt The Corpse-Rat King as a film, who would you look at for your dream cast? How about a director?

LEE: Oh, I think Gilliam would be a nice choice as director. I love the way nothing in his movies looks quite real, and the way everything seems to exist in some dream-like ‘other’ state. As to casting, there was only one character for whom I had a strong real-life analog pictured—that was Captain Bomthe, who I very much pictured as Bill Nighy. Marius is quite short, in his late thirties, dark skinned; Gerd a big beefy, peasant-faced lad of 19 or so; Keth a tall, willowy dancer in her early thirties; Granny a grotty old crone. Who would you choose?  Besides, if Gilliam is directing you know we’ll end up with a cast of oddities and freaks anyway, which is how I like it. Oh, and let’s have Ron Perlman as Master Spone, because, you know, Ron Perlman….

BOB: The last decade has seen a significant explosion in Australian fantasy authors, including the likes of Rowena Cory Daniells, Sara Douglas, Jennifer Fallon, Kate Forsyth, Sean McMullen, yourself, and others. To what do you attribute the popularity of authors from Down Under?

LEE: Australian fantasy authors have been around for a fair while: McMullen and Douglas, for example, seem to have been around forever, and Terry Dowling is another who seems to have been producing high quality stories since the year dot. I think we have a few genuinely world-class authors, but I honestly don’t spend any time trying to work out how we do it differently to writers from other countries. It’s hard enough trying to establish your own voice without trying to fit it into a perception of nationality.

BOB: Canadian fantasy has almost become a sub-genre of its own, offering a unique take on things. Do you see something similarly unique in the Australian perspective?

LEE: One of my closest friends in the writing world is a Western Australian author who has published several novels with the Canadian publisher Edge SF, so I’m not convinced we can claim exclusivity of voice here.

However, where a difference occurs I think it comes down to that elusive bitch, ‘voice’. I know my voice isn’t quintessentially Australian, just as I know the late writer Paul Haines’ voice was, despite the fact that neither of us was born in Australia and he came to the country a lot later in life than I did. But what that essential element is that he possessed and I lack, I don’t know. Word choice, sentence structure, the way characters speak, setting, a combination of the lot, perhaps. There’s something in that Australian voice that strikes our American and British colleagues as exotic, and that’s no bad thing because, as writers,  it gives us an entrance point into the marketplace. In wider cultural terms there certainly seems to be a laconic cynicism in the national psyche, and a somewhat lassez faire acceptance of social convention, but like all such statements, these are gross generalisations. Maybe it’s just because we’re all so damn sexy…

BOB: If we can talk the mechanics of writing for a moment, do you have a habit, a trick, or an obsession in how and where you write?

LEE: I can’t edit on screen. Tried. Can’t do it. I have to print out the whole thing, no matter how long—and doesn’t my little old desktop printer just love those 250 page documents?—and edit by hand, page after page of red pen action until the job is done. Then type all the changes in, rinse and repeat. My kids have all the scrap paper they could ask for…… The writing act itself I’m flexible about. I have to be: my day job and family life are both pretty hectic, so I have to be flexible in the when and where of how I write, so I’ve always got a laptop or iPod or my phone with me so I can at least use the notes function to jot down a few things.

BOB: You and me both - red pen on paper is the only way I can edit. In terms of story, what comes easiest for you, and where do you struggle the most? Is it the title? The first paragraph? The last chapter? The cover blurb?

LEE: When it comes to novels I seem to glide through until about halfway. Then I hit a wall and have to piece the second half of the book together out of narrative order. I usually start with a pretty good idea of where I want to begin, where I want to end, and what I want to happen to the main characters in general: I leave the specifics to the writing process and hope to be surprised along the way. I think I get to a point where the surprises outweigh my grasp on the narrative and have to pause while I work out what it all means! But I always have a title in mind and a good strong beginning image before I start.

BOB: When you’re not writing, what authors do you look to for entertainment or inspiration?

LEE: I’m an utter bibliophile: I collect books far more quickly than I can read them. My fictional loves are far too numerous to name: Mieville, Palahniuk, Wells, Waldrop, Ogden Nash, Vonnegut, Lethem, Harlan Ellison, Vance, Wolfe, Zelazny, Dumas, Ellroy, Hammett, Capote, Pratchett, Dick, Spike Milligan, Voltaire, Aldiss, Bradbury, Moorcock, the beat poets, Shakespeare, Melville, Swift, Stoppard, Mosley… honestly, how long have you got? I love graphic novels, secret histories, biographies of obscure historical figures, collections of letters… there’s not much I won’t try at least once. As of the very moment I write this paragraph, my current reading list consists of: ‘Citadel of the Autarch’ by Gene Wolfe, ‘Green Lantern: Rebirth’ by Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver, and ‘Too Brief a Treat: The Letters of Truman Capote’, assembled by Gerald Clarke.

