Bloody Waters by Jason Franks – review

Here’s my latest review posted at Thirteen O’Clock:

BW_cover_eBook_t-193x300Bloody Waters by Jason Franks

Possible Press, 2012

ISBN: 978-0980813531

Bloody Waters is the debut novel from Jason Franks, maybe better known for his comics work. I reviewed The Sixsmiths here a while ago. This first novel was nominated for an Aurealis Award for Best Horror Novel last year and I can see why. Here’s the blurb:

When guitar virtuoso Clarice Marnier finds herself blacklisted she makes a deal with the devil for a second chance. Soon Clarice and her band, Bloody Waters, are on their way to stardom… but cracking the Top 10 is one thing; gunfights with the Vatican Mafia and magical duels quite another. Clarice is going to have to confront the Devil himself – the only question is whether she’ll be alive or dead when it happens.

I had no expectations going into this book, other than knowing it had an award nomination. I was really surprised. It’s a unique read. The writing style is tight and powerful, the book clips along at a solid pace. We start with young Clarice putting aside Barbie dolls for a guitar and we follow her progress through high school and into her first band and beyond, where nothing else matters but the music. Absolutely nothing. The chapters are short and the description spare but complete.

Clarice herself is an interesting main character. She’s very well-realised by Franks as a balls out, takes no shit hero of rock’n’roll. If I have any complaints about this book it would be that sometimes Clarice is a bit too cold and calculating. I would have liked to see a few more moments of humanity in her, but it’s no surprise they weren’t there. She is a force of heavy metal nature and no one gets away with messing with her. Except, perhaps, the Devil himself…

Read the rest of my review at Thirteen O’Clock.

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Conflux Writer’s Day, featuring all sorts of writers including me

I’m going to be one of many presenters at this awesome day for writers organised by the Conflux convention committee. Looks like it’s going to be well worth your time if you’re a writer and able to get to Canberra on the day. The best part? It’s the same day as the Aurealis Awards presentation gala night, so you can come to the writer’s day for professional development and general inspiration, and then glam up for the awards night.

The Writer’s Day presentations are from 9am-5pm on Saturday April 5 2014. Registrations are open now at http://conflux.org.au/conflux-writers-day-2/registration/. It will take place at University House, Australian National University, Canberra.

The theme of the day is ‘The Writers Journey’, which will be covered by four sub-themes – ‘Writing Skills’, ‘Writing Processes’, ‘Submission and Publication’ and ‘Building a Career’.

Four plenary speakers will be addressing these themes. These speakers are:

Joanne Anderton
Kaaron Warren
Ian McHugh
Keri Arthur

Clicking on those names will take you to the Conflux page describing their talk.

There will also be a bunch of concurrent presentations bringing great thoughts and ideas to writers at all stages of their career. That’s where I come in. I’ll be talking about “Building an online presence: social media for authors”. Here’s the abstract, describing what I’ll be talking about:

A presentation on how authors can best build an online presence to promote themselves and their work, utilising the most powerful social media tools, with a central website hub to streamline their activity. Too often, an emphasis on social media distracts from writing time, or an author is overwhelmed by all the things they think they *should* be doing online, instead of writing. This presentation will break down the basics, identify the most powerful online tools and how to use them effectively with very little effort or time required on the part of the author. We will also debunk the myth of the “author platform”.

We will look at personal websites, integrated social media feeds and what an author really *needs* to do. There will be a decent amount of time at the end of the presentation for Q&A.

You can go here for a full breakdown of the day’s presentations. The concurrent presentations are factored in around the plenary speakers, so you can go to all four keynote speeches and then take your pick of all the other stuff. There are some great people with loads of knowledge presenting at this thing, so if you’re able, I highly recommend you try to get along. If you do, come and say hi. Hope to see you there.

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All The Wealth In The World at Lakeside Circus

I’m very happy to say that my first short story for 2014 has been published. It’s in an online magazine, so free to read for everyone. Can’t complain about that, eh? It’s in the first issue of a new zine called Lakeside Circus, which looks like it might become a very worthwhile spot to keep an eye on. Here’s how they describe themselves:

Lakeside Circus is a short-form speculative fiction magazine, published quarterly by Dagan Books, LLC. Beginning with Year One, Issue One (Nov 29, 2013), we will produce the magazine for sale in multiple ebook formats, and then release most of the content online over the course of three months (free to read). Readers can subscribe, purchase the individual ebooks, or wait for the free content to appear on our site.

And my story has indeed just appeared on the site. Here’s how it opens:

ALL THE WEALTH IN THE WORLD

by Alan Baxter

The Time-Maker’s expression is serious. I can’t stop looking at her translucent skin. She must be a thousand years old. Her eyes are almost lost in folds, but dark brown irises glisten, bright and sharp, in the tiny gap. “Nothing without a cost,” she says again, voice heavily accented. Eastern European, maybe Russian.

“I know,” I say.

“Do you really? Not just money.”

“Whatever time you give me has to come from somewhere else. I get it.”

Read the rest here.

lakeside-circus

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RealmShift for only 99c – it’s a Bookblast!

Those wonderful people over at Gryphonwood Press have set up a very special little promotion for RealmShift, called a bookblast. The bottom line is that you can get RealmShift for just 99c on Kindle, Kobo and Nook. Also, if you buy the Kindle version for 99c, you can get the audiobook version through Amazon for only $1.99. This is some kind of madness, surely? Well, maybe, but it’s only lasting for a day or so, so you’ve got til the end of Wednesday, US time, to get your copy.

