Posted at Jul 26, 2015 8:43 pm
Sparky and Anya are back in a new anthology from Subterranean Press, A FANTASY MEDLEY 3, edited by the wonderful Yanni Kuznia:
With “Ashes,” Laura Bickle revisits Detroit arson investigator and powerful spirit medium Anya Kalinczyk as she, her five-foot-long salamander familiar Sparky, and Hades’ Charon pursue a destructive fire elemental named the Nain Rouge through the city’s festival in his dubious honor.
The anthology includes tales from Kevin Hearne, Jacqueline Carey, and Aliette de Bodard. Details of the announcement and preorder info are here.
Posted at Jul 8, 2015 6:00 am
Today I’m hosting author A.F.E. Smith for her blog tour to celebrate the release of DARKHAVEN! Read on for a post from A.F.E. and a giveaway…
She glanced back at Darkhaven, looming against the moon. A shiver ran across her skin, as though she had been brushed from head to toe by a cold, invisible hand. It was the sensation she felt when her father Changed, an awareness of the family gift that all the Nightshade line possessed – the reason she couldn’t Change now herself if she wanted to avoid discovery. Fearful, she gazed at the sky above the tower, half expecting her father to come bursting out in his Firedrake form and roar after her; yet all remained dark and quiet, only the stars awake.”
A blog tour can feel rather self-indulgent, what with all the talking about myself and my book. So as part of the tour, I’m presenting a series of posts that recommend other books you might enjoy. Each post picks out some great fantasy novels that have a particular feature in common with Darkhaven.
And since I’m on Laura’s blog, the obvious choice for today is my Top Five books (or series) that have the word ‘dark’ in the title!
Dark Alchemy – Laura Bickle
Let’s start with the reason why I picked this theme for today! Our host Laura Bickle’s latest novel is a fascinating blend of wild west and urban fantasy (although ‘urban’ is of course the wrong word). It’s a wonderfully creepy blend of alchemy, mystery and gunslinging, with a great female lead and an awesome coyote sidekick.
The Dark is Rising – Susan Cooper
This could refer to either the series as a whole or the second book within it, which share a title. We’ll go with the series, I think; while The Dark is Rising itself used to be my favourite of the five as a child, these days the gotta-catch-em-all nature of the plot pushes me more towards The Grey King. Still, overall this is an absolute classic of a children’s fantasy series; the dichotomy between good and evil is stark and unquestioned, of course (which is what you’d expect from a series where the two main groups are called the Light and the Dark), but the ‘good’ characters are wonderfully nuanced and the atmospheric British settings of Cornwall and Wales can’t be beaten.
His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
Another series to continue the list. Whatever you think of Pullman’s theology, there’s no denying that these three books are fascinating and imaginative and extraordinary. For me the trilogy peaked with The Subtle Knife, but the whole thing is still brilliant. And the daemons … well, finding out what form my daemon takes would be up there with finding out which Hogwarts house I belong to. They’re just that awesome. (Incidentally, I’ve used the British cover for the first book here, because I still can’t get used to the title The Golden Compass. It’s NOT A COMPASS, dammit.)
Dark Eden – Chris Beckett
OK, this one’s sci-fi rather than fantasy, I suppose, but it’s ‘soft’ enough that I think it counts. It’s a fascinating study of a small, constrained community on a far-off planet, all descended from a single pair of explorers who were left there when the rest of their team went for help (hence the Eden part). The way the community’s language, mythology and social structure has evolved from roots that would be familiar to us into something quite different makes this a really thought-provoking read.
The Dark Tower – Stephen King
You can’t write a list of ‘dark’-themed fantasy novels without including Stephen King’s Dark Tower. This multi-genre, multi-volume series isn’t perfect by any means, but it’s an impressive work of imagination and one that’s already become a classic.
The Dark Forest – Cixin Liu
I’m adding this one in as an extra, because it isn’t released until August. But as the sequel to The Three-Body Problem, it should definitely be worth a read!
