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Thursday, May 13, 2021

Q&A with M.L. Wang - the Winner of SPFBO 5



ABOUT M.L.: Hi! I’m M. L. Wang, author, martial artist, and weird recluse currently hiding somewhere in Wisconsin with my maroon-bellied parakeet, Sulu. I enjoy gruesome nature documentaries and long walks in circles around my room.

My published books include The Sword of Kaigen, Theonite: Planet Adyn, and Theonite: Orbit (series discontinued) and my ongoing serials include Gunpowder Magnolia, Seven Forsaken, and Sazuma.

Find M.L. online: Website, Patreon, Amazon, Goodreads, Newsletter

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The House of Always by Jenn Lyons - Review



OFFICIAL AUTHOR WEBSITE
Pre-order The House of Always Here

OFFICIAL AUTHOR WEBSITE: Jenn Lyons lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband, three cats and a nearly infinite number of opinions on anything from Sumerian mythology to the correct way to make a martini. Formally a video game producer, she now writes full time. A long-time devotee of storytelling, Lyons traces her geek roots back to playing first edition Dungeons & Dragons in grade school and reading her way from A to Z in the school’s library.
Tuesday, May 11, 2021

The Third Internecion by Erik A. Otto review

Author website
Order The Third Internecion over here
Read FBC's review of A Tale of Infidels and The Day's Wake
Monday, May 10, 2021

Sairo's Claw Release Interview with Virginia McClain (interviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website

Pre-order Sairo's Claw over HERE

Q] Welcome to Fantasy Book Critic. For starters, could you please introduce yourself, tell us what inspired you to write in the first place, and describe your journey to becoming a self-published author.

VMcC: Well, the response to this has the potential to get lengthy, so I’m going to try to be succinct. I have always been a writer. There have been stories in my head since I was a little kid, and as soon as I could put crayon to paper, there were stories on paper. However, I didn’t consider turning it into a career until my 7th grade English teacher suggested it after reading one of my short stories. As soon as she said it, though, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I spent a lot of years teaching full time and writing on the side, and then in 2014 my husband managed to lure me to Manitoba by offering to support us full time while I tried to write full time. The rest, as they say, is history.

Oh, and you asked about self-publishing, well… the only traditional publication I ever pursued was with short stories. I got a few publishing credits that way, and was preparing to seek traditional publication with my books when I stumbled across Hugh Howie’s blog and an in depth explanation of why Self-Publishing might be the better choice. I have to admit, the allure of keeping all of my rights, having control over cover art, and not having to wait years for a project to be in print was more than I could resist. I ran a kickstarter for my debut, Blade’s Edge, and hired an artist, an editor, and a cover designer to do the typography with the funds raised. That allowed me to launch the whole thing while breaking even, and as such, Blade’s Edge’s earnings have paid for the covers and editing of subsequent books. Even still, it has been a long tough road. Self-publishing is a ton of work. But, I really enjoy most of it. Pretty much everything but the marketing. Sadly, that is one of the most important pieces. Le sigh… Let’s just say I’m working on it.

 

Q] Please elaborate how the genesis of the Gensokai series occurred. How long have you been working on it? Has it evolved from its original idea (if any)?

VMcC: The Gensokai series started as a series of “what if” questions while I was living in Japan. One day, sitting at the top of a local mountain, noticing a shrine, I started thinking about what would happen if the shrine spirit actually showed up to talk to me and see what I was doing there.

In addition, after years of training in shotokan karate and a few other martial arts that incorporate meditation as part of their practice, I had often wondered what a meditation based magic system would look like, and especially what that would look like in combat.

Those questions combined in my head with some characters and some world building and soon the first draft of Blade’s Edge was born. Then I got to explore the world even more deeply in Traitor’s Hope. And in the notes from all of those books a number of new questions started to crop up, most of which concerned Gensokai’s strange history and their own narrowed view of that history. Gensokai has always been set in an alternate world, but the questions I started asking myself led me to consider all the ways in which Gensokai’s world was different from earth. I can’t talk more about it without spoilers, but these questions led to a lot of the key intrigues in Sairō’s Claw and the books that will follow it.

 

Q] For someone who has not read any of your novels, how would you describe the type of stories that you write? What would be your elevator pitch for Sairo’s Claw?

VMcC: My elevator pitch for Sairō’s Claw is probably: When the bandits don’t consider your childcare options, and the only help you’ve got is an enchanted katana full of grumpy wolf spirit, sometimes you just have to take the three year old on a rescue mission and hope for the best.

The type of stories I write? Badass women in a fantasy setting. I mean, that’s the primary theme throughout all my books regardless of the series. Keeping in mind that some of the badasses are healers, politicians, women running households, as well as assassins and warriors. Badassery comes in many forms.

To summarize, I’ve decided the brand I’m aiming for is sword lesbians ala Gideon the Ninth, but as told by T. Kingfisher.

