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Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019 review / 2020 preview - Alix E. Harrow






With the enormous caveat that I’m awful at making lists and live in terror of forgetting something really good—which I will almost certainly think of as soon as I submit this post—here are some of the things I’ve loved most this year, and things I’m looking forward to next year!


My favorite books in 2019




· The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep by H.G. Parry: Like Inkheart but for grownups, with a lot of Dickens thrown in. 



· Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng: Everyone said it was good and they were right. 

· Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir: Like Gormenghast but gay and funny and in space. 


· This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone: Like a poem. Like the perfect cup of tea. Like falling in love. Indescribably beautiful. 

· The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart: A boarding school coming-of-age story and a feminist backstory. So much about girls and boys and the power they never quite let us touch. 

· The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern: Like a puzzle-box and a video game and a nested Russian doll. 



· Unnatural Magic by C.M. Waggonner: Like Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell but smuttier and queerer, and also a murder mystery. 

· Circe by Madeline Miller: Like every Greek myth you love turned inside out and backwards, made human. 

What I’m looking forward to in 2020



· A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians by H.G. Parry: Her new book is about slavery and freedom and revolution in the Age of Enlightenment! 

· Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir: You want to know a secret? I’ve already read this. And it rules. It’s darker and stranger and more labyrinthine than Gideon, but the payoff is absolutely stunning. 

· The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin: Oh, this? I’ve already read this, too. It’s peppier and happier and more fun than The Fifth Season, and I absolutely loved it. 

· Piranesi by Susanna Clarke: Obviously this. This to the nth power. 

On the Horizon for Alix E. Harrow

As far as what’s coming for me personally…I’ve got my second novel coming out in Fall 2020! A standalone historical fantasy about suffragette witches! And short stories forthcoming in Uncanny and Fireside magazines.

About the Author

A former academic and adjunct, Alix E. Harrow is now a full-time writer living in Kentucky with her husband and their semi-feral toddlers. In 2019, she won a Hugo Award for her short fiction and published her first novel, The Ten Thousand Doors of January, with Orbit/Redhook Books. Find her at @AlixEHarrow on Twitter.


Monday, December 30, 2019

2019 Review/2020 Preview -- Craig Schaefer


Favourites from 2019

What stood out to me in 2019? The first thing that comes to mind is how this was a banner year for horror. We were treated to the exquisite reimagining of Suspiria, the gut-wrenching nightmare of Hereditary, the dreamlike weirdness of Mandy…there was a lot to love. In television, Fleabag and Killing Eve propelled Phoebe Waller-Bridge to the top of my favorite-creators list.


In books, Madeline Miller’s Circe is a novel I wish I could have written myself. Other standouts include Evan Ratliff’s The Mastermind, about Paul Le Roux’s criminal empire, and Adam Higginbotham’s Midnight in Chernobyl.

In the theatre-sphere, I have to give a shout-out to the Sycamore Theatre Company’s historical drama Bisland & Bly, which recently wrapped up a run at the New York Festival of Musicals. Beyond being a great show which deserves a bigger staging, actress and playwright Susannah Jones is also the voice of my audiobooks. Mean Girls debuted in 2018 but I didn’t see it until this year, so I’m adding that to my list as well: it’s a wonderful musical that both cherishes and builds upon the source material.

In gaming, 2019’s standout was Disco Elysium, a surreal RPG that does really interesting things with modeling your character’s inner landscape. My runner-up is NITE Team 4, a military hacking simulation based on actual declassified NSA tools. It will challenge you – and also scare the hell out of you once you dig into the developers’ copious footnotes and realize just how vulnerable most “computer security” really is.

On the horizon for Craig Schaefer



Now I’m looking to the horizon and a very, very busy year ahead. Because I write so far in advance, I have three releases already finished and ready to drop in 2020: first up is the new Daniel Faust adventure, The Locust Job, arriving with the New Year. Then we’ll have the next Harmony Black novel, and I’m currently working with Thomas & Mercer Publishing to finalize copy-edits on The Insider, the second installment in the Charlie McCabe series.

In the middle of all that I’m working on the follow-up to Ghosts of Gotham, as well as trying to find a good home for another completed novel, a stand-alone volume set in Gotham’s world (a modern New York haunted by Greek myth.)

That, along with a dozen other projects. If the Muses are willing, the work will be done.

