Saturday, April 29, 2017

Guest Blog by Titus Chalk - A World of Graphic Novels


Please welcome Titus Chalk to The Qwillery. Generation Decks: The Unofficial History of Magic: The Gathering was published by Solaris on April 11th.






A World of Graphic Novels

Author Titus Chalk picks five of his favourite graphic novels with a twist – none of them originated in English, but all of them are now available in translation for readers who enjoy something out of the ordinary.


My new book Generation Decks: The Unofficial History of Magic: The Gathering is not only about a fantasy card game, but also a memoir of my peripatetic life. In fact, I learned to play Magic in rural New Zealand as an awkward teenager, desperate to make friends after a move from England. I’m currently living in my fourth or fifth different country (depending on how you count Scotland!) and along the way, I’ve learned different languages and had my horizons widened by all manner of cultural clutter. I’ve especially come to appreciate graphic novels from international creators – a healthy antidote to Marvel’s sprawling omnipresence. Nothing against American comics or graphic novels – I read them too – but I was raised on Britain’s 2000AD, as well as Tintin and Asterix. I’m sure those early influences helped make my taste in graphic story-telling as cosmopolitan as it is, and for that I’m grateful. So without further ado, I thought I would recommend five graphic novels that all originated in a non-English language – but which are available in translation. This list is completely biased and in no way definitive!



First Man: Reimagining Matthew Henson by Stefan Schwarz
The first German graphic novel I read and still amongst my favourites. First Man (or Packeis in German) is a fictionalised account of Matthew Henson’s ground-breaking journey to the geographic North Pole in1909. Henson was an African-American and became the first person to reach what was considered the Pole at the time. Schwarz spins a stunning yarn around Henson – and portrays both his friendship with the Inuits involved in the race to the Pole, as well as his shunning by the American scientific establishment because of his race. The volume is illustrated in a frosty black and blue palette and tugs at the heartstrings in the best way. It also includes an historical appendix so anyone curious about the real Henson can read up on him – and decide for themselves where the story-teller has used his artistic license. Wherever you stand on that issue though, there’s no denying Schwarz is an expert creator and perhaps Germany’s best in the medium.



A Distant Neighbourhood by Jiro Taniguchi
The world lost a gifted story-teller in February, when Jiro Taniguhi died at the age of just 69. Still, he did at least leave us with a vast treasure trove of work, including this masterpiece. In it, a Japanese salaryman takes an unexpected journey back to his home town, where he is transported back in time and into the body of his 14-year-old self. As you might expect, it’s a chance for Taniguchi to mine the nostalgia we all have for childhood. To ponder how the choices we made went on to affect our lives. To paint friendships and family ties, relationships we may have left behind, for better or worse. A Distant Neighbourhood is exquisitely melancholy and captures that seemingly omnipresent tension in Japanese culture between the quotidian and the spiritual. Taniguchi’s artwork is beautiful, too, capturing mid-century Japan in clean, uncluttered detail.



Blast by Manu Larcenent
An epic and surreal four-parter from France, about a grotesque outcast called Polza Mancini. Interviewed by police about an attempted murder Mancini tells his side of the story – an account that takes in his broken home, his fleeing ordinary life to live like a vagrant and the his discovery of a strange power he calls his “blast”. It’s a trip, an epiphany, an addictive spiritual high, and Mancini dedicates his life to triggering it, in the hope he might escape the body he despises and which is regularly brutalised by other miscreants he encounters. It’s a dark and despairing tale – one brilliantly rendered by Larcenent in brooding black and white, a palette which gives way to delirious, childish Technicolour whenever Mancini blasts. Inventive and poetic.



Blacksad by Juan Díaz Canales and Juanjo Guardnido
A hugely popular series of anthropomorphic noir tales by a brilliant Spanish double act. Blacksad is the archetypal private Dick, expect here he’s a black Tom cat in a world of reptilian gangsters, canine cops and, well, molls of all species. The writing wanes in the latest instalments but the first few volumes are packed with wit and the hard-bitten first person narrative we all want out of a good PI. The art is fantastic, packed with period detail and the light-hearted characterisation that casting animals in your work tends to allow. Definitely amongst the best European comic work of the 21st century.



