Tuesday, 23 April 2013

The Good The Bad and the Infernal - Guy Adams

The Good The Bad and the Infernal is a title which is certain to capture the attention of any fan of westerns. Guy Adams, author of The Restoration House, is back with a new novel, and being a big fan of his previous work it was an easy decision to pick up the first part in the Heaven's Gate trilogy.

Let's just dive straight into the story. Every one hundred years or so, the town of Wormwood appears. Normally, no one would care, as towns comes and goes, much like the tide. What sets Wormwood apart from the myriad of other towns popping up like weed on the American frontier is that it is a gate to heaven. A phenomenon which attracts all sorts of attention, not always the right kind though.

We get the follow a delightful mix of characters on their quest to find Wormwood. A group of elderly monks, an eccentric inventor travelling with his daughter, and finally a group of circus freaks. Each with their own story to tell.

Great characters - the kind which runs up to you, shakes your hand before dragging you into the story with them - is Guy Adam's trademark. The Good The Bad and the Infernal is no different. His characters always feel so real, I wish I could hang out with them. They are just good lads really. Well, not the bad ones though, they are just creepy. Such a sense of realism is engaging, there is nothing more annoying than an out of character personality.

The other thing I have come to expect from Guy Adams is horror, and he does not disappoint this time either. It's not a fully blown gore-fest, instead you get a feeling for when something bad is about to happen, but he strings you along to build up the suspense even more, before unleashing a nasty surprise. I was pleasantly (scarily) reminded of The Restoration House, which has a similar scary feel to it without being a fully blown horror novel.

Combining steampunk and westerns works well. It's fitting to see technological wonders in the new frontier, where the gadgets are almost as dangerous as the setting. There is not an abundance, far from, of gadgets floating around, which is a good thing as too much would steal the show from the western aspect. Guy Adams captures that gritty, disheveled and grubby feel I associate with spaghetti westerns. Stubble, greasy hair, sweat and dirt.

The Good The Bad and the Infernal is an absolute stonker of a read, a perfect combination of steampunk, horror and dirt. I never get tired of saying this - and I know Guy Adams does not get tired of hearing it - Guy Adams is a great writer, and has once again written a must read.

The Good The Bad and the Infernal weighs in at 318 pages and is published by Solaris Books.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Who Won? The Lives of Tao

And it's finally time to announce the winners in my The Lives of Tao giveaway.
  • Attila Foldesi, London, UK
  • Tom Leahy, Dunstable, UK
  • Emily Pan, New York, USA
As soon as I have the address for everyone the publisher will be notified and your books put in the post. 

Congratulations to all of you, and better luck next time to everyone else.

Thursday, 18 April 2013


Hannibal Lecter is back in a new fresh format, with more than one gore covered ace hidden in its sleeve. The show, which is aptly named Hannibal, is shocked back into life by NBC. It's based on the characters first appearing in the novel Red Dragon by Thomas Harris, but the story takes place before the events in the novel.

It's a star studded cast with Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal Lecter, and Laurence Fishburne as FBI agent Jack Crawford. The lead role is taken by British actor Hugh Dancy – a to me previously unknown actor – who plays Will Graham, a troubled but gifted profiler.

After watching the first episode of Hannibal the show appears to be a mix of Dexter and Perception. Not a bad thing at all. The FBI needs a crack team of profilers to quickly identify and capture serial killers, who appear to be sprouting like weed in spring time – and what a team they form. One psychiatrist serial killer and one empath with something resembling Asperberger's syndrome.

Will Graham has a unique ability to empathise with serial killers, letting him relive the crimes with great detail. This is not an ability which lets him rest easy at night. The production crew has done a great job capturing his ability, freezing a scene, rewinding it, then replay it with Will Graham in the role of the killer. Just like in Dr Daniel Pierce in Perception Will Graham hallucinates, but his hallucinations are far more scary. For him, reality dissolves into a nightmare. It's more than a little creepy.

Hugh Dancy does a solid role as a slightly nutty and awkward man, who is troubled by the darkness he carries. However, the show is stolen by Mads Mikkelsen's performance as Hannibal Lecter. This man has mastered creepy, and I quickly found him unnerving. Just the way he speaks is unsettling, but it it does not end there. His cultivated, impeccable, controlled manners while performing anything from the mundane to the unspeakable is freakish. Eating human organs does not help either.