About the author

Official Author Website

Craig Schaefer was born in Chicago and wanted to be a writer since a very young age. His writing was inspired by Elmore Leonard, Richard Stark, Clive Barker & H. P. Lovecraft. After reaching his 40th birthday he decided to give in to his passion and since then has released twelve novels in the last three years. He currently lives in North Carolina and loves visiting museums and libraries for inspiration.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

2019 review / 2020 preview - Tracy Townsend




Make a Reading Resolution: Audio in 2020!

One of the great ironies of my life as an sff author and English teacher is that I spend astoundingly little time reading, at least in the conventional sense. It’s not that I’m the sort of writer Stephen King bemoans who doesn’t make time to absorb the craft through reading. It’s not that I spend all my time bingeing television and movies (ask me how far behind I am in any significant sff series and you’ll realize screens aren’t my problem). It’s that I simply don’t have time to sit in one place with a book or e-reader in my hands very often. When I am sitting still, it’s usually because I’m writing or grading. . . or sleeping.

Thank God for audiobooks and audio fiction.

If it weren’t for audio literacy, I would probably read only a small fraction of the amount I do. But with a substantial commute to work (averaging 45 minutes each way, and often much longer), plenty of laundry and cooking and dishes at home, and a workout regime to keep up at the gym, I’m able to ask my ears to the work most other people ask of their eyes. Not doing anything special with my time -- just the things I have to do every day -- I get through hours of short or serialized fiction and at least two novels a month. If you’re also looking for a way to keep up with your reading and looking to end 2019 with a resolution for 2020, here’s a tour of some great audio fiction options to make that easier.

Audible

Yes, this service requires feeding the mighty Bezosaurus, and thus may not be for you. But Audible’s app is one of the more user-friendly methods to “carry” your audio fiction, and hosts a huge array of titles across genre fiction and beyond. Moreover, its search functions allow you to find favorite narrators and follow their work the way you might follow an author.

Scribd

Unlike Audible, which operates on a credit-based system that limits how many titles you can add to your library in a given month, Scribd’s subscription allows you to listen to as many titles as you wish. The trade-off is that Scribd doesn’t have the same volume of options as Audible, as much of its platform is shared with e-reader titles. Still, if you’re a voracious audio reader, Scribd could be a better economic bet than Audible. That said, it’s hard to beat free, in which case you might like. . .

Overdrive and Hoopla

Overdrive and Hoopla are platforms your local library (may) use to distribute audio and e-fiction to patrons. Check with your local library to see if your library membership provides access to these services -- or skip that step and check if the links provided here and your library card unlock the treasure trove! If not, ask your library to have these services added for patrons’ use. You’ll find many librarians remarkably responsive to suggestions about how to expand their lending resources without also having to manage physical materials.

Serial Box

If paying for your audio fiction doesn’t bother you, and if you’re interested in multiple media formats, you might try Serial Box, which gathers writers rooms of talents sff creators to partner together in the creation of original serialized fiction, published in both ebook and audio format, complete with sound effects, soundtracks, and top-flight narrators. You can purchase serials by the “season,” getting access to hours worth of audio reading from a wide variety of genre styles. Favorites of mine include Ninth Step Station and The Vela. Plus, Serial Box offers dramatic renderings of classic fiction and IP tie-ins for Orphan Black and Marvel comics.

SFF’s short fiction market podcasts

We live in an age of market abundance for short form sff thanks to online publishing, and the relative ease of audio recording and podcasting means lots of these markets offer narration of the stories they publish. You can focus on fiction specifically chosen for audio release (with text available on the web) by checking out the Escape Artists family of podcasts, covering fantasy (PodCastle), science fiction (EscapePod), horror (PseudoPod), and sff for young adults (Cast of Wonders). You can also get audio digests of select stories from issues of Uncanny, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Clarkesworld via the web and some podcast apps.

App-based fiction podcasts

Smartphones and tablets have made podcasts seemingly equally ubiquitous. Your app store of choice will provide no shortage of fiction programming, but some especially sff-inclined and critically-acclaimed productions include Welcome to Night Vale; Steal the Stars; The Bright Sessions; and Limetown.

Some audiobook recommendations




If you’re not sure of where to start in your audiobook reading, some of my favorite reads from 2019 -- both for the quality of their writing and the delight of their narration -- are:

This Is How You Lose the Time War, by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone - a gorgeous epistolary novella of espionage, poetry, treachery, and love.