Aya: Life in Yop City by Marguerite Abouet and Clément Oubrerie
A riotous account of life in 1970s Ivory Coast, as told by 19-year-old Aya – part of a sprawling family in the Yop City neighbourhood of the capital Abidjan. Aya is going through all the trials and tribulations of adolescence, well-known to readers wherever they may come from. She’s desperate to avoid the well-trodden path being beaten by her girlfriends – towards some knight in shining armour and a marriage her parents will approve of. She’s a natural rebel and quickly finds herself in all manner of scrapes. It’s impossible not to root for her, as she blazes a trail through Oubrerie’s sun-kissed panels, all scorched oranges and browns, or petrol blues when the characters find respite from the sun. Aya is over-flowing with charm and an essential addition to your bookshelf, if you too like your graphic novels packed with stories from around the world.





Generation Decks: The Unofficial History of Magic: The Gathering
Solaris, April 11, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 356 pages

The incredible true story behind the global gaming phenomenon!

Generation Decks tells the story of the mould-breaking fantasy card game Magic: The Gathering.

The brainchild of misfit maths genius Richard Garfield, Magic combines fiendishly complex gameplay with collectability. When it came out in the early '90s it transformed the lives of gamers who had longed for a game that combined challenging mechanics and kick-ass artwork with a chance to connect and compete with likeminded people.

Titus Chalk's tale is part biography, charting the author's own relationship with the game, part history, and part love letter to the card game that made it cool to be a geek.





About Titus

Titus Chalk is a freelance journalist based in Berlin, Germany. He writes and broadcasts about sport, culture, and games for outlets including Deutsche Welle, Tagesspiegel, and FourFourTwo. He has been playing Magic since Revised Edition and even occasionally wins. He is on the wrong side of 30, but coping, thank you.




Twitter @tituschalk


Image Comics Announces Slew of Creators Attending 25th Anniversary RCCC Homecoming Dance



IMAGE COMICS ANNOUNCES SLEW OF
CREATORS ATTENDING 25TH ANNIVERSARY
RCCC HOMECOMING DANCE

Fan-favorite Image Comics creators Chip Zdarsky (SEX CRIMINALS, KAPTARA), Babs Tarr (MOTOR CRUSH), Matt Fraction (SEX CRIMINALS, ODY-C), and Kelly Sue DeConnick (BITCH PLANET, PRETTY DEADLY) have all RSVP’d to participate in the Image Comics’ Fall Homecoming dance! Don’t miss your chance to rub elbows with your favorite comics creators and celebrate Image Comics’ 25th anniversary with dancing, refreshments, and a photobooth.

Back by popular demand, Image Comics is pleased to host a very special formal Fall Homecoming dance for the comics community during the Rose City Comic Con festivities. The dance will be held on Saturday, September 9th from 8:30 p.m. - 12:30 a.m. at The Evergreen. This event will be 21+ only. IDs will be checked at the door.

Tickets to the Image Comics Fall Homecoming Dance are on sale now.

Image Comics’ Fall Homecoming will be in the style and spirit of a traditional high school dance and all comics fans and industry members are encouraged to come mix, mingle, and dance the night away.

Image Comics Fall Homecoming ticket tiers:
  • $20: Entry ticket
  • $45: Add-on pack, including an Image t-shirt, variant cover comic, commemorative pint glass, and enamel pin
  • $79: VIP pack—ticket to the party, add-on pack items, and access to special VIP area at the venue (limited quantity, only 100 VIP tickets available)
Check back at imagecomics.com for more details to come about the Image Comics Fall Homecoming Dance, we hope to see you there!




ABOUT IMAGE COMICS
Image Comics is a comic book and graphic novel publisher founded in 1992 by a collective of best-selling artists. Image has since gone on to become one of the largest comics publishers in the United States. Image currently has five partners: Robert Kirkman, Erik Larsen, Todd McFarlane, Marc Silvestri and Jim Valentino. It consists of five major houses: Todd McFarlane Productions, Top Cow Productions, Shadowline, Skybound and Image Central. Image publishes comics and graphic novels in nearly every genre, sub-genre, and style imaginable. It offers science fiction, fantasy, romance, horror, crime fiction, historical fiction, humor and more by the finest artists and writers working in the medium today. For more information, visit www.imagecomics.com.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Winners of the 2017 Edgar Allan Poe Awards



The Mystery Writers of America have announced the Winners of the 2017 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, honoring the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction and television published or produced in 2016. The Edgar® Awards were presented to the winners at the MWA 71st Gala Banquet, April 27, 2017 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, New York City.