Did I miss any out? Which books would you suggest?
DARKHAVEN by A.F.E. Smith
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Release date: 2 July 2015 (ebook), 14 January 2016 (paperback)
Price: £1.99/$3.99 (ebook)
Ayla Nightshade never wanted to rule Darkhaven. But her half-brother Myrren – true heir to the throne – hasn’t inherited their family gift, forcing her to take his place.
When this gift leads to Ayla being accused of killing her father, Myrren is the only one to believe her innocent. Does something more sinister than the power to shapeshift lie at the heart of the Nightshade family line?
Now on the run, Ayla must fight to clear her name if she is ever to wear the crown she never wanted and be allowed to return to the home she has always loved.
Amazon (global link)
Barnes & Noble
A.F.E. Smith is an editor of academic texts by day and a fantasy writer by night. So far, she hasn’t mixed up the two. She lives with her husband and their two young children in a house that someone built to be as creaky as possible – getting to bed without waking the baby is like crossing a nightingale floor. Though she doesn’t have much spare time, she makes space for reading, mainly by not getting enough sleep (she’s powered by chocolate). Her physical bookshelves were stacked two deep long ago, so now she’s busy filling up her e-reader.
What A.F.E. stands for is a closely guarded secret, but you might get it out of her if you offer her enough snacks.
Author social media links
DARKHAVEN on Goodreads
AFE’s blog tour is here:
And she’s doing a giveaway! Deets here:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Posted at Jun 25, 2015 8:33 pm
Woo hoo! I’ll be at SDCC for the following events:
Thursday, July 9th
12:00 PM – 1:00 PM
Panel: The Modern Fairy Tale
1:30 PM – 2:30 PM
Panel Signing: The Modern Fairy Tale
5:00 PM – 5:30 PM
IN BOOTH HarperCollins Publishers #1029: Laura Bickle + Erik Williams Signing
Posted at May 6, 2015 2:25 pm
Good news! There will be more books in the world of DARK ALCHEMY, coming soon! From Publisher’s Marketplace:
Laura Bickle’s next two contemporary fantasy novels in the The Dark Alchemy series, MERCURY RETROGRADE and a third novel, in which a geologist and the citizens of Temperance, Wyoming come up against a venomous enemy, not to mention a biker gang that’s hell on wheels, to Rebecca Lucash at Voyager Impulse for publication in Fall 2015, by Becca Stumpf at Prospect Agency (World English).
Translation: Whitney Lee at The Fielding Agency
Posted at Apr 28, 2015 9:49 am
Want some more weird west? DARK ALCHEMY is now available as a mass market paperback! It’s just been released on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and directly through HarperCollins.
Stephen King’s The Gunslinger meets Breaking Bad in Laura Bickle’s novel Dark Alchemy.
Some secrets are better left buried…
Geologist Petra Dee arrives in Wyoming looking for clues to her father’s disappearance years before. What she finds instead is Temperance, a dying Western town with a gold rush past and a meth-infested present. But under the town’s dust and quiet, an old power is shifting. When bodies start turning up – desiccated and twisted skeletons that Petra can’t scientifically explain – her investigations land her in the middle of a covert war between the town’s most powerful interests. Petra’s father wasn’t the only one searching for the alchemical secrets of Temperance, and those still looking are now ready to kill. Armed with nothing but shaky alliances, a pair of antique guns, and a relic she doesn’t understand, the only thing Petra knows for sure is that she and her coyote sidekick are going to have to move fast, or die next.
“…charming adventure, wrapped up with a perfect ending.” – Publishers Weekly Starred Review
“Dark Alchemy reads like a stand-alone work, but Petra is such a likable protagonist and the slightly off-balance world in which the town of Temperance exists is so well drawn that it’s hard not to hope we’ll see more of Petra’s adventures.” – RT Book Reviews, 4.5 Stars
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Posted at Apr 9, 2015 5:43 pm
Scary stories have existed since humans first gathered around campfires and made shadows with their hands against the firelight. Flames outlined frightening figures and beasts, gnashing teeth and slashing tails. Listeners shrank close to each other and edged just a bit nearer to the warmth and the light of the fire.
