Win a copy of R. A. Salvatore's STARLIGHT ENCLAVE

Thanks to the generosity of the folks at Harper Voyager, I have a copy of R. A. Salvatore's Starlight Enclave up for grabs. For more info about this title, check out these Amazon Associate links: Canada, USA, Europe.

Here's the blurb:

From New York Times bestselling author R. A. Salvatore comes a new trilogy and adventure of Drizzt and fantasy’s beloved characters from Dungeons & Dragons’ Forgotten Realms.

After the settling dust of the demon uprising and two years of peace, rumblings from the Menzoberranzan drow have Jarlaxle nervous. Worried his allies may be pulled into a Civil War between the great Houses, he is eager to ensure Zaknafein is armed with weapons befitting his skill, including one in particular: Khazid’hea. A powerful artifact, the sword known as “Cutter” has started wars, corrupted its users, and spilled the blood of many, many people. Nonetheless—or maybe because of that—the rogue Jarlaxle and a small group of friends will go on an expedition looking for the weapon’s last wielder, Doum’wielle, in the freezing north, for she may be the key to unlocking the sword’s potential…and perhaps the key to preventing the bloodshed looming over the Underdark.

And as they explore the top of the world, Drizzt is on a journey of his own—both spiritual and physical. He wants to introduce his daughter Brie to Grandmaster Kane and the practices that have been so central to his beliefs. But, having only recently come back from true transcendence, the drow ranger is no longer sure what his beliefs mean anymore. He is on a path to determining the future, not just for his family, but perhaps the entire northlands of the Realms themselves.

Two different roads. On one, Jarlaxle and Zaknefein are on a quest to find pieces that could offer salvation to Menzoberranzan. On the other, Drizzt seeks answers that could offer salvation to not just his soul, but all souls.

And no matter the outcome of either journey, the Realms will never be the same again.

The rules are the same as usual. You need to send an email at reviews@(no-spam) with the header "STARLIGHT." Remember to remove the "no spam" thingy.

Second, your email must contain your full mailing address (that's snail mail!), otherwise your message will be deleted.

Lastly, multiple entries will disqualify whoever sends them. And please include your screen name and the message boards that you frequent using it, if you do hang out on a particular MB.

Good luck to all the participants!

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Robert Jordan's The Eye of the World for only 4.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There is a price match in Canada.

The three next installments, The Great Hunt, The Dragon Reborn, and The Shadow Rising are also on sale.

Here's the blurb:

The Wheel of Time ® is a PBS Great American Read Selection! Now in development for TV!

Since its debut in 1990, The Wheel of Time® by Robert Jordan has captivated millions of readers around the globe with its scope, originality, and compelling characters.

The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, an Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.

When The Two Rivers is attacked by Trollocs—a savage tribe of half-men, half-beasts— five villagers flee that night into a world they barely imagined, with new dangers waiting in the shadows and in the light.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (July 18th)

In hardcover:
Cavan Scott's Star Wars: The Rising Storm debuts at number 9.

Andy Weir's Project Hail Mary is down five positions, ending the week at number 13.

V.E. Schwab's The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is down three positions, ending the week at number 14.

In paperback:

Stephen King's If It Bleeds is down one spot, finishing the week at number 14 (trade paperback).

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

Today only, you can download Guy Gavriel Kay's incredible Under Heaven for only 1.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. This is probably Kay's best work to date, so don't miss out on this bargain!

Here's the blurb:

UNDER HEAVEN will be published in April 2010, and takes place in a world inspired by the glory and power of Tang Dynasty China in the 8th century, a world in which history and the fantastic meld into something both memorable and emotionally compelling. In the novel, Shen Tai is the son of a general who led the forces of imperial Kitai in the empire's last great war against its western enemies, twenty years before. Forty thousand men, on both sides, were slain by a remote mountain lake. General Shen Gao himself has died recently, having spoken to his son in later years about his sadness in the matter of this terrible battle.

To honour his father's memory, Tai spends two years in official mourning alone at the battle site by the blue waters of Kuala Nor. Each day he digs graves in hard ground to bury the bones of the dead. At night he can hear the ghosts moan and stir, terrifying voices of anger and lament. Sometimes he realizes that a given voice has ceased its crying, and he knows that is one he has laid to rest.

The dead by the lake are equally Kitan and their Taguran foes; there is no way to tell the bones apart, and he buries them all with honour.

It is during a routine supply visit led by a Taguran officer who has reluctantly come to befriend him that Tai learns that others, much more powerful, have taken note of his vigil. The White Jade Princess Cheng-wan, 17th daughter of the Emperor of Kitai, presents him with two hundred and fifty Sardian horses. They are being given in royal recognition of his courage and piety, and the honour he has done the dead. You gave a man one of the famed Sardian horses to reward him greatly.

You gave him four or five to exalt him above his fellows, propel him towards rank, and earn him jealousy, possibly mortal jealousy. Two hundred and fifty is an unthinkable gift, a gift to overwhelm an emperor. Tai is in deep waters. He needs to get himself back to court and his own emperor, alive. Riding the first of the Sardian horses, and bringing news of the rest, he starts east towards the glittering, dangerous capital of Kitai, and the Ta-Ming Palace - and gathers his wits for a return from solitude by a mountain lake to his own forever-altered life.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (July 11th)

In hardcover:
Andy Weir's Project Hail Mary maintains its position at number 8.