BEST NOVEL

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley (Hachette Book Group – Grand Central Publishing)



BEST FIRST NOVEL BY AN AMERICAN AUTHOR

Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry (Penguin Random House – Penguin Books)



BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL

Rain Dogs by Adrian McKinty (Prometheus Books – Seventh Street Books)



BEST FACT CRIME

The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer by Kate Summerscale (Penguin Random House – Penguin Press)



BEST CRITICAL/BIOGRAPHICAL

Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin (W.W. Norton - Liveright)



BEST SHORT STORY

"Autumn at the Automat" by Lawrence Block from In Sunlight or in Shadow: Stories Inspired by the Paintings of Edward Hopper (Pegasus Books)



BEST JUVENILE

OCDaniel by Wesley King (Simon & Schuster – Paula Wiseman Books)



BEST YOUNG ADULT

Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse (Hachette Book Group – Little, Brown BFYR)



BEST TELEVISION EPISODE TELEPLAY

"A Blade of Grass"Penny Dreadful, Teleplay by John Logan (Showtime)



ROBERT L. FISH MEMORIAL AWARD

"The Truth of the Moment" Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by E. Gabriel Flores (Dell Magazines)


GRAND MASTER

Max Allan Collins
Ellen Hart


RAVEN AWARD

Dru Ann Love


ELLERY QUEEN AWARD

Neil Nyren




THE SIMON & SCHUSTER - MARY HIGGINS CLARK AWARD

The Shattered Tree by Charles Todd (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)



The EDGAR (and logo) are Registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office by the Mystery Writers of America, Inc.

Interview with Ruthanna Emrys, author of Winter Tide


Please welcome Ruthanna Emrys to The Qwillery as part of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Winter Tide was published on April 4th by Tor.com.







TQWelcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Ruthanna:  Clearly there must have been a point in my life when I didn’t write. I can remember learning to read, and it follows logically that I wasn’t writing then. But I have trouble getting my mind around it.

I “stopped writing” for a couple of years in college, intimidated by unconstructive feedback from a professor. During that period I wrote constantly—journal entries, essays, vignettes about role-playing characters. Eventually I started telling a friend (whom I would for good and sensible reasons eventually marry) about the original stories in my head, and she convinced me that they were worth sharing. So that got me writing long-form fiction again. And funnily enough, all that “not writing” practice on other forms improved my work.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Ruthanna:  I think of myself as a pantser, but I’m probably a hybrid. I start writing as soon as I have a story idea with some inertia to it. At that point my “outline” is a basic concept and a list of cool things that I want to include. After I’ve gotten a little way in, I usually know what’s going to happen 3-4 scenes ahead. Eventually the outline includes an idea or two for how the book will end, but the climax usually says “and then they do something clever” up until I actually write it.

When I finished Winter Tide, I was totally ready to work on the sequel, but kept getting caught up in edits. I discovered that my mind will go right along filling in new scenes even if I don’t get a chance to write them down, and by the time I started typing Deep Roots I had about the first third outlined. That was less fun, because then I had to turn everything into full scenes when my brain had run ahead. (Hm. Just occurred to me that the editorial feedback to seriously trim the first third of the book may not be a coincidence.)



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Ruthanna:  I wrestle with plot, and I’m going for two falls out of three… My brain will wake me in the middle of the night with character and mood and chewy worldbuilding, but shaping everything into a coherent story is something I have to focus on consciously. Fortunately my beta readers and editor and agent are all good at pointing out when I need to make things more story-shaped. But I still—I am one of several authors who are obsessed with Elise Matthesen’s jewelry (this is relevant, I promise). She’s a professional muse who makes these amazing titled necklaces and earrings, and people make stories out of them—“Litany of Earth,” the prequel to Winter Tide, is from a pendant named “Going Between.” It’s a piece with intricate wirework binding an octopus charm to a gorgeous speckled blue stone. But many authors use her beaded necklaces to map out the shape of a story, each bead connecting to a specific emotional beat or plot point. I haven’t yet figured out how to do that, or how to see the connection properly. That sort of very concrete, kinesthetic sense of story-shape—that’s the challenge I’m working on now.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Ruthanna:  In addition to my wife’s role in getting me to write fiction at all, I blame her for making it much better. My natural tendency is to wander around with my nose in a book, bumping into things. She will literally, in the middle of walking some place urgent, stop and smell the roses. And then she’ll say, “Oh my god, you have to smell these roses, they’re amazing.” So she taught me to pay attention to the sensory detail of the world around me, and the way people stand and move, and the way I stand and move myself, and that awareness made (and makes) my writing much more grounded.