A Song For a New Day, by Sarah Pinsker - a love song -- pretty literally -- to live music and the creative spirit, told through the evolution (and devolution) of a world compartmentalized by technology and terrorism.

Gideon the Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir - glorious in its worldbuilding and wicked in its humor, Gideon the Ninth is a master-class of whodunnit science-fantasy ready to satisfy all your space-necromancer needs.

And then, of course, there are my books.




I wouldn’t be a very good advocate for or consumer of audio fiction if I didn’t make sure my novels came out in audio. If you’re interested in what I write, you can find the first two books in the Thieves of Fate trilogy on Audible, Scribd, Overdrive, and Hoopla via Recorded Books. I hope you make a little time for The Nine (book one) and The Fall (book two) in your audio reading resolution.

Bio

Tracy Townsend is the author of The Nine and The Fall (books 1 and 2 in the Thieves of Fate series), a monthly columnist for the feminist sf magazine Luna Station Quarterly, and an essayist for Uncanny Magazine. She holds a master's degree in writing and rhetoric from DePaul University and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from DePauw University, a source of regular consternation when proofreading her credentials. She is the former chair of the English department at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, an elite public boarding school, where she teaches creative writing and science fiction and fantasy literature. She has been a martial arts instructor, a stage combat and accent coach, and a short-order cook for houses full of tired gamers. Now she lives in Bolingbrook, Illinois with two bumptious hounds, two remarkable children, one tyrannical cat, and one very patient husband.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

2019 Review/2020 Preview - Rob J. Hayes


Favourites from 2019

Since making the decision to be a full time author, I’ve actually been reading a lot less than I used to. It’s a struggle to find the time, and also a struggle to find the will to stare at pages full of words after spending a day staring at pages full of words. But thanks to audiobooks I’ve actually managed to read/listen (consume?) more books in 2019 than ever before. I like to think I’ve levelled up with the use of my ears. Getting a puppy certainly helped as well, as the little monster regularly demands I step away from the computer and take her for a walk. Perfect time to get my audiobook on. So here’s a few of my favourites of 2019:



- The Sword of Kaigen by M.L. Wang. Going into this book I’d heard a lot about it from some friends so I had high expectations. It did not disappoint. It’s a true emotional rollercoster that really sucked me in. It had a bit of a slow start, but after about 40% or so it was rivoting and heartbreaking and empowering. It really grabs you by the feels and doesn’t let go.

- The Gutter Prayer by Gareth Hanrahan. The depth of imagination on display in this book is awe inspiring. From the get go we are bombarded with fantastical monsters, intriguing lore, and hints at a world far larger and more dangerous than we realise. And it’s all wrapped up in such a bizarre bow. I have never before experienced a chapter from the point of view of a building.

- Wrath of Gods by Dyrk Ashton. I love Dyrk’s Paternus series because it breaks all the rules and does it so well that you don’t even notice. Be it odd tense, mind-hopping points of view, or expositional info-dumps, Dyrk handles it with such ease and grace it makes it a joy to read. Wrath is the 2nd book in the series and it ups the game by giving us a war between gods that would make Michael Bay explode.

- The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter. This one took me completely by surprise. I picked it up on the cover, and because I thought the narrator was excellent. DAMN! It’s a breakneck paced epic fantasy about a young man willing to sacrifice everything to be a warrior beyond peer, dismantling a caste-based society along the way. It’s emotional. It’s powerful. And it’s chocked full of awesome stabby fightyness.

Looking to 2020


There’s a lot coming in 2020. I’m definitely looking for to The Shadow Saint (the sequel to Gutter Prayer), and War of the Gods (the last book in the Paternus trilogy). The Girl and the Stars, Mark Lawrence’s new series starter. More than anything, though, I’m looking forward to catching up on my TBR a little. It’s getting out of hand.

On the Horizon for Rob Hayes

I actually have four books releasing in 2020. Along the Razor’s Edge is the beginning of an entirely new series for me. It’s my first attempt at first person perspective in fantasy and I think people will find the voice quite fresh.

The second and third books in the trilogy, The Lessons Never Learned and From Cold Ashes Risen will be releasing in March and April, so the trilogy will be complete before Summer rolls around.

I’ll also intending to release Pawn’s Gambit, which is a sequel (not a sequel) to my 2019 release Never Die. That will be coming in Winter 2020. So lots to look forward to.