BOB: I have to admit, Wolfe's Book of the New Sun has been sitting on my shelf, unread, for far too long.  With The Marching Dead coming next year, can you give us a glimpse or a preview of what we can expect?

LEE: Things aren’t going to get much better for our hero, Marius dos Hellespont. There’s a whole lot of loss heading his way, and a lot of betrayal, both by and against him, and he’s going to face losing the things he truly values in order to take possession of the one thing he doesn’t want. And there are a bunch of rude jokes, and psycho killer skeleton nuns, and the oddest sex scene I’ve ever written. How does that grab you? :)

BOB: Psycho killer skeleton nuns AND the oddest sex scene yet? Okay, I was anxious before, but not I'm just damned impatient! Before we let you go, what can we look forward to from you next? Is there another novel in the works (aside from The Marching Dead), or perhaps a short story to tide the fans over?

LEE: I’ve a couple of things out at the moment- a story in Midnight Echo #8 and a poem in Bete Noire. Writing-wise, I’m halfway through a novel called ‘Father Muerte and the Divine’ which I hope to finish by year’s end, and which is based upon a character I’ve visited in four short stories over the years. Then I’m looking forward to working on an idea I have for a post-apocalyptic revenger’s tragedy, and I’ve half an idea for a very post-modern novel which will piggle about with the structure of the reader/writer relationship a bit—I need to tie it to a narrative still, but maybe it will amount to something.  I’ve had a couple of short story ideas, too, for a couple of anthologies that have piqued my interest, and I’ll be getting to them before the end of the year. So it’s all go!

BOB: Well, I’ll let you get back to writing, but thanks again for stopping by.

LEE: My pleasure. Thanks for the chance to chat.

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The Corpse-Rat King by Lee Battersby (REVIEW and GIVEAWAY)

Good morning, and welcome to Day 1 of Angry Robot Week here at Beauty in Ruins, featuring Lee Battersby. We're kicking things off this morning with an encore review of The Corpse Rat King, one of my favourite reads of the year. Check it out, whet your appetite, and then stop back later this afternoon for my interview with the man behind the mayhem, Lee Battersby.

In the meantime, don't forget to check out the giveaway below and enter for a chance to win a paperback ARC copy of The Corpse Rat King

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There is almost nothing better than looking forward to an upcoming release from a favourite author, getting a chance to give it an early read, and finding out that it not only lives up to all your expectations, but completely exceeds them. The satisfaction is almost immeasurable.

I say almost, because there is one thing that really is better - stumbling across an upcoming release from an author you've never read before, picking it up entirely on a whim, starting the read with absolutely nothing in the way of expectations, and being completely blown away. If the satisfaction is almost immeasurable, than the pleasure is completely immeasurable.

Such is the case with The Corpse-Rat King by Lee Battersby.

Not only did I have no expectations of this one, I wasn't even sure I'd have time to give it a read. It was one of the newest electronic ARCs available to the Robot Army, so I snagged it alongside Adam Christopher's Seven Wonders, figuring I'd give it a cursory glance if I happened to get through the other before September rolled around. It just so happened that I was between books last weekend and, completely on a whim, I decided to give it a shot.

I think I was about 10 pages in before I knew I had something special on my hands.

What Battersby has concocted here is equal parts Bruce Campbell slapstick, Monty Python absurdity, and Terry Gilliam imaginative wonder, filtered through the same literary sense of the macabre as Jesse Bullington or Neil Gaiman. It's an extremely funny, extraordinarily imaginative tale, that never stops surprising the reader with where it's going next. Really, it's one of those novels where the less you know going in, the better the reading experience is likely to be.

Marius is one of the unlikeliest heroes I have encountered in a very long time. He's a greedy, self-centred, cowardly bastard . . . who just so happens to be clever, amusing, and embarrassingly likable at the same time. He's the kind of guy who will gladly stand at your side in the face of imminent danger, but only so he can pick your pocket and knock you down at the last moment to expedite his own getaway. He is a scoundrel in every sense of the word, but an entirely pragmatic one. While he does develop significantly over the course of the novel, demonstrating a tenderness of heart and soul, he remains delightfully despicable throughout.