TQDescribe Winter Tide in 140 characters or less.

At the start of the Cold War, the last survivors from a town of monsters work to rebuild their community and try to hold off World War III.



TQTell us something about Winter Tide that is not found in the book description.

RuthannaWinter Tide is in many ways a book about relationship-building—all the kinds of relationships that go into a working community. There are romances—queer and het, and with varying levels of ease and conflict—but there are also friendships, and mentor/student connections, and family of blood and of choice. Aphra herself is asexual, and when we see through her eyes the focus is on rich friendships, and on the love and the iron sense of duty she feels toward her birth and adoptive families.

The central relationship in the story is Aphra’s “confluence” – the Deep One term for people who practice magic together and in the process develop a constant visceral awareness of each other’s bodies and sensations. (The term ‘confluence’ comes from the idea that their bloodstreams flow together, like rivers.) That intimate and vulnerable connection makes the whole process of study, which might otherwise feel somewhat coldly academic, more personal and more fraught for everyone involved.



TQWhat inspired you to write Winter Tide? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy?

Ruthanna:  I came to Lovecraft’s work sideways, through role-playing games and plush toys and jokes about things man was not meant to know. After a while I decided to explore the original, and my wife started reading me a Best Of collection while I made dinner. I knew the very basics of “Shadow Over Innsmouth,” but even having spent the whole collection mocking his racism, I was shocked when it started with the whole town getting rounded up and sent to concentration camps. This was supposed to be a good thing! I couldn’t get it out of my head. Eventually I had to write the story that seemed obvious from that beginning.

“The Litany of Earth” attracted a lot of attention, and people started asking for more. As it happens, I find people asking to read my stuff very inspiring! So I started thinking about what else I might have to say in that setting, with those characters. Winter Tide was supposed to be “the next Aphra novelette,” but around 5000 words in I realized I was far from halfway through, and that in fact I probably had a novel on my hands.

Lovecraft’s horror can actually be more like steampunk than pure fantasy, because in many cases he was riffing on the best science of his day. A century later we’re pretty sure that islands aren’t formed that way and minds can’t be conveniently switched between bodies, but they’re still fun ideas to play with. I made Aphra’s world more overtly magical to account for this “science marches on” problem—and then suggested that maybe what she calls magic is just early glimmers of a physics that more advanced species treat scientifically.



TQWinter Tide is based in Lovecraft's Mythos. What do you think is the ongoing appeal of the Mythos? Do you have a favorite Lovecraft story or story that uses the Mythos?

Ruthanna:  For me, the appeal of the Mythos is in its sheer scope. It’s abundant in strangeness: life and mind sprouting fungus-like from every crack in reality. Knowledge, books, and exploration have power—sometimes terrifying power, but the sort of resonance that we all believe, instinctively, that they ought to have. Human life and civilization may be trivial by comparison, but what a comparison!

My favorite of Lovecraft’s original stories is “The Shadow Out of Time,” in which one Professor Peaslee tries to put his life back together after an inexplicable five-year fugue episode. He’s horrified (because this is Lovecraft) to discover that he spent those five years in mental exchange with an alien time traveler. His own mind was back in the Jurassic, in the Archives of the Great Race, learning the whole history of the solar system and talking with humans and aliens from every era. Like I said, scope.

My favorite Mythosian yarn of all time is either Neil Gaiman’s “A Study in Emerald” or Seanan McGuire’s “Down, Deep Down, Below the Waves.” “Emerald” is a comfort read, the perfect mesh of Holmesian rationality and madness-inducing elder gods. “Deep Down” is a sympathetic yet still disturbing story of the lengths to which Deep Ones will go to help their relatives transition into their fully aquatic forms.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for Winter Tide?