About the author

Official Author Website

Rob J. Hayes was born and brought up in Basingstoke, UK. As a child he was fascinated with Lego, Star Wars and Transformers that fueled his imagination and he spent quite a bit of his growing up years playing around with such. He began writing at the age of fourteen however soon discovered the fallacies of his work. After four years at University studying Zoology and three years working for a string of high street banks as a desk jockey/keyboard monkey. Rob lived on a desert island in Fiji for three months. It was there he re-discovered his love of writing and, more specifically, of writing fantasy.
Friday, December 27, 2019

2019 Review/2020 Preview — Anna Stephens

2019 Favorites


Well, most of 2019 was a burning apocalyptic wasteland, so it’s nice to focus on the good stuff that happened during it too, to remind ourselves that there is still some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.

I’m woefully behind on reading current works, but I did manage a few that I loved, so here goes:



1. The Poison Song, by Jen Williams. This is book 3 in the Winnowing Flame series, the first two of which BOTH won the British Fantasy Society award for best novel. And deservedly so. The Poison Song is just as complex, fun, heartbreaking and majestic, and is surely a shoo-in (is that how you spell that?) for the award next year. It made me punch the air, laugh, and sob quite a bit. 

2. God of Gnomes, by Demi Harper. This is a LitRPG novel published through Portal Books. I’ve never read in that genre before, so I was excited to dive in and it was all sorts of fun, being the story of a God Core whose existence depends on the little tribe of gnomes who find him and worship him. Their worship gives him powers to help the tribe and fight off enemy kobolds sent by a rival god core, leading to mutual benefits for the god and the gnomes. It was fun, endearing and full of terrible puns – what’s not to like? 

3. The Black Hawks, by Dave Wragg, is a fun fantasy romp following a band of mismatched mercenaries as they stumble from disaster to defeat to ambush, all the while dragging a baffled prince and his hapless bodyguard across country with them. 



New released that I own but haven’t yet read, but know will be excellent, include A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie, Realm of Ash by Tasha Suri and Memo from Turner by Tim Willocks.

Regarding non-book great stuff, a big shout out to:



1. Season 4 of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, which continues to be inclusive, adorable and just perfect in every way.

2. Season 3 of Dear White People, which remains topical and challenging around issues of race and identity, as well as the intersections between race and gender, and race and sexual orientation. 

3. Captain Marvel, which did everything Endgame so spectacularly failed to do.




And, obviously, Rise of Skywalker, which I haven’t seen at the time of writing but am frothing with excitement about. 

There’s also the Alien RPG boardgame which releases on 10 December which looks amazing.

Looking Forward to in 2020

So. Many. Things. 



1. Lady Hotspur, by Tessa Gratton. I read and fell in love with Queens of Innis Lear in 2018 and am really excited for her gender-flipped, queer reimagining of Shakespeare’s Henry IV. It also continues the saga, albeit centuries later, begun in Queens. 

2. Jen Williams’ new book, Dog Rose Dirt. This one is a serial killer thriller, not fantasy, but Jen is an auto-buy for me because she is simply spectacular at everything she does, and also just a lovely person. 

3. The Hollow Empire, by Sam Hawke. This is the sequel to City of Lies from 2018, which won a bunch of awards and deserved every one. Full disclosure: I’m beta-reading the first draft of this and it. Is. Excellent. I can’t wait to see the final version once Sam and her editor have done their work. 

3. God of Gnomes 2, by Demi Harper. See above. 

4. Camelot, by Giles Kristian. I loved Lancelot, which came out in 2018, so I can’t wait to get back into Giles’ particular imagining of the Arthurian legend. I really loved his use of language and setting in the first one, and can’t wait to see where he goes with the story of Galahad, Lancelot’s son. 

Non-book stuff
1. The new Doctor Who. I am frothing at the mouth waiting for it. I love Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor, and I really loved the historical and political episodes of her first season. 

There will be hundreds of other things too, but this one I’m really excited about.

On the Horizon for Anna Stephens

Well, my debut trilogy is now complete and out in the world and I am working on a brand new series. I can’t really say much about it at the moment, other than that it is not set in the Godblind universe at all and that this time I am delving into the realm of magic and monsters. So it’s a new challenge, but I’m having a lot of fun with it. 

2020 will also see my first Age of Sigmar stories published through Black Library. It’s really good fun to write in that IP and the editors are all great at double-checking the lore and history to make sure you don’t accidentally write a cult out of existence or something like that. 

