The Barrow

11/30/10

The Horns of Ruin: One of the Most Original Books of the Year

The Horns of Ruin"An engaging and eventful blend of the sword and sorcery tale told with elements of steampunk, this is perhaps one of the most original books to come out this year. And that’s saying something - the year is almost over." LEC Book Reviews on Tim Akers' The Horns of Ruin


Also: "His execution of the plot is nearly flawless, with an entrancing pace and a welcomed alternation between action-heavy sequences and the more mellow (perhaps no the best of words, but...) ones. A strong sense of wit and irony reveals itself in his prose making The Horns of Ruin a novel gifted with both a great storyline and very developed, streamlined writing."

11/29/10

Prometheus Books Holiday Gift Guide

You are a reader. Maybe even a book lover. So you know that books make an ideal gift in so many ways. But not everyone on your list has the same tastes as you. Here, from Pyr's parent company Prometheus Books, is a handy guide for books that will appeal to many on your list, from the economic policy wonk to the sword & sorcery fan; the math whiz to the steampunk aficianado; the true crime fanatic to the biography reader; the religion philosophiser to the vampire lover. Hope it's helpful!

This is priceless! "So You Want to Write a Novel..."

OMG, this says everything I've ever wanted to say in this situation in one wonderful place:



Via SF Signal.

11/24/10

Fart Jokes Can Be Eloquent

I really, really love this review of Sam Sykes' Tome of the Undergates from Rob Will Review.

"...most advance buzz I read seemed to revolve around its extended battle sequences, its grittiness, its pirates and sea monsters, and its dark and at least slightly warped sense of humor that includes references to bodily functions of various sorts. What has been getting less attention, as far as I’ve noticed, however, is how gorgeous Sykes’ prose can be.  There are passages here of astounding beauty–sometimes serious, sometimes funny, sometimes deliciously purple, sometimes all of these things at once–and the fact that they are sometimes accompanied by fart jokes makes them no less beautiful.  Even some of the fart jokes are delivered with rare eloquence.  Part of Tome of the Undergates‘ brilliance is that it can be epic, crude, dark, silly, scary, violent, and surprisingly tender–often many of these things at once–without ever collapsing in on itself.  In some respects, it reminded me of Farscape, constantly navigating between high, operatic fantasy and naughty indulgences, each aspect of which seems to strengthen the other by keeping it in check."

11/22/10

The Greyfriar: The Future of Genre Fiction

Paul Goat Allen is the moderator for Barnes & Noble's Explorations: The B&N SciFi and Fantasy Blog, as well as a reviewer with over 6,000 reviews to his credit. So it is fair to say his opinion is an informed one. He just wrote a post at Explorations titled, "The Future of Genre Fiction is Now: Why the Vampire Empire Trilogy is a Landmark Work." He writes, "I absolutely loved The Greyfriar and literally couldn’t put it down. (In all honesty, I hugged this book after finishing it.) It’s simultaneously alternate history, epic adventure fantasy, apocalyptic horror, and heartrending romance. With a storyline powered by steampunk sensibilities and an audacious tone reminiscent of the Golden Age adventure pulps (like Doc Savage and The Spider), this novel was simply a brilliant amalgam of genre elements. ....The Greyfriar is so much more than a vampire novel. It’s an insanely appetizing mélange of genre fiction ingredients. It’s works like this that get me excited about the future of genre fiction – I challenge anyone to read this novel and not feel compelled to hug it like I did after reading it."

His whole article is very much worth reading for the take on the blurring of genre boundaries and the rise of urban fantasy.

Cowboy Angels: A Gripping Page Turner!

Publishers Weekly just gave this glowing endorsement to Paul McAuley's forthcoming novel, Cowboy Angels:

In this gripping tale, which calls to mind both the Stargate TV series and any number of spy thrillers, scientists have discovered a way to travel between alternate universes. The United States in the universe that calls itself the Real wants to bring other versions of itself into a Pan-American Alliance, in effect a series of American client states. Adam Stone, a retired agent specializing in covert missions through the gate, is called back to the field when his ex-partner, Tom Waverly, apparently goes rogue and begins killing different versions of Eileen Barrie, a noted mathematician, in a series of alternate universes. While tracking down Waverly, Stone discovers a byzantine plot to subvert governments across the multiverse. McAuley (The Quiet War) provides nonstop action, a believably damaged hero, and a complex set of mysteries that will keep the reader breathlessly turning pages. (Jan.)