Ruthanna:  The Japanese American internment camps and post-war culture were fascinating to read about. I visited San Francisco’s Nihonmachi, though it’s moved since Aphra’s day. (Forcibly moved, in fact, only a few years after the war, and that will come up later in the series.) I asked the historical society docent for help with the Kotos’ meals, and told her I was writing a novel, and didn’t mention the aquatic humanoids.

I did a lot of little bits of research to try and get the time period right. Vocabulary—no “extraterrestrial,” no “alien” as a noun, no “brainwashing,” no “nuclear war.” The language and assumptions of the Cold War were still in their formative stages, very different from the late Cold War during which I grew up. Oh, and everyone smoked. Yes, even in the library, a friend who’d worked at Harvard assured me. Even in the rare book room. The past is another, smellier country.



TQPlease tell us about Winter Tide's cover.

Ruthanna:  When I saw that I had a John Jude Palencar cover, I ran around for days shouting, “I’m sharing a cover artist with Octavia Butler!” And an artist who’s worked on both Butler and Lovecraft really was the perfect choice. If it isn’t too hubristic to say so, Winter Tide uses Lovecraftian tools to explore Butlerian themes.

The cover itself is as much mood as depiction of any specific scene—though Aphra certainly does spend time kneeling on the beach drawing magical diagrams. I like how the diagram itself is intriguingly geometric, rather than ornately Victorian, which is appropriate given the degree to which magic and geometry are tied together in Lovecraft’s work. And that sets the tone for the whole design of the book—even the cover fonts are a little non-Euclidean.



TQIn Winter Tide who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Ruthanna:  Catherine Trumbull, secretly an aeons-old eldritch entity from beyond time, was the easiest. I’m normally an extremely snarky person, and Aphra is about as far from first-person snark as you can get and still have an engaging narrative voice. She’s so sincere and thoughtful, and she takes life very seriously. So having someone along who could be sarcastic about everything they’re going through, that was an important relief valve for me! She was also helpful because she’s a time traveler, so every time I wanted a reference or a vocabulary word that wasn’t appropriate to 1949, I simply gave it to her. (There’s one point where she starts to describe something to do with DNA, stops to count on her fingers, and then just tells everyone that they’ll understand in a couple of years.)

Hardest to write was… Oh, I don’t know. I like all my characters and would happily write from any of their perspectives. (Happily enough that the next book includes flashbacks and “flashsides” from nearly all of them.) But probably Deedee Dawson, who absolutely hates letting anyone see what she’s really thinking. The worse a character’s poker face, the easier they are to write.



TQ:  Why have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in Winter Tide?

Ruthanna:  Given that it’s a story about internment camp survivors trying to reclaim their culture and overcome prejudice, social issues would have been hard to avoid! It wasn’t something I stopped to “choose.” My obsessions show up in my writing. It happens that I’m obsessed with deep time, morally ambiguous aliens, minority community survival, cooking, cross-cultural relationships, and reproductive ethics. You know, the usual things.

I hadn’t intended to write something “timely.” (“It was meant to be a warning,” I groan into my splayed hands.) But I’ve been very glad, these past few months, to be writing something that engages so closely with these questions.



TQWhich question about Winter Tide do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Ruthanna:  Where did the Hall School come from?

In Lovecraft’s stories, Miskatonic is implied to be an extra Ivy League University—all male, as was normal at the time he was writing. But the real Ivies had sister schools. My mom, for instance, went to Pembroke, which eventually folded into Brown when they became coed. But though Lovecraft wrote more female characters than he’s sometimes given credit for, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that he always remembered women existed. So Miskatonic students and professors spend a lot of time on intensive discussions of multi-dimensional mathematics and expeditions to darkest Antarctica, and not a lot of time going down the road to dances.

The “Hall School” in Kingsport gets mentioned once, in a throwaway line, as someone’s alma mater. It’s ambiguous whether they’re a prep school or a college, so I waved my poetic license and turned them into the missing sister. I also made their apparent obscurity a reflection of their treatment by the Miskatonic community: the boys’ school grabs the first-edition Necronomicons and the grant money for trips to ruined alien cities, and Hall gets stuck with whatever’s left over. On the other hand they’re much more willing to share their library holdings with non-traditional visiting researchers like Aphra. And they have a fierce pride in their ability to learn (or at least seek) cosmic secrets with little support.



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Winter Tide.