If you love crime thrillers with a twist of the unusual, and a taste for the macabre, Hannibal is for you – if you can stomach it.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Guest Post: The Writing Process - John Gwynne

For this week's guest post writer John Gwynne shares his thoughts on 'the writing process' with us. If you missed my review of John Gwynne's novel Malice, you can find it here. For more information about John Gwynne and his work visit his web site.

Over to you John.

This is all pretty new to me - blogging, posts, being asked questions! When confronted with the task of commenting on ‘the writing process’ as a subject, I would not be so bold as to tell anyone ‘this is how it’s done.’ I’m still staggered that my book, which began life as a few notes on my desk, is now sitting on shelves in bookshops. And I don’t think there is any right or wrong way. It’s a creative process, sitting very firmly in the ‘whatever works for you’ department. Really all I can do is tell you about my writing process - how I have written Malice, and how it has stumbled from ideas in my head to being a real book, with pages, print, a cover and everything!

I’ve come pretty late to writing. I’ve always read. As far back as my memory functions reading and stories have been part of me. One of my earliest memories is my primary school teacher rounding us all up and opening the first page of ‘The Book of Three,’ by Lloyd Alexander. After that it was a slippery slope of Hobbits and Ring-Wraiths, giant spiders, wooden horses, dragons and minotaurs and knights searching for grails. Mixed into that came a growing love of all things historical.

Me writing came about in quite a convoluted manner. My daughter Harriett is profoundly brain injured and needs a high level of round-the-clock care. My wife was her main carer, while I laboured away at university climbing the academic ladder and teaching. Harriett's health degenerated to a point where it became clear that I was needed at home, so I stepped out of teaching and joined my wife as Harriett’s full-time carer. That’s also when I started writing - prodded by my wife and kids, who I’ve always told stories to - part over-active imagination, part big-kid syndrome. So me writing began as a hobby.

First I had to decide what I wanted to write. That was a no-brainer, really.
I love all types of fantasy, epic, gritty, urban, steampunk, sword and sorcery, but my first love is epic. Mixed in with a large dollop of historical/mythological influences. So ‘epic’ was my foundation stone.

I had no thoughts of publication at that time, I was writing for an audience I can count on my fingers - me, my wife and kids. I chose multiple point of view because that’s what I like to read most, and because I thought multiple POV’s was the best way to interest my small list of readers. I also decided very early on that I wanted a coming-of-age tale at the heart of my story - I grew up on Tolkien and Eddings and Feist, and I wanted to try and capture some of that nostalgia. But I also wanted it to be more than just the coming-of-age thing, something more character driven, adult, grittier, though not to the point of an 18 rating! Epic and intimate has always been my goal.

Up until that point I had never written anything creative, only essays and dissertations. The only way I knew how to write was how I had learnt at university - to read, read and then read some more. So I set about doing some research. Which turned into a lot of research. About two years of it, in-fact. That was no hard task, as the bulk of my research material was world mythologies and ancient history. Cool stuff. Out of that I just took notes on anything that made me a little bit excited, and occasionally I’d get the spark of an idea. I have some big files full of notes and ideas under my desk now. Notes about Celtic and Norse mythology, Greco-Roman, Gothic, Slavic and Eastern, notes about Boudicca and Attila the Hun, about Remus and Romulus and the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, notes about the theories of Atlantis, about how swords were made 1000 years ago, notes about the cycles of the moon and wolf pack behavior and Komodo dragons. Lots of notes.

Then I just started writing.

My schedule at home revolves around my children - two of our boys are still at home, and of course my daughter Harriett, with all of her unique needs. After that comes work, which involves fixing and selling furniture, painting, sanding, - bills have to be paid. Writing filled the gaps, when there were any. Sometimes there were a lot, sometimes none at all for great lengths of time. Mostly my writing tended to fit into night time, when silence would descend for a few rare moments. As time went on I would try and write at other times - noisy times - and music helped a lot there, plenty of soundtracks and other stuff that contributed to whisking my head off to another world.

I mapped out the broad plot points of my story, deciding on key characters and POV’s that would be best suited to tell that story, and then just dived in. Some characters have come and gone along the way, many have changed names, but the central ones have all managed to remain.