11/19/10

Grit, Action, and Vampires

Elfsorrow (Legends of the Raven 1)Not surprising given that they included it as one of their top five genre books of 2010, but the Library Journal has just given James Barclay's Elfsorrow a starred review! They write that it "packs a visceral, gritty appeal and will attract fans of Glen Cook’s classic 'Black Company' novels. Pyr will publish the second volume, Shadowheart, in December, so order both titles for your fantasy collections."

Twelve"This gripping saga is as much historical drama as horror story," says Patricia's Vampire Notes, speaking of Jasper Kent's Twelve. They say, "Kent convincingly portrays the difficult life of the soldiers and the terror faced by civilians in occupied territory. Starvation for each was a constant companion. In Twelve there are mysterious deaths and disappearances which are shrugged off as some sort of plague. No one except Alexei, and eventually his comrades, suspect the true horror behind the loss of life. I would not categorize Twelve as a thriller because the pace is slower than novels like Blood Oath or The Passage. Still it will keep readers captured by terrific story-telling, well wrought characters, and gripping, supernatural horror."

The Greyfriar (Vampire Empire, Book 1)LEC Book Reviews takes a look at Clay and Susan Griffith's The Greyfriar (Vampire Empire Book One), and writes, "Folks, this one is full of action, adventure, myth, rousing emotions and characters which there’s a good chance you’ll grow to love - be prepared to add it to your reading lists." They go on to say, "Many other reviewers have called this book the ‘best vampire book of the year’ and I’m tempted to agree, though I don’t know how much weight that would carry seeing as The Greyfriar is just about the only vampire book I’ve read this year... What I can say however is that Clay and Susan Griffith’s debut novel is a strong offering that has very good chances of winning you over. My recommendation goes to most readers of speculative fiction but in particular to epic fantasy lovers as this may just fulfill your needs for something a bit shorter and different while retaining obligatory epic proportions."

ELFSORROW makes LJ Best Books 2010: Genre Fiction list

The Library Journal have just released their "LJ Best Books 2010: Genre Fiction" and James Barclay's Elfsorrow made the list. They write, "The mercenaries of the Raven journey to the heart of the elven continent of Calaius to save the land from dying in a superbly visualized fantasy adventure reminiscent of Glen Cook's classic Black Company tales."

He shared the list with Todd McCaffrey's Dragongirl, China  Miéville's Kraken, Mark Charan Newton's Nights of Villjamur, and Skyler White's And Falling, Fly. Congratulations to all the authors on this prestigious list! 

11/17/10

Book Trailer: The Greyfriar (Vampire Empire Book One)



In 1870, a plague of vampires swept over the northern regions of the world. Millions of humans were killed; millions more died of disease and famine. Human refugees fled south, where vampires could not tolerate the heat, to reestablish their shattered societies of steam and iron. It is now 2020 and a bloody reckoning is coming.

Witty and strong, Princess Adele is eager for adventure before settling into a life of duty and a political arranged marriage. When she becomes the target of a merciless vampire clan, her only protector is the Greyfriar, a mysterious hero. Their dangerous relationship plays out against an approaching war to the death between humankind and the vampire empire.

The Greyfriar (Vampire Empire Book 1)
Pyr,  $16, November 2010, ISBN 978-1-61614-247-6

11/16/10

Wait? You write together AND you're married?

The Greyfriar (Vampire Empire, Book 1)Clay and Susan Griffith, author of The Greyfriar (Vampire Empire Book One) are guests on the Adventures in SciFi Publishing podcast, episode 104. Penguin Editor Anne Sowards also guests. Both interviews well worth your time.

Pyr Books Newsletter


Here is the latest Pyr Books Newsletter, which went out yesterday. Rene Sears has taken over the newsletter from me, with the result that they will actually go out on time now (1st and 15th of every month, with occasional additional specials), and the further result that they will actually go out.