 


Q] One of the things that I loved about Gensokai books was the East Asian-inspired worldbuilding & magic system. What is it about worldbuilding that you love, and what are the keys to successfully constructing such a fantastical world?  

VMcC: Well, the second part of that question is one that many people have written whole books to answer, but I’ll try to answer it in a single sentence. Write a world that you love, or at least love to hate. In my opinion, the best world building is world building that immerses you, the author, because you either wish you were there, or because you’re fascinated by all the ways in which the world is horrible and trying to kill you.

Gensokai was mostly the former for me. First I was writing about a world that looked very much like the one I was inhabiting at the time, and then I was writing about that world with the added bonuses of magic, mythical creatures, and cool fight scenes. Then, I added in the horrific parts. Honestly, that part is interesting, but never fun, and I’m quite glad that Sairō’s Claw moves away from some of the most traumatic parts of Gensokai’s history. In 2020 in particular it was nice to be writing about a place that was working on healing instead of being mired in atrocities.

 

Q] Can you tell us more about the world that this story  as well as your past books are set in and some of the saga’s major characters? What are the (geographical, magical, physical) curiosities of this world?

VMcC: Gensokai is a fairly large island nation, it’s a big enough island that it encompasses a few different terrains and climates, and… it has been very isolated for a long time for reasons that become clear in Sairō’s Claw. A lot of this book takes place at sea (which is very different from the last two books) and that was a fun challenge to write. I have actually spent a fair bit of time on ships over the years, but that doesn’t make writing ships all that easy.

 


Q] Please talk to us about Sairo’s Claw, how did you decide upon its story and what lead to its inception?

VMcC: Seeing as my answer to the next question covers a big part of this answer I will try to keep this shorter. This book, being an action adventure fantasy romp, is full of things, tropes, ideas, and characters that I love. Writing this book from late 2019 to early 2021 was cathartic. 2020 was awful on a global scale, but on top of that I lost both of my parents on the same day in June and... honestly, writing a book that was this fun, and snarky, and that also was ultimately about love, loss, and family, was exactly the thing I needed to do. I loved writing this book from the first draft through the rewrite and even enjoyed reading it aloud to myself during the final read proofread. I don’t know that it’s anything special at all, and who knows if anyone else will enjoy this book the way I did, but... it’s exactly the book I needed it to be.

 

Q] The book focuses on Torako and her search for her wife while also taking care of their three-old daughter. What drove you to write about a mother who is also a warrior who has to take the Liam Neeson (Taken) route?

VMcC: Ah, an excellent question. We often see the fantasy trope of hardened male warrior who eventually decided to have a family, settled down, and then gets called back to action because some jerk decides to go after their family. We almost never see that trope with the warrior being a woman. Hell, we almost never see a hardened older woman warrior. We’ve finally gotten a fair few young women fighters in their prime, but what about the women who’ve been fighting all their lives and are a bit cynical and jaded, but keep at it? This whole book was really born from the idea of a woman warrior who was a bit older (mid thirties, so not that old, but definitely not a new adult or anything) who was still fighting often, not retired, but who had still settled down a bit. Even the opening scene I first wrote for this, when I had nothing else about the story in my head, was a woman fighting multiple opponents complaining about how she couldn’t roll on the ground and walk it off like she used to. Then I realized the whole thing would be even more compelling if she had a kid. Then doubly so if the kid happened to be watching her fight.

When I first started writing and publishing fantasy books I had zero children. For most of my life, I figured that was the total number of children I would have, because I was never super into the idea of motherhood. But, ultimately, I wound up deciding to give it a shot and now I’ve got a 4.5 year old. And I love it. I love her. BUT I still struggle with a lot of the things that society expects from mothers. I love actually spending time with my daughter and watching her grow and play, but I don’t love the expectation that I’ll give up all my own goals to do it, or that I can’t be a mom and also an adventurer, wanderer, fighter, or any of the other pieces of my identity that most of society expects women to drop when/if they have a family.

So writing a mom who is very much still a warrior, and who may struggle with some decisions—How old should your kid really be before they see you slaughter six bandits single handedly? Probably an adult, or ideally never, but when the bandits need killing (because they threatened your child’s life) and the kid happens to be there, what’s a mom to do?—but she doesn’t struggle with whether or not she should be a warrior. That’s just who she is, and it’s never even questioned. But of course, if she’s got a partner, and they’ve got loved ones they trust, there would be no real reason for the kid to be present for an entire rescue mission. That’s just silly.

Unless, of course, the partner is taken by unknown brigands, and everyone who would normally be in easy reach for childcare is missing, and time is a big factor in terms of actually catching the jerks who took the partner. THEN you might just have to bring the kid along for the ride because, well, she’s 3. It’s not like you can just leave her alone in the woods.

This has now turned into a miniature essay, but, it boils down to this, if everyone else gets to have stories about being the hero of a fantasy adventure, why not a mom? And why not make her a jaded warrior who has been fighting for decades on her own and who is feeling very stabby when the love of her life gets stolen away?