About half-way through writing the first draft of Malice I started taking it more seriously, feeling driven to find time, my mind frequently wandering off into the Banished Lands. At some point I started trying to write every day, and also working with a daily word limit in mind. Targets can be a double-edged sword - working towards a word count every day did help me finish the book, no question, but it did add a bit of stress to the experience as well. For book 2, which I have just finished, I am pleased to say, I have worked very much to a daily word-count, and without it I would have missed my deadline, I am sure. But back in the days of ‘Malice’ I was writing primarily as a hobby, so it’s supposed to be fun, right. And just fun. Not that I’m complaining - working to deadlines and being a ‘published author’ now (still not used to that) there is a great deal of fun to be had, just with a more professional edge.

Once I finished Malice I gave it to my wife and kids to read, plus a few mates, and then put it away for a while. After a few months I went back to it and did an edit - chopping it from over 300,000 words to about 280,000.

Feedback from friends and family started trickling in, generally good - but hey, what did I expect from family and friends. Nevertheless most encouraged me to take it further, and though some of my mates do like to humiliate me whenever possible, I got the feeling this was not one of those times. So I started googling how you get a book published, and became promptly very disillusioned and resigned to anonymity. I purchased the Writers Handbook and started looking at agents that specialised in fantasy. One chap’s name kept cropping up, both in the Writer’s Handbook and in my online searches.

John Jarrold. He had worked in the business for over three decades, running fantasy imprints such as Orbit and Simon and Schuster, editing authors such as Michael Morcock, Guy Gavriel Kay and Robert Holdstock, as well as representing contemporary writers like Mark Charan Newton, Adam Neville and Stephen Deas. He became my ‘dream agent,’ the man always at the top of my list, so it was no surprise that John was the first agent that I approached.

To my surprise and very great pleasure John loved Malice and agreed to represent me. That was a good day. Drinking mead and dancing a jig was involved.

John worked with me editorially for a while, pointing out my grammatical doltishness (is that a word?), including fetishes for semi-colons and ellipses. After this the book went out to publishers, and within about a week there was an offer from Tor UK. This was just before Christmas 2010. Needless to say, there was much celebrating in the Gwynne household that Christmas, involving more mead drinking and jig-dancing, with extra mulled-wine.

Since then it has been a tale of editing - structural edits, copy-edits, page-proof edits - the amount of work and effort from Julie Crisp and the team at Tor that goes into polishing a book from its submission stage to being ‘on-the-shelf’ came as quite a shock to me - plus many cover art discussions (now that was fun, probably my favourite bit).
Also, of course, I have been writing book 2. But that’s another story...

Many thanks to John Gwynne for finding the time for this guest blog. 

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Penance - Dan O'Shea

Penance by Chicago writer Dan O'Shea is one of the fist books from Angry Robot's crime imprint, Exhibit A. It's been a long wait for the first books from Exhibit A, but now they are finally here, and I hope they won't disappoint. Many thanks to Angry Robot Books and Exhibit A for providing me with a review copy of Penance.

Dan O'Shea's protagonist, Chicago police detective John Lynch, is a good, honest man in a city known for corruption and vice. The murder of an old woman, shot on the doorsteps of her church just as she was leaving from her confession first looks like a revenge killing for a business deal gone wrong. Her son, a rich and ruthless businessman with plenty of enemies, had pissed off the mafia, which could be a motive for a revenge killing. But when John Lynch finds evidence linking the murder of his father back in the 1970s to his present day case, all hell breaks loose.

I expected a classic crime book with a detective fighting crime by asking a lot of hard questions with the occasional swig off from the bottle. Instead I got secret government organisations, cover ups, snipers and mayhem. I was grinning like a toddler on Christmas.

There is a lot to like about Penance: a protagonist you can sympathise with, and even like, a solid, smoothly progressing plot, which starts out slow, but ends with a bang. If anything, there could have been a few more bumps on the road. John Lynch never gets to make any difficult decisions, the kind where beliefs are tested to the limit, nor does he have any inner demons to fight. Likeable, but could have more depth.

Having said that, Penance was easy on the eye, and I will certainly read whatever Dan O'Shea writes next.