11/14/10

Writing Update

Hey folks,

Just a quick update of my writing progress to date. I'm finishing the final tweaks of Shadow's Lure and should finish them this week, depending on how I feel. (I've been fighting a cold for the past couple days.)

And the groundwork for Book 3, Shadow's Master, is shaping up. I finally have a solid frame for the middle of the novel, which is the hardest part for me. Next I need to lock down the ending.

All in all, things are progessing well.

I don't have any conventions planned for 2011 yet. I applied for Guest Status at next year's Dragon*Con, but haven't heard back yet. I'd also like to hit some of the local cons, like BaltiCon and PhilCon.

11/12/10

We Can Predict The Future?

A major scientific journal is about to publish a peer-reviewed paper that may have staggering implications.

"Extraordinary claims don't come much more extraordinary than this: events that haven't yet happened can influence our behaviour.:

In other words, we have instinctive precognition, if the evidence presented in the paper holds up. The study has already been examined by sceptical psychologists who can't find any flaws.

Cautious scientists don't get to extrapolate from this. Everyone else can have a lot of fun. And there are *many* potential repercussions.

11/11/10

Marjorie M. Liu talks with Clay & Susan Griffith

This morning, the utterly fabulous Marjorie M. Liu has posted an interview to her blog with Clay & Susan Griffith about their just-released novel, The Greyfriar (Vampire Empire Book One). They talk about themselves, the book, and what it's like to be married to your co-author. Marjorie is also hosting a contest giveaway for three signed copies.

Here's a taste:
Can you explain the origins of The Greyfriar, both his pulp antecedents, and the origin of name itself?  A little bird told me that there’s a relation to both the Scarlet Pimpernel and Edinburgh Castle.  Speaking of which, the same little bird also mentioned you have a personal connection to that place.  Care to share? 

We are both avid readers of the pulps, then and now. Let’s face it, there is always something mesmerizing and thrilling to have a hero as big as life and mysterious as hell jumping in to save the day. From the cloaked mask of The Shadow to the Scarlet Pimpernel’s derring-do, The Greyfriar owes his heroic pedigree to a lot of classic heroes. As for the personal connection, Edinburgh holds a special place in our hearts since we were married there fifteen years ago at Greyfriars Kirk. We love that old city and you couldn’t ask for better inspiration.

11/9/10

Beyond the Usual Suspects

What does it mean when your sister, who "doesn't read", asks you to bring home a copy of The Greyfriar (Vampire Empire, Book 1) for her ASAP? What does it mean when several Prometheus Books co-workers -- even ones who have never read a Pyr book (or much of anything in the various subgenres of SFF) -- have not only taken home The Greyfriar but finished it quickly and are already waiting with bated breath for an advance manuscript of Vampire Empire, Book 2? What does it mean when several reviewers email you to say "I know you don't usually send me this kind of book," (read: fantasy, steampunk, alternate history, paranormal romance, urban fantasy) "but I read some excerpts and can I please request a review copy of The Greyfriar (Vampire Empire, Book 1)?" Whatever it means, it's exciting!

"Okay, this was just… wow."

"Okay, this was just… wow. How to start? It just isn’t fair to write a review about something this awesome," says Shiny Book Review. What are they talking about? Why Clay & Susan Griffith's The Greyfriar (Vampire Empire Book One) of course! The book is getting pretty much universal praise, but it's hard to top this: "The pacing is fast and furious, and everything clicks inside. I didn’t want to put it down but was reminded that I couldn’t drive while reading a book. Curse you, physics! Tremendous book, go and buy it without reservations. Pyr Books has found a winning duo in the couple, and hopefully we’ll hear more of the sequel soon. Fans of steampunk will surely enjoy this, as it ranks up there with Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker. Maybe even surpassing the Hugo-nominated novel? Blasphemous? You decide…"

11/8/10

James Enge: Making a Virtue of Weirdness

The latest issue of Locus magazine has a long and enthusiastic review of James Enge's The Wolf Age by author and reviewer Tim Pratt. He calls The Wolf Age "inventive and delightful," and says, "Enge's plot is admirably twisty, and he keeps things moving with impressive set pieces, werewolf battles, bizarre magical airships, miraculous feats, and liberal doses of skewed humor. One of his great virtues as a writer is weirdness -- he's not afraid to do the unexpected, and his imagination is formidable. But there's an underlying emotional power here, too. The author excels at depicting the bonds of friendship, the pain of betrayal, and the tragedy of well-laid plans going awry, and that emotional payload is what makes this novel into more than just an entertaining adventure story about a guy with a magical sword who fights monsters. Enge is one of the most engaging of the new sword and sorcery authors, and I hope we get to follow Morlock's exploits for a long time to come."