Ruthanna:  I always enjoy the way Aphra sees religion: a face/vase inverted image from how worship of the Mythos gods is usually treated in cosmic horror. Here, she and her brother visit the Miskatonic University chapel, seeking one particular shrine that isn’t quite like the others:

We slipped in. I kept a wary eye out for priests who might waylay visitors, but the interior was still, lit only by flickering gas lamps. Columns like great petrified trees lined the center aisle, branches entwined in the shadows. Above the altar hung a grotesque statue of their god, bleeding. Caleb stared at it a long moment, expression unreadable.

At the outskirts of the room, we found the shrines: alcoves filled with saints and mythic images. Some appeared to be perishing in worrisomely imaginative ways, but others laid gentle hands on sick supplicants, or stood alone against soldiers and monsters. Winged figures hovered over all, bearing silent witness.

As promised, one shrine was more discreet. A stone altar stood empty except for a single candle. If I let my eyes unfocus, the half-abstract carvings resolved into great tentacles reaching from the altar to enfold the little grotto. The artist, I realized, had placed those who knelt here within the god’s embrace, while making the god invisible to any who did not know to look.

I settled before the altar. I wanted to compose myself, as I might before ritual. But Caleb hovered at the edge of the space, a lightning jag of impatience at the edge of my attention.

“Aphra, if you came here to beg favors of the void, I don’t want to watch.”


TQWhat's next?

Ruthanna:  I’m currently doing edits on Deep Roots, the second book in the Innsmouth Legacy series. Aphra and company go to New York to track down distant relatives. My family is from New York, but moved to rural Massachusetts before I was born—I love both places, and can see easily why someone from one would be alarmed by the other. So this was a chance to explore a time and place and a tension that’s part of my own history. New York was for Lovecraft a place of horror: an overwhelming miasma of people who were terrifyingly not like him. Aphra isn’t that kind of bigot, but at the same time she grew up in a town where everyone was just like her, and is now coming to terms with the fact that she’ll never have that again. Deep Roots lays with that conflict between the comfort of being surrounded by like-minded people who understand you, and the diversity and energy and abundance of a big city.

And of course, it has aliens, because everything’s better with aliens. This time out it’s the Mi-Go, another of Lovecraft’s terrific creations. They’re well-known for pulling people’s brains out of their bodies and carting them around the universe in canisters, which is still creepy after a hundred years. Lovecraft also described them as cosmopolitan, a term he clearly intended to be derogatory. They seemed like the sort of people who would show up in New York, and cause trouble. Aphra finds one of her distant relatives staying with them, and discovers that they have much too strong opinions about human politics



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Ruthanna:  Thank you for including me!





Winter Tide
The Innsmouth Legacy 1
Tor.com, April 4, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 368 pages

"Winter Tide is a weird, lyrical mystery — truly strange and compellingly grim. It's an innovative gem that turns Lovecraft on his head with cleverness and heart" —Cherie Priest

After attacking Devil’s Reef in 1928, the U.S. government rounded up the people of Innsmouth and took them to the desert, far from their ocean, their Deep One ancestors, and their sleeping god Cthulhu. Only Aphra and Caleb Marsh survived the camps, and they emerged without a past or a future.

The government that stole Aphra's life now needs her help. FBI agent Ron Spector believes that Communist spies have stolen dangerous magical secrets from Miskatonic University, secrets that could turn the Cold War hot in an instant, and hasten the end of the human race.

Aphra must return to the ruins of her home, gather scraps of her stolen history, and assemble a new family to face the darkness of human nature.

Winter Tide is the debut novel from Ruthanna Emrys, author of the Aphra Marsh story, "The Litany of Earth"--included here as a bonus.





About Ruthanna

Photo by Jamie Anfenson-Comeau
Ruthanna Emrys lives in a mysterious manor house in the outskirts of Washington DC with her wife and their large, strange family. She makes home-made vanilla, obsesses about game design, gives unsolicited advice, occasionally attempts to save the world, and blogs sporadically about these things at her Livejournal. She is the author of The Litany of Earth. Her stories have appeared in a number of venues, including Strange Horizons and Analog.