The writing (and storytelling) here is absolutely top notch. Battersby has a very intimate, very casual way of telling a story, one that's more conversational than literary. He's entirely aware of the absurdities of his tale, and makes no apologies for them. Whereas some authors try too hard to justify, explain, or otherwise validate the comic elements of their tale, Battersby is content to let the humour work. What's more, he proves himself equally adept at elaborate set pieces of slapstick humour, quick throwaway gags, and ridiculous asides.

There's a particularly prolonged sequence of events that involves Marius walking across the bottom of the sea, attempting to scale a submerged shipwreck, and desperately trying to reason with the skeleton of a king who was already crazy before he inadvertently merged the bones of his horse with his own. It's a scene that should have fallen apart and worn out its welcome long before the hungry shark appears on scene, but Battersby makes it work so well, it's a shame to see it come to an end .

Similarly, whereas the various tangents and asides should begin to wear away at the reader's patience, you can't help but gleefully anticipate the next one. It was these half-pages that so often had me laughing out loud, or at least visibly smirking with glee.

"Discovered less than four hundred years ago by the famous Tallian adventurer “Literal” Edmund Bejeevers, the Dog Crap Archipelago lay like a giant turd across the passage between Borgho City and the Faraway isles. Early explorers found nothing there to recommend the place to anybody, and indeed, early maps show a simple ovoid outline with the words “Don’t Bother” written inside."

Even the throwaway gags, such as the "Secret passage closed due to repair works" sign, work better than any author has any right to expect. It's all about the balance between the humour and the story, and the simultaneous commitment to both, that makes it work. Battersby never allows one to suffer at the expense of the other, and never forgets to involve the reader emotionally as well as intellectually.

This was a novel that I thoroughly enjoyed and will gleefully recommend, without reservation. Of course, Battersby has now placed himself within the first scenario I mentioned, so here's hoping The Marching Dead manages to exceed my expectations as well as The Corpse-Rat King managed to blow me away.

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Feature & Follow Friday

Be sure to join me next week for an Angry Robot celebration. Lee Battersby and Adam Christopher will be stopping by for interviews, with paperback ARC giveaways of The Corpse-Rat King and Seven Wonders.


Feature & Follow Friday is a blog hop that is designed to provide some much-appreciated exposure to the bloggers participating, and to expand their following. Hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read, each of whom feature a chosen blog for the week, it's an interesting way to get to know one another.

Question of the Week: Worst cover? What is the worst cover of a book that you've read and loved?

Stephen R. Donaldson's re-released books in the original Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever have some pretty boring, uninspired covers (despite the relevance of the ring); I really didn't care for Stephen King's hardcover illustration for Full Dark, No Stars (although the paperback was a drastic improvement); and the USA covers for Clive Barker's Books of Blood are awful (especially compared to the grotesque beauty of his self-illustrated UK covers).


Parajunkee also hosts a Social Hop for Facebook and Twitter, which I regularly take part in. So, if you're one of those people who aren't on Blogger, or who just don't like Google Friend Connect, it's a great way to keep in touch and follow one another.

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18 and Over Book Blogger Follow is a weekly feature that begins on Fridays and runs through the weekend hosted by Crystal from Reading Between the Wines and Kelly at Secrets of a Book Lover. This one is aimed primarily at bloggers and books for the 18 and over crowd.

Question of the Week: 
Please share with us five fun facts about yourself. :) 

1. I hate elevators. Loathe them, actually. With a passion.
2. I have bookshelves in 3 different rooms of the house. Well, 4 if you count the stack that keeps growing on the stairs. 
3. I live for wings. Preferably hot buffalo, although the salt n' vinegar ones at Buffalo Wild Wings are pretty damned good.
4. I once broke my arm in 2 places (and dislocated my wrist) but had to wait 3 days to get it set and put into a cast because, according to the doctor on-call, it wasn't an emergency since the bone wasn't sticking out.
5. My desk at the office is decorated with an Indiana Jones, 2 gargoyles, a plush zombie, a unicorn, a Halloween rat, and a Toronto Blue Jay bobble-head. Darth Vader is currently AWOL.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday: Crown of Vengeance by Lackey and Mallory

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Crown of Vengeance by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory

Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory, bestselling authors individually and together, return to the world  of their New York Times and USA Today bestselling Obsidian and Enduring Flame Trilogies with Crown of Vengeance.

Here, readers will learn the truth about the Elven Queen Vielissiar Faricarnon, who was the first to face the Endarkened in battle and the first to bond with a dragon. She worked some of the greatest magics her world has ever known, and paid the greatest Price.