You can read the full review on Locus Online.

Talking to Pyr: Gillian Polack sits down with Enge, Shepherd & Kenyon

Sasha (A Trial of Blood and Steel, Book I)
The Wolf AgeOver on BiblioBuffet, Gillian Polack interviews three Pyr authors at once:  James Enge, Joel Shepherd, and Kay Kenyon. Why three authors together? Gillian writes that Pyr, "is one of a very few publishers I know who have no bad books to their name (if they have one, I haven’t read it). Additionally, it not only has a very clear image of what it does, but it communicates that image to the world. If I were a sensible person, I would be asking the editor and management how they do what they do, but today I’m asking writers. Without the writers, an imprint is just a logo, after all, and it’s the nature of the authors and the selection of the authors that makes everything possible."

Which is all very nice to hear and I hope you are paying attention, but the real reason you should follow the link above is because the authors of The Wolf Age, Bright of the Sky, and Sasha (among their many other books) are all brilliant and interesting people, with quite a lot to say that is valuable and witty. 

Here are some snippets to whet appetites with:

Bright of the Sky (Book 1 of The Entire and the Rose)Kay Kenyon: If you want your fantasy with a quirky hero you won’t find him or her in most traditional fantasy novels. This may be because to counter the mythic Evil, one must be mythically Good. We don’t read the traditional story for complexity and ambiguity. Of course, we pick up different reads for different reasons, and sometimes Tolkien, Brooks, and Jordan are perfect. But I’m glad there's room in fantasy (and science fiction) for the cruel, deluded, screwed-up hero. As with watching House (the TV series), we’re not just perversely enjoying people being complete asses—we’re hoping for their redemption, waiting for some small crack of light to peek out so we can believe in humanity again. The traditional fantasy asks us to believe in that goodness from the get-go. But these days, who can?

James Enge: Escapism, and even consolation, shouldn't be slurs in fantasy. A skillful escape is always worth watching, and skill is where art resides: the making of the thing made. Popular art, under its clown mask, has as much claim to that as higher art. It seems to me that what Pyr is after, under Lou’s direction, is genuine genre work ("deep genre" in Judith Berman’s deathless phrase) executed with some literary skill. But maybe I'm prone to think that because it’s always been my target.

Joel Shepherd: Formula is not always a bad thing, some formulas are entertaining when done well. And as is always observed by clever people (or people who think they’re clever) all writing is derivative of something, and all plots fall into a formula of some description. But where I find it impossible to conform to formula is where formula is often about the icing rather than the cake. The cake for me is drama, because that’s what moves all plots, and that’s what I find interesting to create when I’m writing—especially personal drama, where characters are faced with difficult decisions and struggle to decide which way they’re going to turn. What the formulas often attempt to prescribe is exactly what kind of drama is taking place, when it really shouldn’t matter, so long as the drama is dramatic and gripping.

Enge, Kenyon and Shepherd on Bibliobuffet

Here's a nice long interview by writer and editor Gillian Polack, of me, James Enge and Kay Kenyon. Here's Gillian's intro;

My next interview is of three Pyr authors.

Why three authors from the same imprint? In the bookshop, we pick up a book and decide to buy it (or not). So much goes into the making of the books we take off the shelf. The single biggest thing that makes an imprint work is how it’s perceived by readers. We look at that cover or at that name and, if the imprint has been particularly clever, we have a bit of an understanding of the work that we’re likely to find in there. I’ll be exploring more imprints later on, I think, but Pyr is an outstanding one to start the ball rolling. It’s one of a very few publishers I know who have no bad books to their name (if they have one, I haven’t read it). Additionally, it not only has a very clear image of what it does, but it communicates that image to the world. If I were a sensible person, I would be asking the editor and management how they do what they do, but today I’m asking writers. Without the writers, an imprint is just a logo, after all, and it’s the nature of the authors and the selection of the authors that makes everything possible.