Penance weighs in at 416 pages, and is published by Exhibit A. You have to wait until April/May 2013.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Guest Post: The Editor - David Moore

Today's guest blogger is David Moore of Abaddon Books. Mr Moore was recently promoted to commissioning editor, and as a hazing ritual his bosses made him write a this guest post for us. All I had to do was to choose a subject for the post, and after some consideration I asked Mr Moore to explain what an editor does. To me, editors appears as mythical beings wielding great power and influence within publishing. The power of an editor can usually be told by the size of his tea mug...

Over to you Mr Moore!

Whaddup Erik (and Erik’s readers at I Will Read Books)...

So now I’m a commissioning editor. It’s a big damned change for me, and a pants-wettingly terrifying opportunity (in particular since, in the interests of making an early start on my first nervous breakdown, I’m having a baby and buying a house in the same month...).

But as I’ve discovered, a lot of people don’t actually know what a commissioning editor is – or, for that matter, what any sort of editor actually does! So I’m taking the opportunity to tell you a little bit about it now: what I used to do as an original-recipe editor, what I do now as a commissioning editor, and how I got this gig.

So, basically – and as with a number of industries – the higher up the ladder you go, the earlier in the publishing process you do much of your work. When you start out in the publishing world, you’re likely to be proof-reading: you’re given a largely finished book, written, edited, copy-edited, typeset and looking more or less as it will when it gets to the printers. You pick over it with your pen, reading closely and looking for spelling, grammar and punctuation errors and generally making sure it’s perfect, before it’s sent off. What you aren’t expected to do is have any say over style or language; the book’s ready to go, pending any problems you find, and the last thing you want to do at this stage is add any new errors or make any changes the author wouldn’t like. Proof-reading is most often done by freelance proof-readers, although it’s sometimes work for editorial assistants.

Your next job is probably going to be copy-editing. Now you get your mitts on the book at its last stage before typesetting, after it’s been written and rewritten. As a copy-editor, while you’re certainly interested in simple errors when you find them, your main interest is in style; picking out word-repetition, regulating pace, giving suggestions on word-choice, polishing the story as much as possible. A copy-editor takes a bolder approach than a proof-reader, since he’ll be sending the copy-edited manuscript back to the author to look over and approve his changes. Copy-editing is the job of freelance copy-editors or staff editors, depending on the way your company is structured; at Rebellion, we do most copy-editing in-house.

The next step up is the structural edit. The editor reads the finished, unedited manuscript (what we usually call the “first draft,” regardless of how many drafts the author has gone through before sending it in), and makes broad-strokes decisions about the book: narrative structure, story logic, character development, that sort of thing. This stage – the first editorial stage – is a dialogue, more than anything; the editor and the author exchange thoughts, toing and froing for as long as needed, until they’ve settled on a final version of the story and the author produces the “second draft,” ready for copy-editing. Structural edits are always conducted in-house, usually by an editor or desk editor (which are more or less the same thing).

Finally, the top of the ladder is commissioning. This is where an editor reads a submission (either a whole manuscript or a sample and synopsis), which may be unsolicited (sent directly by the author unprompted, also called “slush”), solicited (sent by an author in response to a specific invitation or offer) or agented (sent by an agent), and makes a call about whether he (or she, very often) would like to publish the book (perhaps, again, after a certain amount of to-and-fro with the author or agent about the story), then takes it to his boss (or, especially in the bigger publishing houses, a committee) to sign off, and finally negotiates the contract with the author. Commissioning is the work of a commissioning editor.

So this is basically what I’ve done. I was a desk editor, chiefly working on copy-edits, with some proof-reading and some structural editing, and I have gradually shifted in emphasis until, at the beginning of the year, I was doing very little proof-reading and about as much structural editing as copy-editing, and already responsible for a certain amount of commissioning (for instance, I created and commissioned both the Malory’s Knights of Albion series and the upcoming Hunter of Sherwood series, and ran the open-submissions month last year single-handedly). Then, with Jon starting up a new imprint this year (Ravenstone, launching this year with John Carter Cash’s Lupus Rex) to add to the Solaris imprint, it was suggested that I take the Abaddon imprint off his hands altogether; now, my responsibilities include not only reading and commissioning for Abaddon, but actually managing the imprint from a strategic point of view. I’m already planning the entire 2014 season right now!