Prior to both of those, though, I have a short story coming out with Cohesion Press in their latest SNAFU anthology – SNAFU: Last Stand. It’s a military horror anthology and my story is called Skitter. It features Syl Stoneheart, my foul-mouthed mercenary, and her mercenary company the Iron Blades. The anthology will be out before Christmas, so if you’re looking for something for that hard to buy for reader, you might want to give it a look. 

I’ll also be running my first DnD campaign as DM. It’s only going to be a mini campaign, but I’m both excited and terrified to be behind the screen as some dear friends try to destroy my carefully constructed campaign story.

About the Author

OFFICIAL AUTHOR WEBSITE

Anna Stephens is the author of the Godblind trilogy: Godblind, Darksoul, and Bloodchild, which are published through HarperVoyager in the UK and Commonwealth, and Talos Press in North America. Translation deals for French, German, Dutch, Polish and Czechoslovakian versions have also been agreed, with the trilogy published at various stages in those languages. 

A literature graduate from the Open University, Anna loves all things speculative, from books to film and TV, including classic Hammer and Universal horror films, as well as DnD and the chameleon genius of David Bowie. 

As a practitioner of Historical European Martial Arts, with a focus on Italian longsword, and a second Dan black belt in Shotokan Karate, she’s no stranger to the feeling of being hit in the face, which is more help than you would expect when writing fight scenes. 

Follow Anna on Twitter: @AnnaSmithWrites


Thursday, December 26, 2019

2019 Review/ 2020 Preview - Sebastien de Castell


Favourites from 2019

It’s funny how forgettable so much entertainment has become for me. I feel like I consume books and movies in the way one consumes fast food. Sometimes tastes good at the time, sometimes not, but only rarely is it memorable. Maybe it’s because we’re so inundated with entertainment options these days that knowing we’re only experiencing such a tiny fraction of it causes our brains to be perpetually skimming rather than emotionally engaging because of the constant anxiety that there’s so many other choices waiting for us. Maybe I’m just getting crotchety in my old age. Next up: “Hey you kids! Get off my lawn!”

I think what I look for now are stories that surprise me in one way or another, so that’s what I’ll focus on here:



The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter - A terrific debut fantasy that’s already captivating loads of readers. I had only planned on reading a bit of it because I was going to be doing a book event with Evan and while I was absolutely slammed for time I felt I needed to have some acquaintance with his work. But Rage of Dragons just pulled me in and I ended up sacrificing a load of writing time to finish the entire book in just a few days. Damn you Evan!

The Huntress by Kate Quinn - Sorry fantasy fans, but despite the title, this is a WWII spy story about women pilots and nazi-hunters. Quinn wrote The Alice Network which is also terrific. Both those books have echoes of the absolutely fabulous Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. I’m not sure why, but there seem to be far more WWII books about female protagonists that grab my attention these days than the traditional dude-spy tales.

The Feral Detective by Jonathan Lethem - This book reminds you that truly compelling fiction doesn’t owe you happy feelings. The Feral Detective is ostensibly a sort of noir detective novel but told from the client’s perspective. All the tropes and beats of good old private eye stories are there, but Lethem constantly reminds you that people’s motivations are often far more banal than their actions warrant. You’re never quite sure if the client has gotten themselves onto this strange quest to find her friend’s missing daughter because she genuinely cares about the girl or whether this is just her way of dealing with her inner turmoil over the 2016 U.S. election—something that at first you think is a joke but as the story progresses you really start to wonder.

Nutshell by Ian McEwan - You only need to know three things about this book:
1) The narrator is a fetus.
2) I wasn’t kidding about #1. and
3) McEwan really does make a kind of noir-ish detective story of a husband’s murder being plotted by his wife and her lover as investigated by their unborn son.

In a time when fiction has become almost unbearably sanitized into safely constructed genres, watching a writer attempt a high-wire act is surprisingly fun.

Looking Ahead To 2020


I’m curious to see what happens with the new Dune movie. Anyone who’s watched the wonderful documentary “Jodorowsky's Duneknows there's a kind of curse that attaches itself to anyone who dares make a Dune film. Three people in my writing group have fantasy and sci-fi novels that will be ready to go in 2020 and I’m looking forward to seeing which publishers pick up their debuts.