Read the whole thing.

11/5/10

James Enge: Making a Virtue of Wierdness

The latest issue of Locus magazine has a long and enthusiastic review of James Enge's The Wolf Age by author and reviewer Tim Pratt. He calls The Wolf Age "inventive and delightful," and says, "Enge's plot is admirably twisty, and he keeps things moving with impressive set pieces, werewolf battles, bizarre magical airships, miraculous feats, and liberal doses of skewed humor. One of his great virtues as a writer is weirdness -- he's not afraid to do the unexpected, and his imagination is formidable. But there's an underlying emotional power here, too. The author excels at depicting the bonds of friendship, the pain of betrayal, and the tragedy of well-laid plans going awry, and that emotional payload is what makes this novel into more than just an  entertaining adventure story about a guy with a magical sword who fights monsters. Enge is one of the most engaging of the new sword and sorcery authors, and I hope we get to follow Morlock's exploits for a long time to come."

11/4/10

French Copies Have Arrived


Sacrebleu! My copies of the French version of Shadow's Son arrived today. Hmmm, the cover art looks familiar...

Thanks to Lou, Eddie, and the fine folks at Bragelonne, for such a beautiful book.

11/3/10

How To Change Your Brain

Not a late Halloween/Frankenstein themed post.

Nearly twenty years ago now I spent some time with the acclaimed Vietnam war photographer Tim Page. He told me how an exploding shell sent a piece of shrapnel through his head and tore out about a third of his brain. Afterwards, he couldn't walk, talk, write, and had to re-learn all his functions. But re-learn he did, over time, and the neural mechanism for each activity shifted to a new part of the brain, a recognised effect. When I met him, you couldn't tell he'd been so devastatingly injured.

That discussion was part of an ongoing fascination I've had with consciousness studies. It's a science that's been through one or two revolutions over the years. For instance, one of those things that everyone knows is that brain cells can't be regenerated. That's based on a piece of 1928 research which was completely turned on its head seventy years later.

Thus, this:

"As Sharon Begley remarked in her book, Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain, "The discovery overturned generations of conventional wisdom in neuroscience. The human brain is not limited to the neurons it is born with, or even the neurons that fill in after the explosion of brain development in early childhood." What the researchers discovered was that within each of our brains there exists a population of neural stem cells which are continually replenished and can differentiate into brain neurons. Simply stated, we are all experiencing brain stem cell therapy every moment of our lives."

The book by Newsweek science writer Begley looks interesting: "Contrary to popular belief, we have the power to literally change our brains by changing our minds. Recent pioneering experiments in neuroplasticity–the ability of the brain to change in response to experience–reveal that the brain is capable of altering its structure and function, and even of generating new neurons, a power we retain well into old age. The brain can adapt, heal, renew itself after trauma, compensate for disabilities, rewire itself to overcome dyslexia, and break cycles of depression and OCD. And as scientists are learning from studies performed on Buddhist monks, it is not only the outside world that can change the brain, so can the mind and, in particular, focused attention through the classic Buddhist practice of mindfulness."

Reviews Roundup, or Reasons to Deplete Your Wallet

The Greyfriar is pulp adventure at its best. Think Zorro with vampires. Add to the mix the conflicting but equally Byzantine politics of multiple human and vampire nations, and a crew of mysterious mystics. Season with appealing protagonists, a full measure of steam-driven gears and rocket-powered pacing, and you’ve got the recipe for my favorite kind of mind candy… a story crafted to keep you compulsively turning pages until the wee hours. But like all satisfying adventures, The Greyfriar addresses bigger issues… This is a tale of imperialism, 'manifest destiny', global conflict and power plays seen from both vampire and human eyes.” -Buzzy Multimedia: Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books, November 3, 2010

Twelve is an intelligent, lucid and exciting novel—feel free to put that on the back cover—and is satisfying as a stand-alone story while holding promise for further adventure.” ​-Tor.com, November 1, 2010