Crown of Vengeance is an exciting fantasy adventure that will appeal to fans of Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar series. No previous knowledge of Lackey and Mallory's collaborations is necessary to enjoy this fast-paced, action-packed novel, but returning readers will be excited to discover this amazing story. (Nov 13, 2012)

Lackey is always a go-to, old-reliable author for me when it comes to traditional fantasy, and I thoroughly enjoyed her first trilogy with Mallory (The Obsidian Trilogy). I haven't had a chance to give their Enduring Flame Trilogy a read yet, but nice to know they're still exploring their world together.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Usurper by Rowena Cory Daniells (Paperback Review)

Picking up where she left off in The Uncrowned King, Rowena Cory Daniells brings her King Rolen's King trilogy to a close (if not an altogether tidy conclusion) with The Usurper.

This final instalment begins much as we would expect, with King Byren quietly raising a rebellion under the nose of his cousin, Lord Cobalt. Although largely consisting of young boys, maimed men, and resourceful old women, the fate of his arm slowly begins to turn with the emergence of the last living warrior monks. Together, they sneak over hidden passes, led by Orrie and Florin, to recruit the support of the same warlords who swore fealty to his father just months before.

Meanwhile, Piro and Fyn find themselves on the other side of the world, prisoners of tyrants and pirates. It is here that the novel really shines, with the development of some intricate political manoeuvring, backstabbing, conspiracies, and secrets. The friendship between Piro and Isolt is an intriguing development, bridging the warring factions, of you will, and offering a glimmer of hope for a peaceful future. Fyn, meanwhile, is forced to confront his fears, to sacrifice his future, and to take a role in the conflict that his status as a monk would have once forbid.

As the three becoming entangled with Tyro, agent of the mysterious Mage, the story takes an interesting and dramatic turn. Espionage and hidden agendas come to the forefront, with allies turning up in the most unexpected places, and treachery looming in ever shadow. The climactic battle of Rolencia that we had been expecting never comes to pass, with the story centring instead around a more intimate battle of wills. Palatyne and Byren do get their final confrontation, but within the distant halls of Merofynia. Even then, the outcome is not what we've come to expect, but there is a sort of poetic justice in how it all works out. Like I said earlier, it doesn't completely resolve the story line (there's still a traitorous cousin in charge across the sea), robbing us of possibly the most anticipated showdown in the series, but it does offer us hope for a successful resolution.

Should this turn out to be the end of the series, I would have to admit to a little disappointment. There are too many questions left unanswered, too many relationships left in limbo, and too much violence left off the page. The story really does demand one more volume but, should that come to pass, it wouldn't take much to transform that disappointment into satisfaction.

TuesDecay - Farm Complex (Hwy 3)


This week's edition of #TuesDecay (follow along on Google+ to see all the posts) features the remains of an old farmhouse complex out on Hwy 3. There's something about the wild embankment up front, the monstrous trees, and the rearmost buildings that capture the eye.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

TGIF - Feature & Follow Friday

Feature & Follow Friday is a blog hop that is designed to provide some much-appreciated exposure to the bloggers participating, and to expand their following. Hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read, each of whom feature a chosen blog for the week, it's an interesting way to get to know one another.

Question of the Week: What blogger inspires you? It can be any kind, it doesn't have to be a book blog.

SQT and Jim over at Fantasy & SciFi Lovin' News & Reviews always inspire me (it's rare that I disagree with any of their picks or their reviews), along with Pat from Pat's Fantasy Hotlist (it amazes me just how plugged in he is to genre news and developments) and Joe over at Glorious Trash (just because it's nice to see somebody share my eccentric love for the pulp past).

Parajunkee also hosts a Social Hop for Facebook and Twitter, which I regularly take part in. So, if you're one of those people who aren't on Blogger, or who just don't like Google Friend Connect, it's a great way to keep in touch and follow one another.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday: Nightwhere by John Everson

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Nightwhere by John Everson

She yearned to go beyond... but some curtains should never be opened.

When Rae broached the idea of visiting an underground sex club, Mark didn’t blink. He should have. Because NightWhere is not your usual swingers club. Where it’s held on a given night…only those who receive the red invitations know. Soon Rae is indulging in her lust for pain. And Mark is warned by a beautiful stranger to take his wife away before it’s too late.

But it’s already too late. Because Rae hasn’t come home. Now Mark is in a race against time—to find NightWhere again and save his wife from the mysterious Watchers who run the club. To stop her from taking that last step through the degradations of The Red into the ultimate BDSM promise of The Black. More than just their marriage and her life are at stake: Rae is in danger of losing her soul... (Oct 2, 2012)

Like last week's selection, this one is already available for the Kindle, but there's nothing quite like a paperback release, just in time for Halloween. Kudos to Samhain Publishing for doing the season right!