What’s Coming Up For Me In 2020

I’ve got two books coming out in 2020. Play of Shadows marks my return to the world of the Greatcoats and focuses on a Bardatti actor whose performances on stage unwittingly reveal a hundred year old conspiracy that has repercussions in his own time.


Way of the Argosi is the working title of the first half of an Argosi duology in which we learn how Ferius Parfax became the Path of the Wild Daisy. If that doesn’t make any sense to you it’s because you haven’t read the Spellslinger series, but fear not: you can easily start with Way of the Argosi if you want.

Equally important to me is that 2020 is the year when, after having had 10 novels published, I’m determined to find a writing process that doesn’t involve me calling every person I know on the planet five times during the first draft to tell them the book is a disaster and I’ve lost whatever illusory talent I had in the first place. Maybe I can just call them three times.

About the Author

Official Author Website

Sebastien de Castell was born in Canada and currently holds dual citizenship with the UK. Sebastien enjoys playing music, speaking in public as well travelling around the world. He has a special love for fantasy and noir detective genres. He made his debut in 2014 with Traitor’s Blade and since then has published 10 books in a period of 5 years. He lives with his beloved in the great white north and is always looking to travel together.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

2019 Review / 2020 Preview - Jonathan French



2019 Favorites


Confession: I read very little this past year. When I’m writing (all the time now), I tend to avoid fiction-- especially Fantasy--focusing on History and Biography to keep my creative soup from becoming too incestuous. This year was a particularly sparse harvest as I’m still adjusting to the deadlines and promotional frenzy of “Big” publishing, leaving little time for reading, which is entirely my failing. However, I wasn’t a total slacker!  

Novels

1) The Hod King by Josiah Bancroft. Like many, I was completely enthralled by Senlin Ascends (Book 1 of Bancroft’s Books of Babel quadrilogy) and made a point to pre-order this third installment. Bancroft is the best writer of my generation and that’s a hill I will die on. The epigraphs that open each of his chapters are a bag of writing gems, and an achievement of voice that most writers (including Yours Truly) can’t manage in an entire career. The Hod King continues to weave heartbreaking adventure with breath-stealing prose in the uniquely decadent and decaying Tower. 
2) Empire of Grass by Tad Williams. Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn possessed my middle school years. So, having a chance to return to the world of Osten Ard made me embarrassingly giddy in 2017 when The Witchwood Crown hit the shelves. This year, I got that fix again. Being a sequel in a sequel series, Empire of Grass is impossible to describe to the uninitiated, so I’ll just say that any Osten Ard fans that have hesitated to begin this new era: GET ON IT!
3) A Chain Across the Dawn by Drew Williams. Apparently, I read nothing this year that wasn’t a continuation of something else! This is the second book in Williams’ The Universe After sci-fi series. Sci-fi is rarely my bag (too much, ya know…Science), but the blurb on the back cover of the first book, The Stars Now Unclaimed, compared it to Firefly/Serenity, so I took the chance. And was glad I did! Gritty, often profane (huge plus for me!), and just damn fun. A Chain Across the Dawn delivers heavy doses of spaceship warfare, universe shattering adversaries and a galaxy load of snark.  

Gaming

I figure there’s a healthy amount of overlap between Sci-fi/Fantasy readers and tabletop gamers, so…
1) Kings of War: Vanguard by Mantic Games. I love a good skirmish-sized miniature wargame and Mantic delivered with this one! Easy to learn rules let you pit small numbers of warriors against each other using either Mantic’s own range of models or any suitable fantasy models already in your collection (*cough* War *cough* Hammer). Rules are free to download, too!
2) Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4th edition by Cubicle 7. Technically, this launched in December 2018, but I think it counts since the game is just now gaining momentum. The Old World will always be my favorite setting to play in and it’s good to see it survive in this newest edition. All the grimdark adventure with underpowered heroes you could ask for! Your amoral Rat Catcher and his “small, but viscous dog” will be contracting horrible diseases and gaining Insanity Points while battling the minions of Chaos in no time. Long live the Old World!
3) Eberron: Rising from the Last War by Wizards of the Coast. Dungeons & Dragons is more popular now then it was in the 80s (and I should know: I rolled my first d20 in ’87). Eberron was my favorite setting during the 3rd edition days, so it’s nice to see this book detailing the world for the current (and very popular) 5th edition. I loved the new playable races when they hit the scene in ’04, so having Shifters, Changelings, Kalashtar and Warforged as options for my D&D characters is very exciting!