Website  ~  Blog  ~  Twitter @R_Emrys







The Litany of Earth
Tor Books, May 14, 2014
eBook, 32 pages

The state took Aphra away from Innsmouth. They took her history, her home, her family, her god. They tried to take the sea. Now, years later, when she is just beginning to rebuild a life, an agent of that government intrudes on her life again, with an offer she wishes she could refuse. "The Litany of Earth" is a dark fantasy story inspired by the Lovecraft mythos.

SPFBO 2016 - Our Top 3 Finalists


Here are our thoughts our top 3 Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off 2016 finalists (excluding the novel that we chose as a finalist).


The Grey Bastards 
Author:  Jonathan French
Publisher: Self-Published, October 2015
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 386 pages
ISBN:  9780988284555 (print); 9780988284562 (eBook)

LIVE IN THE SADDLE. DIE ON THE HOG.

Such is the creed of the half-orcs dwelling in the Lot Lands. Sworn to hardened brotherhoods known as hoofs, these former slaves patrol their unforgiving country astride massive swine bred for war. They are all that stand between the decadent heart of noble Hispartha and marauding bands of full-blood orcs.

Jackal rides with the Grey Bastards, one of eight hoofs that have survived the harsh embrace of the Lots. Young, cunning and ambitious, he schemes to unseat the increasingly tyrannical founder of the Bastards, a plague-ridden warlord called the Claymaster. Supporting Jackal’s dangerous bid for leadership are Oats, a hulking mongrel with more orc than human blood, and Fetching, the only female rider in all the hoofs.

When the troubling appearance of a foreign sorcerer comes upon the heels of a faceless betrayal, Jackal’s plans are thrown into turmoil. He finds himself saddled with a captive elf girl whose very presence begins to unravel his alliances. With the anarchic blood rite of the Betrayer Moon close at hand, Jackal must decide where his loyalties truly lie, and carve out his place in a world that rewards only the vicious.


Melanie's Review

If you take the orcs, the elves and the dwarves from Middle Earth, mix in some rampaging centaurs with a big helping of not very nice humans, quite a bit of swearing and a multi-layered plot then you have The Grey Bastards. Set in the bleak landscape of ‘the Lotlands’ The Grey Bastards, an elite group of half orc militia. protect their community from almost everyone else. The hero of this tale is not a tall dark and handsome knight on a white charger but rather, a greyish green half orc named Jackal who thunders onto the battle field on enormous multi-tusked hog. That doesn’t make him any less heroic. When Jackal discovers that elvin women are being held captive by a sludge monster, that the leader of Bastards might be involved and there are more and more incursions of full blooded orcs killing his friends and community then Jackal decides to take a stand….and one he might not survive.

I tentatively started The Grey Bastards as I wasn’t completely sure I would like it. I am not normally a fan of this type of fantasy so when I found myself staring at the cover I decided to give it a go. I loved it. This isn’t a book if you are sensitive to blood, guts and swearing so be warned but the plot is soo engaging. Despite Jackal’s penchant for prostitutes, overuse of certain misogynistic words used by some presidents and the fact he had tusks, he was very much the traditional hero – tall, handsome, fights the good fight and protects the innocent.

French has crafted an ambitious but intricate plot. I never knew what was going to happen next or whether Jackal would live to tell the tale. This is a sign of a good book in my view. I could very easily recommend this as one of the best books of SPFBO 2016 and potentially one of my favourite books of this year.





Paternus
Author:  Dyrk Ashton
Publisher: Self-Published, March 2016 (print); May 2016 (eBook)
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 478 pages
ISBN:  9780997173703 (print)
ASIN: B01CXPD8T4 (eBook)

Gods, monsters, angels, devils. Call them what you like. They exist. The epic battles between titans, giants, and gods, heaven and hell, the forces of light and darkness. They happened. And the war isn't over.

17 year old Fi Patterson lives with her stuffy English uncle and has an internship at a local hospital for the aged. She doesn't know what she wants to do with her life, misses her dead mother, wonders about the father she never knew. One bright spot is caring for Peter, a dementia-ridden old man whose faraway smile can make her whole day. And there's her conflicted attraction to Zeke -- awkward, brilliant, talented -- who plays guitar for the old folks. Then a group of very strange and frightening men show up for a "visit"...

Fi and Zeke's worlds are shattered as their typical everyday concerns are suddenly replaced by the immediate need to stay alive -- and they try to come to grips with the unimaginable reality of the Firstborn.

"Keep an open mind. And forget everything you know..."