 

Q] Let’s talk about the cover art of Sairo’s Claw, which is a very striking piece. Can you tell us how this cover came to be?

VMcC: Well, funny story, it started out with me getting a bit carried away designing a placeholder cover. I have been designing covers for other indie authors for a few years now, but I had never done covers for my own books before aside from my collection of short stories. I had tried to do it for my Victoria Marmot series, but felt like I just kept trying to do too many things at once with the cover because I knew too many details about the story. For all my other books I hired artists or designers to do the covers for me, even though it’s technically a skill set I possess. But, I usually make a mock up cover while I’m working on a book because it makes the idea feel more real to me and helps me think about the title and other details.

So, I was procrastinating one day back in May of 2020 and I came up with a few different designs, one of which I liked a lot, and when I showed it to my author friend group chat, I got a ton of “OOOOOH! PRETTY!” reactions that I decided it might be more than a placeholder. But of course, that was problematic because what I came up with was VERY different from the other covers on the books in the series. Of course, since Sairo’s Claw also starts a new sub series, I could have left the other two covers alone, but I decided I didn’t want them to look THAT different. Now they all match, and I love the new designs, but folks seem pretty split on the old ones vs. the new ones. I honestly still love the old ones too, so I get it. Meanwhile, I think the Sairō’s Claw cover is perfect for the book that it is, so… even if I decided to go back to the old cover art for Blade’s Edge and Traitor’s Hope, I think I will keep Sairō’s Claw as is. In terms of where the imagery came from… well, katanas, wolves, the moon and the sea all feature prominently in this book so, it kind of speaks for itself. :-)

 

Q] Is Sairō’s Claw a standalone or will it be the start of a new sub-series set within the Gensokai world?

VMcC: The latter. It kicks off a new sub series. However, it wraps up most of its own plot, so it should be a satisfying read on its own, it’s just that it also raises a bunch of new questions that will only be answered by another book or three. (I really don’t know how many books it will take to cover this larger arc, but I think I’ll have a better idea when I’ve finished the first draft of the next book, Eredi’s Gambit. Currently I’ve written about 20% of the first draft on Eredi’s Gambit.)

 

Q] Please tell us about the books and authors who have captured your imagination and inspired you to become a wordsmith in your own right. Similarly, are there any current authors you would like to give a shout out to!

VMcC: Oh, wow, this is a difficult one. Inspirations from my childhood worth mentioning anymore are probably RA Salvatore, Tamora Pierce, Alexandre Dumas, and Anne Bishop. Authors that are currently killing it and who definitely inspire me right NOW Rebecca Roanhorse, RJ Barker, VE Schwab, ML Wang, Lisa Cassidy, LL McKinney, T. Kingfisher, and Olivia Atwater. And loads more besides. Really, there’s a huge amount of truly excellent fantasy being written and published these days and I am struggling to keep up with all of it. On my TBR right now too, are The Unbroken by CL Clark, and We Free the Stars by Hafsah Faizal, and I am SOOO excited for both of those.

 

Q] Thank you for your time and for the answers Virginia. Any parting thoughts/words that you would like to share with your fans & readers?

VMcC: Thanks to anyone and everyone who buys and enjoys my books, and a massive thanks to everyone at FBC, for all that you do for SFF authors big and small! Y’all are the best!

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Baltimore Omnibus, Vol. 1 by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden review


Order Baltimore Ombinus Vol. 1 over HERE.
Wednesday, May 5, 2021

The Day's Wake by Erik A. Otto review

Order A Tale of InfidelsUSA/UK
Read FBC's review of A Tale of Infidels
Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Machinehood by S.D. Divya review


Official Author Website
Order Machinehood over HERE(USA) or HERE(UK)

Monday, May 3, 2021

A Tale of Infidels by Erik A. Otto review

 


Order A Tale of Infidels: USA/UK
Sunday, May 2, 2021

SPFBO 6 has a winner - The Lost War by Justin A. Anderson

 


Read FBC's review of The Lost War
Order The Lost War over HERE
Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Interview with D.W. Ross, the author of Cold From North

 


Author Info: D.W. Ross is an author who took the boredom of lockdown 2020 to another level by deciding to write a book despite having no experience in doing anything of the sort before – to say he never thought he would get this far is an understatement. One book has become a series, and now there is no stopping his creative mind as he plots books daily that he will absolutely never get to writing. Cold From The North was his first novel, with follow up The Darkest Dusk due out in 2021 with the closing novel of the Onyxborn Chronicles coming in early 2022. When not writing, he can be found watching pro wrestling, reading fantasy, dystopian and thriller novels, gaming, lifting weights and eating chicken wings. D.W. lives in Scotland with his wife.

Book Information: Cold from the North by D.W. Ross, Series: Onyxborn Chronicle (#1), Published: November 14, 2020, Genre: Epic Fantasy, Pages: 470 (Print Length), CW: Violence, Gore

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