Looking Ahead to 2020

 I had the pleasure of reading an advanced copy of The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman and I’m excited for its launch. I think readers are going to love it!  
Otherwise, I’m not too hip to what’s coming out, but I look forward to being surprised.

On the Horizon for Jonathan French

The third installment in my Lot Lands series (aka The Grey Bastards books) is coming, though I can’t say precisely when since I’m still writing it. But I’m 70k words into the manuscript and I can say the half-orcs remain foul-mouthed and hog-riding.

About the Author

Jonathan French is the author of “The Grey Bastards” and “The True Bastards”. Originally self-published, he gained the attention of an editor at Penguin when “The Grey Bastards” won the 2nd annual Self-Publishing Fantasy blog-off. Jonathan is an avid player of tabletop roleplaying games and wargames, hobbies he hopes to pass on to the joy of his life, his son. For more, please visit his website (jonathanfrenchbooks.com) or Twitter (@JFrenchAuthor). 
Tuesday, December 24, 2019

2019 Preview/2020 Preview - T. Frohock


Either I read a lot more fiction this year than I have in previous years, or I’m just getting better about keeping up with it. And because the lists are always compiled before the year is officially over, I’m including some books that I finished in December 2018.

My list will be more eclectic than others, primarily because I rarely read in a single genre. Since I write historical fantasy, I also read a lot of non-fiction. The other thing is that 2019 isn’t quite over with yet, so I’d be remiss not to mention three books that I am currently reading and should finish by the end of the year.

Currently reading


I’ve got an ARC of Joel Dane’s Burn Cycle, futuristic military sci-fi, and so far, it’s full of superb action with the interesting set-up of a world and its army run by corporations. I’m also reading The Drowning God by James Kendley—a slow-burn Japanese horror novel that mixes a present day detective with an ancient horror. So far it is creepy and excellent. Finally, I’m reading Bury Me Deep by Megan Abbott—a true story turned historical fiction/mystery, and I’ve reached the can’t-put-it-down stage of the novel.

2019 Favorites

If you read nothing else on this list, get a copy of Mary Soon Lee’s Crowned: the Sign of the Dragon, Book 1. It is an epic tale told in prose, and before you roll your eyes and skip down the list, Soon Lee’s style is absolutely captivating. Four princes, one crown, and they must barter with a dragon for her blessing. Here is the part where the fourth son meets her on the mountain:

He fell, pushed himself upright, saw a black cloud speed against the wind.

She landed beside him, her breath ash, snow steaming from her wings.

He knelt, but did not beg, and asked after his brothers.

"One slept. One fought. One pissed himself. They didn't taste like kings."

She laughed. "And you? What will you pay for a crown, little princeling?"

"Nothing. I don't want it." She flamed, and he saw himself reflected

in her scales, a kneeling, shivering boy. "Then why," she asked, "are you here?"

"Because they sent me." He stopped. "No." He was so tired, he couldn't think--

"Because the kingdom needs a king." He struggled to his feet.

"And what will you pay for the crown, little princeling? Gold? Men? A song?"

"My freedom!" he shouted at her. "Well," she said, "that's a start."

And what a start it is. You won’t look back and the book will fly for you as Soon Lee takes you through King Xau’s rule. I keep asking about book 2 and hope to see it published someday. It’s one of the few books that has remained with me throughout the year.

Horror: I went on a horror kick during the fall of 2018 and the winter of 2019. For brevity’s sake, I read several horror novels by women, but the two that stood out the most to me were We Eat Our Own by Kea Wilson, who transfers the reader to a horror film being shot in South America. Inspired by the true story of an Italian horror film that landed the director in court, Wilson shows the reader what happens when Method acting is taken to the extreme.

If you’re looking for something more sublime, I recommend Now You’re One of Us by Asa Nonami. A young woman marries into a family that isn’t all that it seems.

Later in the year, I had the opportunity to read an ARC of John Hornor JacobsA Lush and Seething Hell, which contains the novellas The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky and My Heart Struck Sorrow—both of which blew my mind. Jacobs writes the kind of horror I live for: dark, descriptive, and with subtle twists and turns that lead to surprise endings.


Fantasy: K.D. Edwards’ Tarot Sequence series (The Last Sun and The Hanged Man) is absolutely marvelous! If you love urban fantasy, and even if you don’t, you’ll love Edwards’ vibrant characters and imaginative settings. I know I did. I laughed out loud in places, but Edwards doesn’t allow the snark to overshadow the story or the characters, all of whom have suffered from tragedy. Don’t tell anyone, but I even cried at one scene.