“Enge writes enjoyable adventures. With The Wolf Age, he has taken a step up. One cares about the characters, and we see as much of the werewolves as we do of Morlock…Recommended.” -Kobold Quarterly, Issue 15, 2010

“[The Cardinal’s Blades] is a promising start to a series... There’s plenty of enjoyable material, the narrative moves at a quick pace…Throw in the swordfights, the double- and triple-crosses, and above all, the looming presence of Cardinal Richelieu, and the end result is a more than acceptable piece of light reading…” -Bull Spec, Issue 3, 2010

“Grimly characterized, and highly imaginative, if somewhat self-indulgent, Tome of the Undergates is an intriguing, original take on the classic fantasy band-of-adventurers tale. Sykes takes gleeful aim at the tired tropes of fantasy and turns them on their head, warping them to suit his sense of humour and dark mind… I have no problem seeing Sykes becoming and enduring and successful voice in fantasy.”​-Civilian Reader blog, November 1, 2010

The Dervish House is simultaneously a love letter to a city that just might be someday, and a paean to things ancient and honorable. Never heavy-handed, always light on its feet as it skips from narrative to narrative and voice to voice, it manages to weave in impressive amounts of exposition and a double handful of major characters without slowing down or moralizing. Its characters remain distinct, their ultimate fates certain and true, and the book itself is a marvelous, enthralling read.”​-Bull Spec, Issue 3, October 2010

“[Empire in Black and Gold] ought not to work. The book should fall of its own weight. But somehow, everything comes together in one great big comfortable mess and captures the reader. The real key, I think, is that the characters are so vividly drawn that the reader falls in love with them.”​-Reading the Leaves blog, October 26, 2010

“If anything I'd call The Horns of Ruin Swords & Science. Fans of hack and slash Fantasy just may have found the steampunky read they've been looking for. The Horns of Ruin is an energetic rollercoaster ride in a well-accentuated world that needs to be further explored. I give The Horns of Ruin 7.5 out 10 hats.” ​-The Mad Hatter’s Bookshelf and Book Review, October 26, 2010

“LOTR fans take note! James Barclay's newest addition [Elfsorrow]…has all you could possibly want in a tantalizing epic adventure…Mr. Barclay's characterization is above the norm, with countless different peoples and races, heroes and bad guys that will all remain in the reader's mind for a long time after. And his creative, technical magic is part fantasy, part Sci-Fi mix, bringing his world-rules to vivid life. If you're looking for a unique, hard action, deeply plotted Sci-Fi/Fantasy epic then you owe it to yourself to read the first in this new series. You will cheer right along with the Raven heroes, find yourself caught up in the battles, and not want to put the book down until you're finished!” ​-Night Owl Reviews, October 28, 2010

“Mike Resnick has written a highly entertaining Steampunk Western… I loved how characters that we know were placed in an alternate version of the American West and how the author incorporated paranormal elements into the story giving it additional depth and some humor…The author did a fantastic job with character development and did a good job of keeping a large number of characters involved, moving the plot at a brisk pace, and at the same time giving depth to the different threads in the storyline. The dialogue is witty and sharp and the sections dealing with "Doc" and "Johnny Ringo"…were simply inspired. The end of the story is well done and very interesting. I look forward to reading more of Mr. Resnick's work. For a tale of the Wild West like you've never seen before, give The Buntline Special a ride. 5.00 / 5 - Reviewer Top Pick.” ​-Night Owl Reviews, December 1, 2010

"Lloyd's Twilight Reign contains all the things we feel are lacking in the Wheel of Time. Danger. Death. Consequences. This series even touches on some similar themes--the long dead king that was living in Isak's head for example. Sound familiar? Only the handling of it in Lloyd's series is so much better, and the purposes behind it feel much more immediate. Where the WoT gets bloated, repetitive and passive, The Twilight Reign is focused, dark, aggressive and active. THE RAGGED MAN really hammered home this sense of fulfilled literary promises that have been withheld by WoT and many other stagnant, epic fantasy series. Another comparison? OK. A few years ago we were at a convention where Lloyd was said to be in a similar vein as Steven Erikson. This is 100% accurate. That's all you need to know."