V.E. Schwab's The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is up two positions, ending the week at number 11.

In paperback:

Stephen King's If It Bleeds is down one spot, finishing the week at number 13 (trade paperback).

Silvia Moreno-Garcia's Mexican Gothic debuts at number 15.

Mini Reviews

Hey there,

Though we know it's only a question of time, my mother's condition has remained stable for nearly two months. The doctors gave her two or three months to live, which means that the best case scenario had her dying the second week of June. But she's still alive and we visit her every chance we get. Sadly, I'm not reading a whole lot these days and have no choice but to resort to posting these mini reviews once again.

Thank you for your understanding. =)

- Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir (Canada, USA, Europe): 7.5/10

This is a fun romp of a book featuring lesbian necromancers in outer space. It's a murder mystery fantasy/scifi gonzo that is quite entertaining. But like most summer blockbuster movies, it's high on fun stuff and hilarious quotes and low on substance. I'm not sure how Gideon the Ninth garnered so many rave reviews. It's unlike anything you've ever read before and an enjoyable read, but all in all it's not a work that stays with you afterward.

Should you read it? Hell yeah! Just go into it with the right expectations.

- Scorpion by Christian Cantrell (Canada, USA, Europe): 8/10

I brought this techno thriller/murder mystery on vacation and made short work of it! Can't really say much without spoiling the entire story, but let me tell you that this is the perfect speculative fiction vacation read! It's a page-turner, so it won't last long. Better bring more reading material with you. =)

Here's the blurb:

Quinn Mitchell is a nine-to-five spy—an intelligence analyst for the CIA during the day, and a suburban wife and mother on evenings and weekends. After her young daughter is killed in a tragic accident, sending her life into a tailspin, Quinn hopes to find a new start in her latest assignment: investigating a series of bizarre international assassinations whose victims have been found with numeric codes tattooed, burned, or carved into their flesh. As Quinn follows the killer’s trail across the globe, always one body behind, she begins uncovering disturbing connections between the murders—and herself.

Every lead she tracks down in pursuit of the assassin brings Quinn one step closer to the Epoch Index, a mysterious encrypted message discovered in the archives of the Large Hadron Collider. Its origins are unknown and decrypting it is beyond even the CIA. Yet nothing else can possibly link together a slew of unsolvable murders, an enigmatic and sophisticated serial killer who always seems to be three steps ahead, a quirky young physics prodigy whose knowledge extends well beyond her years, and, underlying everything, the inescapable tragedy of Quinn’s own past. Discovering the meaning of the Epoch Index leads Quinn to a shocking twist that shatters everything she thought she knew about the past, the future, and the delicate balance of right and wrong that she must now fight to preserve.

You can read and extract from the book here.

- The Shining by Stephen King (Canada, USA, Europe): 9/10

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I also read this one during my hiking trip and it was an absolute delight to revisit this classic. For a novel written nearly 45 years ago, it has aged particularly well. Definitely worth a read, or a reread.

- Doctor Sleep by Stephen King (Canada, USA, Europe): 8.5/10

The Shining got me so excited that I decided to jump into its sequel immediately. It took a while for this one to get going. Not that reading about Dan Torrance's drunk past and difficult present life was boring, but the story only truly kicks in when Abra makes an appearance. From then on, the novel takes off and Doctor Sleep becomes a veritable page-turner. Well worth the read, especially back-to-back with its predecessor.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (July 4th)

In hardcover:
Andy Weir's Project Hail Mary maintains its position at number 8.

V.E. Schwab's The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is up one position, ending the week at number 13.

In paperback:

Stephen King's If It Bleeds is down two spots, finishing the week at number 12 (trade paperback).

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (June 27th)

In hardcover:
Andy Weir's Project Hail Mary maintains its position at number 8.

V.E. Schwab's The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is down one position, ending the week at number 14.

In paperback:

Stephen King's If It Bleeds debuts at number 10 (trade paperback).

The King Must Fall by Adrian Collins

With Grimdark Magazine’s latest anthology Kickstarter The King Must Fall motoring past the AU$40,000 mark this week, I caught up with Adrian Collins to talk about the project.

- The King Must Fall has done fantastic thus far on Kickstarter; what was the first 24 hours like for you watching the positive reception from the reading community?

After how little I slept for the month-long funding window for our last Kickstarter project, Evil is a Matter of Perspective, I told myself I’d be way more chill and well-rested this time. There’s an old military saying somewhere about no plan surviving first contact, and that pretty much applies here. That first 24hrs was utterly mental.

Watching the backer and financial counter skyrocket to 70% within the first 24hrs was unbelievable. The lettered editions were gone in a few hours. The numbered editions not too many hours after that. It was also the time period when I realised I needed to somehow find a local supplier in the UK to bring the postage cost right down (which I managed to do a few days later).