Brightfall by Jaime Lee Moyer is an engrossing retelling of Maid Marion’s adventures and a murder mystery to boot. Moyer stays true to the Robin Hood legend while putting her own unique spin on the story. They’re all older now and much settled down, except something sinister is stalking the Merry Men and leaving them for dead.



For epic fantasy readers, I highly recommend The Last Road, K.V. Johansen’s rousing conclusion to her Gods of the Caravan Road series. Johansen’s style lends itself well to world-building and a solid story with engaging characters. If you’re looking for immersive epic fantasy, she’s got you covered.

I’m currently in the middle of Vita Nostra by Marina and Sergey Dyachenko and was enjoying it immensely when my tablet died. Like the others I listed above, I’ll probably finish it later this year, but if you’re into wizard schools, it’s a spooky weird twist on the experience and I recommend it.

Science Fiction: I was torn about where to put Caitlin Starling’s novel, The Luminous Dead, because while it had some excellent elements of horror, I couldn’t quite slip it into the horror category. Genre bending in the best of ways, The Luminous Dead mixes science fiction with horror to keep you flipping the pages deep into the night … just make sure you keep the lights on.

For fans of military science fiction, I recommend Planetside by Michael Mammay, which is a fast-paced military investigation that leads to a surprising end. I’m greatly looking forward to digging into the sequel, Spaceside, in 2020.

And for those who find noir detectives in a science fiction setting more their speed, I recommend Michael G. WilliamsA Fall in Autumn. Dark and imaginative, it’s a detective story set on a flying city filled with fantastic creatures.

Historical fiction: The Labyrinth of the Spirits by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. This is the final book in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series, so I savored it and loved it and positively wept when it was over. It was a beautiful conclusion and I fell in with Alicia.

A pleasant surprise for me was Elizabeth Kostova’s The Shadow Land. I’m not even sure why the story appealed to me so much, but Kostova has an elegant style that draws the reader in. This was a case of the right novel hitting at the right time and it worked beautifully for me.

K. L. Reich by Joaquim Amat-Piniella was positively heartbreaking but a necessary read. This book is one of the few accounts of Spaniards in concentration camps that slipped beneath the attention of Franco's censors. Written shortly after Amat-Piniella's release in 1945, he recounts his four-year internment in Nazi's Mauthausen camp through the voices of his fictional characters, which were all based on real people. .

I also read a lot of non-fiction for my own novels. If you want to see some of inspirations for Los Nefilim, I keep bibliographies on my website.


Looking ahead to 2020 

I’m never as good with this part as I am with what I’ve read. Book releases surprise me throughout the year; however, I’m definitely looking forward to reading Spaceside by Michael Mammay as well as the third part of Hilary Mantel’s excellent series on Thomas Cromwell. I absolutely adored both Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, and I may indulge in a reread of those two books prior to reading The Mirror and the Light. The Ancestor by Danielle Trussoni is another one that is high on my list as well as Tripping the Tale Fantastic: Weird Fiction by Deaf and Hard of Hearing Writers.


On the horizon for T. Frohock


I’m extremely excited for my second Los Nefilim novel, Carved from Stone and Dream, which will be released in February 2020. It’s A Band of Brothers meets John Wick and our boys are fleeing the Nationalists. They find themselves lost in a pocket realm with sinister angels and old enemies. I’m really proud that it’s the second Los Nefilim novel to earn a starred review from Publishers Weekly: “Frohock raises the stakes in the battle between angels and demons by entwining their celestial warfare with the simmering human conflict, and the wildly imaginative plotlines are balanced by intimate family struggles as Frohock works toward an explosive ending. Series fans and new readers alike will be enthralled.” .

I’ll spend 2020 finishing up the last Los Nefilim novel in this series, A Song with Teeth. After that … the only thing that I know for certain is that there are always more stories to tell. .


About the author

Teresa Frohock has turned a love of history and dark fantasy into tales of deliciously creepy fiction. She is the author of Miserere: An Autumn Tale and the Los Nefilim series from Harper Voyager, which includes the Los Nefilim omnibus, and the novels: Where Oblivion Lives, Carved from Stone and Dream, and A Song with Teeth. She currently lives in North Carolina, where she has long been accused of telling stories, which is a southern colloquialism for lying.

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