Here’s the skinny:

Book 1 of The Balance
Today through Wednesday only, get RealmShift, book one of
Book 1 of The Balance for 99c

RealmShift, book 1 of The Balance series by Alan Baxter, is only 99 cents on Kindle, Kobo, and Nook! What’s more, if you buy the Kindle version for 99 cents, you can also buy the Audiobook for $1.99 through Amazon! Don’t miss this great intro to Alan’s dark urban fantasy series.

Kindle US

Kindle UK

Kindle AU

Kindle CA 

Kobo

Nook

You know you want to – go get some! And please share this around any of your networks if you think people will be interested.

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10 Question SFF reading meme

I saw this over at S F Signal, and thought it asked some interesting questions about sci-fi/fantasy/horror reading. So I’ve snurched it for my blog here. Feel free to copy the questions and add your answers in the comments, or snag it for your own blog, Facebook, blood-scrawling on the wall of your cold, wet dungeon or wherever else you like to write things down.

The last sf/f/h book I read and liked was:

On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers. This is the book that Pirates of the Caribbean was based on. It’s been on my To Read list for ages and I finally got around to it. It’s a brilliant book, the story far better than the movie. (Although, I do love those movies.)

The last sf/f/h book I read and wasn’t crazy about was:

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King. It’s not a bad book, but it’s far from a great book. It’s just kinda okay and I suppose I expect more than that from King. The previous King book I read, Joyland, was excellent.

The sf/f/h book I am reading now is:

North American Lake Monsters by Nathan Ballingrud. This is a short story collection. I’ve never heard of Ballingrud before or read his stuff, but I saw this book being touted a lot in my social media. I always take the advice of those good people, so I bought it. I’ve only read the first two stories so far and it’s really quite excellent.

The sf/f/h book(s) I most want to read next is/are:

The Cormorant by Chuck Wendig and The Book of the Crowman by Joseph D’Lacey. The first is the third Miriam Black book and I was a huge fan of the first two, Blackbirds and Mockingbird. The second is Volume 2 of The Black Dawn. I read the first one, Black Feathers, a while back and it was very good. In fact, I reviewed these books for Thirteen O’Clock. Blackbirds here, Mockingbird here, and Black Feathers here.

An underrated sf/f/h book is:

I’m not sure about this, as I don’t really know what’s underrated among other people. If I had to pick something that certainly deserves more attention I would suggest Joanne Anderton’s Veiled Worlds trilogy. The third one of those is out soon. (Jo is a friend, yes, but her books are fucking amazing, so shut up.) Another book I read last year that blew me away and I haven’t seen much about it elsewhere is Max Barry’s amazing novel, Lexicon. And the last thing to spring to mind is a novella from Spectral Press that I read last year, called Whitstable by Stephen Volk. It’s an amazing blend of fact and fiction.

An overrated sf/f/h book is:

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. And not just because Card is a hoofwanking bunglecunt of the highest order. (I saw that insult on Twitter this morning and just had to find a place to use it.) But seriously, I hated this book before I really knew anything about Card’s despicable views. I read it because it’s always on top 100 sci-fi book lists so I thought I should try it. And it was very dull, and the central conceit was really obvious from early on and it’s just stupid. On that front, another highly overrated SF book is John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War. Now Scalzi isn’t a nasty piece of human sputum like Card. Scalzi is actually a stand-up guy, a really nice fella if my social media interaction is anything to go by and he does fantastic things for the SFF community. But this book did not work for me at all, I couldn’t finish it. I reviewed it briefly on Goodreads here if you’re interested in more of my opinion on it.

The last sf/f/h book that was recommended to me was:

I honestly can’t remember… I talk about books with people so much that it’s impossible to keep track. I know Lexicon was recommended to me not that long ago. Sorry, my brain isn’t up to this question.

A sf/f/h book I recommended to someone else was:

Recently I’ve been happily recommending these wherever I can:

Lexicon by Max Barry
Whitstable by Stephen Volk
The Dog-Faced Gods trilogy by Sarah Pinborough
Midnight & Moonshine by Angela Slatter and Lisa L Hannett
The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
The Great and Secret Show by Clive Barker
Cabal by Clive Barker

Seriously, if you’ve been stuck for a good read lately, go and buy all of those now and you’ll be reinvigorated. Amazing stories, brilliantly written.

A sf/f/h book I have re-read is:

The Great and Secret Show by Clive Barker. I lovelovelove this book and recently reread it again. It is a truly outstanding achievement, but I’m a total Clive Barker fanboy, so maybe I’m biased. But seriously, if you haven’t read it, do. In fact, I’m going to add it to the list answering the previous question, because I’m always recommending this and Cabal by Barker whenever I get the chance. I’m adding Cabal too. I’d better stop there though – honestly, I could sit here and recommend books all day.

A sf/f/h book I want to re-read is:

The Earthsea series by Ursula K Le Guin. I’ve read and loved the original trilogy a few times, but never read the others. I recently bought all the various volumes and have them sitting on my side table ready for a big reread. (Well, reread of the first three, then read of the rest.) I’m really looking forward to it.

So there you go. I thought those questions might lead to an interesting discussion of good reading. Mmmmbooks, how I love them…

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