The community has been epic, driving this sort of success. Their trust, pledges, and their shout outs have gotten us into a position where we’ve just added Luke Scull to our lineup and we are less than a grand away from adding Alex Marshall as well. A special shout out goes out to the Grimdark Fiction Readers and Writers group on Facebook—as with almost everything we do, they’ve been right behind this.

- The Kickstarter is a true passion project for you. Can you tell me about your theme, "The King Must Fall," and how the idea came about?

The idea actually came from Bradley P. Beaulieu, author of The Song of the Shattered Sands series. He reached out to me one day with the tagline as the idea, I loved it and ran with it. I’ve always loved reading about the toppling of power (or the attempt at it), and I think quite often this simple scenario sits as a key part of so much in fantasy, especially grimdark fantasy, to one degree or another. In my mind there are few things so fearful to a medieval-styled populace as the unknown of a new potential leader who holds so much sway over their lives.

- What would you give as advice to someone who was going to run their own fantasy Kickstarter from your experiences with The King Must Fall and previous works?

This is a very long discussion, and I’d highly recommend checking out both the article I wrote for Booknest, Five Things I Learned from Failing at Kickstarter, and the interview I just completed with the Wizards, Warriors, and Words: A Fantasy Writing Advice Podcast.

In short, though:

Make sure you have a crystal-clear product message. If the random bloke you sit next to at the bus stop can’t look at it and within 60 seconds know EXACTLY what you’re selling, you’ve not done it right.

If you aren’t a financial controller, get one to do your financials—spreadsheeting set and variable costs is no easy feat, get someone smarter than you to do it. You do not want to run out of money mid-production.

Create a detailed marketing plan to handle the “trough of despair”, the period of slow growth between the first 48hrs and last 48hrs of your funding window. Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

As a follow up to the last point, do not panic in the trough of despair. It’s an almost mathematical certainty that it’ll happen to everyone—that’s just the way these things work—but every marketing company on planet earth (it feels like) is going to try and sell you some miracle solution to this. In my experience, most of them are selling absolute crap and run for the hills as soon as you ask some of the most simple qualification questions.

Find somebody else that’s done it really well and learn from them. Ask questions. Mimic their structure and messaging. Learn from and improve upon what’s come before you.

And have fun. What’s the point of the whole thing if you’re not enjoying yourself?

- Who are some authors that you would love to work with in the future?


But, to name a few, P. Djelli Clark, Sarah Gailey, Garth Nix, Glen Cook, N.K Jemisin, Matthew Woodring Stover, Robin Hobb, Nnedi Okorafar, Scott Lynch, Nicholas Eames, C.S. Friedman, R.F. Kuang, Andrzej Sapkowski, Seanan McGuire, Graham McNeill, Dan Abnett, Adrian Selby, Brian McLellan …. Ahhhhhhh it’s a pretty long list.

And for a deadest hailmary pass, George R.R. Martin (maybe for an intro).

- Grimdark Magazine issues and anthologies release some of the best short stories in the Grimdark genre, but what are the three things that you and your team look for in a short piece of fiction when deciding what to feature?

While I’ve seen entire essays and huge tirades written on the topic, I’ve always kept this really simple. When I read a grimdark story, I always look for:

1) A grim story: a sense of foreboding and fear, something that weighs on you, shocks you, leaves you with your jaw on the floor or a sick feeling in your stomach.
2) A dark world: be it fantasy or fiction, I want to feel like this story is happening in an oppressive situation, or somewhere things are pretty rapidly going to hell.
3) A morally grey protagonist: this, THIS, I cannot stress enough. Grimdark is about character. It’s about the anti-hero. It’s about doing the wrong thing for the right reasons and the right thing for the wrong reasons. It’s about perspective and seeing the world from somebody’s you normally wouldn’t on an ethical level (versus on a not-having-magic-powers or being-the-best-swordsperson-who-ever-lived level).

If this Kickstarter hits the AU$62,000 level, we’ll open up a full-paid slot for authors to submit to an open window, and I hope they read this post before doing so!

- I know that you are an individual who has worn many hats. You have been a reviewer, site creator, editor, and Kickstarter. What is something that you have learned from each position that you would have never guessed going into it?

I’ve done a bit of everything at GdM, but I think the key learning I’ve had is about how you treat people both in your volunteer teams and the marketplace. Just don’t be a bag of sweaty dicks. It’s literally that simple. Try to do right by your team and your community and they’ll look after you. Deliver on your commitments. Help people when they are in a tough spot if you can. Do right by them, and they’ll back you and look after you. The publishing and reading community is one of the best communities out there and I’m grateful to be a part of it.

- What blogs/ reviewers are your go to sites for Grimdark book reviews?

Apart from this one you mean!!!???

I’d say is the gold standard for any sort of reviews or commentary,,, Black Gate, The Fantasy Hive, Fantasy Book Critic, SFF World, Novel Notions, and The Fantasy Inn are the key ones I’d look at. I’d never say they are niche grimdark reviewers like we are, but they do review a lot of the stuff I like to read.

Thanks for dropping by, Adrian.

No worries. I love a good chin wag!