Tracey's Review

Paternus delves deeply into myth, folklore, and fairytales, and the result is a harrowing, edge of your seat adventure. Firstborn Kleron, also known as Lucifer, has plans to eradicate those of his kin whose allegiance lie with their Father, Pater. Kleron has assembled an army of mythological badasses that possess wicked powers of destruction and enjoy using them. Eighteen year old Fiona and her almost boyfriend Zeke become inextricably entangled in this bloodbath. While working at St. Augustine's hospital, she becomes attached to a patient suffering from severe dementia. As Kleron and his assassins begin to take out their adversaries, Zeke and Fiona are trapped in the middle of a violent assault with Fiona's elderly friend Peter, the intended target.

The idea of familiar (and some not so familiar) figures from mythology and folklore springing to life is very appealing. All the events are basically happening simultaneously and I was fascinated with the many different locations and subsequent deities associated with them. Each chapter gives enough backstory to familiarize the reader with figures that they might not recognize, or explains twists to very familiar legends, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Although there is a great deal of hopping from place to place, author Dyrk Ashton's skillfully keeps events clear, concise, and extremely exciting.

I did, however, find it hard to establish a connection to Fiona and Zeke. I realize Fiona is discovering enormous chunks of information about herself and doesn't stand much of a chance to shine because of the larger than life nature of her cohorts. I like Zeke a little better; in addition to his special ability, his wide knowledge of obscure legends makes him unique. Unfortunately, his humanness often left me feeling he was superfluous and inadequate. I found their characterizations to be mediocre but I suspect they will be given a chance to bloom in further installments.

This is definitely an action driven story, full of magic and arcane weapons, and at times is pretty violent. Although its many characters are introduced helter-skelter throughout the story, they each play an integral part, and I believe Ashton does a magnificent job weaving each piece together seamlessly. Also fascinating is Ashton's idea of traveling through different dimensions by "slipping" from one place to the next, and the well-explained laws that make it possible and extremely dangerous.

I am a fan of the mythology behind the many beings that populate the story and I loved learning the histories of their creation as well as the reason Kleron's faction have embarked on their bloody quest. Fast-paced, well-written, and enjoyable, Paternus is a distinctly different, adrenaline fueled fantasy that will keep readers flipping pages well into the wee hours.





Fionn: Defence of Ráth Bládhma
Author:  Brian O'Sullivan
Series:   The Fionn mac Cumhaill Series 1
Publisher: Self-Published, February 2014
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 284 pages
ISBN: 9780992254575 (print); 9780994106261 (eBook)

The Fionn mac Cumhaill Series - Book 1: Defence of Ráth Bládhma:

Ireland: 192 A.D. A time of strife and treachery. Political ambition and inter-tribal conflict has set the country on edge, testing the strength of long-established alliances.

Following the massacre of their enemies at the battle of Cnucha, Clann Morna are hungry for power. Elsewhere, a mysterious war party roams the forests of the ‘Great Wild’ and a ruthless magician is intent on murder.

In the secluded valley of Glenn Ceoch, disgraced druid Bodhmhall and her lover, the woman warrior Liath Luachra, have successfully avoided the bloodshed for many years. Now, the arrival of a pregnant refugee threatens the peace they have created together. Run or fight, the odds are overwhelming.

And death stalks on every side.

Based on the ancient Fenian Cycle texts, the Fionn mac Cumhaill Series by Irish author Brian O’Sullivan is a gritty and authentic retelling of the birth and early adventures of Ireland’s greatest hero, Fionn mac Cumhaill. Tender, gripping, and utterly action-packed, this is Irish/Celtic fiction as you’ve never read it before.

Finalist for the 2016 SPFBO Competition.


Melanie's Review

When I started the first few pages of Fionn: Defence of Ráth Bládhma I did a bit of an inner groan. I was convinced I wasn't going to like it but was pleasantly surprised. Set in 193 AD Ireland druid Bodmall leads a clan of outcasts in a small rath (village) in a secluded valley of Glenn Ceo. I was certain that I wasn't going to enjoy either the setting or the story however, I really enjoyed it. The characters were well developed, the plot was gripping and the characters were both realistic and interesting. It was however, the prose that really made this book. It was so very well written. Hats off to Brian O'Sullivan for telling this myth in a truly evocative way.