Did I mention my impending nervous breakdown?

So you asked how someone could get into the game? Basically, a commissioning editor is an experienced editor. Get in on the ground floor as an editorial assistant (or as an editor, if you’re lucky) and put in time, getting experience at every stage in the editorial process and getting a feel for the industry and the market. To that end:

1. Get an English degree. You don’t need one (in the way, for instance, you need an MD to practise medicine, or an LLB to practise law), but everyone going for the job’s gonna have one.

2. Read! Read all the time. Read the genre you’re keen to work in to death, then read outside the genre as much as you can stand. A cook that doesn’t eat is a crappy cook.

3. Brace yourself for a life of mediocre earning power. I’m sorry about this, but at entry-level you’ll barely scrape along, and a few years in when you’re earned your stripes, you’ll be just about comfortable. But hey, we’re doing this for the love of it, right?

4. Once you’re in the industry, keep in mind that commissioning means understanding what will sell well and what’s in demand, so keep an eye open! Go to book shops all the time, look at what’s on the shelves and what they’re put up front. Read the Bookseller, watch the industry. Go to cons, meet people.

And that’s it! Good luck. It’s the best job in the world.

Thank you Mr Moore, and congratulations to your promotion :)

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Book Giveaway: The Lives of Tao

Dear reader,

Wesley Chu's The Lives of Tao is one of my favourite books so far this year, and it's a book I want as many of you as possible to read. To get the party started I will give away three copies of The Lives of Tao, digital or paper, your choice.

This competition is sponsored by Angry Robot Books, and is open to anyone living on Earth.

1) Send an email to winabook NOSPAM at iwillreadbooks dot com (but remove the NOSPAM).
2) Make the title for your email The Lives of Tao
3) If you want a paper book include your snail mail address, but this can wait until you have won.
4) Do this before Sunday the 14th of April 2013

Good luck everyone!

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

The Lives of Tao - Wesley Chu

The Lives of Tao is SF thriller by Chicago writer Wesley Chu. Reading about the book and the writer gave me rather high expectations, you see Wesley Chu has a background in martial arts, and used to work as a stuntman. Surely there must be some awesome action waiting to burst out of this man? Anyway, many thanks to Angry Robot Books for providing me with a preview copy of The Lies of Tao.

We are not alone.

The aliens arrived on earth millions of years ago when their spaceship malfunctioned and they crashed straight into our beautiful blue planet. Mother Earth must have thought she had enough children as the the aliens found the to be poisonous to them, and they started dying. Luckily, there was a way they could survive: entering a host. No, they are not quite body snatchers or candiru fish. The aliens don't quite have physical bodies, and the host is still in control.

Although I do think a book about dinosaurs controlled by aliens could have been fun it's not what The Lives of Tao is about. Tao is the name of one of these aliens, and he belongs to the faction which does not want to enslave humans and drain Earth of her resources to build a ship to leave. The aliens are at war with themselves and a lot of them have human hosts with military training, but Tao is at the moment without a host, and he is running out of time.

The Lives of Tao, and Wesley Chu, have a choice to make: is the next person available an athlete with a natural skill for marksmanship and martial arts, or a fat geek whose only skill is eating pizzas. Enter Roen, a fat, beer and pizza loving IT nerd. I'm very happy with going nerd over jock. It might not be groundbreaking with shaping a chubby man into a rock hard killer, but it sure was fun. I can't help picturing Brendan Fraser as Roen, no one does loveable buffoon better than him, especially when it comes to getting hit over the head by a pretty lady, or running into trees.

The first half of the book might be a lighthearted, fun read, but the second half turns deadly serious. We go from comedy to thriller in a heartbeat, and Roen is more Daniel Craig than Brendan Fraser. No more quietly giggling to myself, only nervously biting my nails while Roen dodges bullets and leaps out of burning buildings.

Roen and the other characters are so easy to like, just like the villains are easy to hate. By the end of the books I was close to tears, which proves my emotional investment in the characters and their fates. I wish every book made me care about the characters as much as The Lives of Tao.

The Lives of Tao weighs in at 464 pages, and is published by Angry Robot Books. Should be available end of April, 2013.