I think we know a scary story when we hear it or read it, when it quickens our breathing and causes us to leave the lights on after dark. But what really makes a story scary when we’re crafting it? Is there a way to consciously figure this out as we put it on the page?
I think so. I think the first step is dealing with a topic that scares you. If we don’t feel the fear, we can’t expect others to feel it or respond to it authentically. We gotta deal with topics that scare us in order to most effectively communicate that fear. What scares you? Is it being alone? Being trapped? Getting lost? Those clown slippers that your grandma gave you when you were four?
You think I’m kidding with that last one, but only sort of.
Find something that really disturbs you, and you’ve got a good start. Think about the stuff that keeps you awake at night. You’ve just got to be willing to really force yourself to examine it.
And I don’t mean something that shocks you. A shock is a shock and is good for what it is. It’s a jolt and it leaves your jaw hanging. It’s a great tool to open or close a chapter with a hook.
But fear is something different. Fear is deeper and it lingers. It gets inside your ear and crawls around your head like a spider. A shock is a trick, a device, a thunderclap. Fear is a theme. It’s a storm. It can be quiet or violent, but it lasts longer and is much more interesting to work with.
The second part of creating a scary story is translating that individual fear to a universal fear. As humans, there are a lot of atavistic fears we’ve got, rattling around in our collective unconscious. We’ve all heard of the common fears, like snakes and spiders. They’re relics of our primitive attempts to survive, when such creatures could bite us and leave us twitching and drooling. Those critters appear pretty darn often on the creepy movies of the week, often in giant form. They’re also a really good reason why I make a lot of noise before opening up the shed to drag out the lawn mower.
But what about the really deep stuff that’s still relevant to modern life? There are a lot of fears that have been around a long time and aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. The dark. Imprisonment. Loss of youth. Abandonment. Powerlessness. Screaming and no one being around to hear us. Being buried alive. Contagion. Being separated from the herd and forced to survive on our own. Injury. Death with no happily ever afterlife.
We’re wired to fear these things. If you can relate your individual fear to something larger that we all share, then it can be worked into a theme, to something that will feel real to you.
- Claustrophobic in elevators? Tell a story about being buried alive. Go watch the scene in KILL BILL when Beatrix punches her way out of a coffin. Hey, what would it be like to be buried alive with all these people in this elevator with you? Especially that dude in the back with the bad b.o.? Would you fight that lady for her bag of Taco Bell? Hm. What happens when the first one dies?
- Do germs squick you out? Read Camus’ THE PLAGUE. Now put down your hand sanitizer and think about germ warfare in the modern world. Also, use the word “bubo” in your first sentence.
- Scared of being alone? Maybe your protagonist needs to get lost in the woods for a very long time. Remember THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT? Go watch it and then go for a walk in the great outdoors. What else do you think is out there in the woods that could stalk your protagonist? And yes, your protagonist’s cell phone is absolutely dead. He is absolutely on his own and has to pull a Survivorman on this situation. No fair giving him superpowers or making him the Chosen One in this episode. Bonus points if he gets all Bear Grylls and drinks his own pee.
- Clown slippers? Yeah. The whole uncanny valley thing. Stephen King’s IT. Now go see ANNABELLE. Go out and buy yourself a creepy doll at a flea market and stare at it awhile. Betcha don’t sleep, but you might get some ideas about robotics.
Take your small fear, feel it, and blow it up big in the format of a story. Really touch it, taste it, and feel your pulse pounding in the back of your throat. Challenge yourself.
And if you are afraid, when you start making shadow puppets on the walls, your reader will be, too.