02 October 2014

Urban Mythic 2: K T Davies Interviewed

Author of “For the Memory of Jane” in Urban Mythic 2, K.T. Davies answers a few questions!


Tell us a little about yourself and your writing.

My high school English teacher, Mr Tempest, told me that I wanted to be a writer before I realised I wanted to be a writer. He also told me that I wrote like James Joyce which I think had more to do with my inability to punctuate rather than content. I was ‘home schooled’ for a goodly chunk of my early childhood which amounted to running wild, exploring derelict buildings and feeding cake to feral cats. I think my, somewhat unconventional, childhood influenced my writing in many ways.

What is at the root of your Urban Mythic story?

Bradford has a long and grim and bloody history that really does include Vikings. For this story I pillaged anecdotes that I heard growing up. I think the ancestors would approve.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?

It was from Robin Hobb at a reading/signing she did in Huddersfield (I think), many moons ago. My eldest child was a toddler and I was struggling to square the life/writing circle. In short and to paraphrase, it was along the lines of ‘don’t sweat the housework, write’.


What do you like to do when you’re not writing, and does it come in useful for your stories?

I like to paint and read and play games, which does indeed come in useful but then I find that everything does. I’m a bit of a magpie and file everything interesting away for later use.

How did you get into a knife fight and has the experience slipped into your fiction?

It’s not as exciting as it sounds but yes, a practical knowledge of arms and armour does help when writing ye olde fight scenes. I used to re-enact and had just arrived on site for a weekend of 17th century frolics when a friend and I tried out some new stabbers. The main-gauche (parrying dagger) I was using had rather flamboyant and somewhat pointless, as it turns out, quillons. I thought I’d caught my sparring partner’s blade on said quillons and stepped in, ready to administer the coup de grace.

Or so I thought.

His blade slipped free, and sheathed itself in my thigh. Voila! I won a scar, a ruined pair of jogging bottoms, and an anecdote.

Room 101 time: what one genre cliché would you get rid of?

I’d just consign lazy writing to room 101.

What are you up to next?

By the time this is posted I’d participated on some panels about all things nerdy at Loncon 3, the World SF Convention. I then attended FantasyCon in York where two of my favourite publishers were up for awards and where Urban Mythic 2 and my new novel Breed were both launched.

I’m currently trying to finish Breed 2 and the follow up to my first novel (The Red Knight), which is called The Golden Hart. I’m also editing an edition of the BSFA Focus magazine which will be about writing for computer games and comics, two of my other loves. I’ve also got another short story coming out later this year in Fox Spirit’s Mouse and Minotaur anthology.

Find out more about K.T Davies on her website here!

25 September 2014

Urban Mythic 2: Pauline E Dungate Interviewed

Author of "Trapped in the Web" in Urban Mythic 2, Pauline E. Dungate answers a few questions!

Tell us a little about yourself and your writing.
I’ve always loved reading. We were introduced to the local library as soon as we were old enough to look after a book properly. At school a group of us used to make up stories and it went on from there. The only fiction I’ve had published are short stories but like most writers there are several novels in the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet. I also write poetry and lots of reviews (both under the name of Pauline Morgan.)

What is at the root of your Urban Mythic story?

Birmingham has such a diversity of people living in it. Most cultures have their own myths. I like the idea that the basis for them has a root in reality and just as you can’t totally leave your heritage behind when you migrate so why should the myth figures stay behind. For those who don’t know Birmingham, the Number 11 bus route circles the city. You can get trapped in circles. There are also elements in the story which relate to things others have told me, but they are there for colour.


You’ve travelled extensively – do you have any interesting stories from your travels? What locations are do you find particularly inspiring?

Until the last few years, travelling had to be confined to school holidays (I was a teacher) but without that restraint the opportunity to go to far off places has increased. Mostly, we go with a company running nature orientated tours but that has meant finding the wild areas in places such as Ecuador, Papua New Guinea and Armenia. They are likely to turn up in stories or poems.

What’s the most important thing you have learned about writing?

Keep trying. Not every editor likes what you do but eventually you’ll find one who likes some of it.

What aspects of writing to do you find the most tricky?

Beginnings and endings. I had to start this story three times before it felt right. At the end there is always a temptation to go on after the story has finished. Sometimes it takes a good editor to say stop.

Room 101 time: what one genre cliché would you get rid of?

All aliens look humanoid and speak English, sorry American. I’m sure some are fluent Chinese speakers.

What are you up to next?

Rest of the year is pretty busy – three cons, lots of books to review, stories to write, a serious Milford crit session before heading to the Greater Antilles (Caribbean) for three weeks in December.

18 September 2014

Urban Mythic 2: Christine Morgan Interviewed

Author of "High School Mythical: Asgard" in Urban Mythic 2, Christine Morgan answers a few questions!

Tell us a little about yourself and your writing.

I’ve been a reader as long as I can remember. I love language. It’s like Play-Doh, a complete sensory experience that, with patience and practice, can make almost anything you imagine. Among my childhood friends, I was the storyteller who came up with ideas for let’s pretend, and constructed elaborate scenarios for my toys. As a teenager, I got into role-playing games as another outlet. Once I began attempting to write for real, I started with ‘traditional’ fantasy … but horror was my true calling. These days, it’s mostly historical horror and dark fantasy, with an emphasis on drawing from mythology, folklore, and various ancient cultures.

What is at the root of your Urban Mythic story?

I have a teenage (only teenage for a couple more months, egads!) daughter, and in watching her with her friends, her with her shows, the way some attitudes seem universal to the young … it got me thinking about the gods of various mythologies. Being immortal, being eternally young, having that sense of invulnerability and freedom from responsibility … and what a dangerous thing that is among those who have power. The behaviour of the Norse gods in the stories, and the Viking heroes in the sagas, can be seen a real high school / frat boy light, brash and boasting, drinking, fighting, sex, joking around. Plus, I grew up on those 80s teen movies, so it all fell together from there.


How strongly do standard mythological stories influence your work and is there a particular type of mythology you favour?

Hugely … my fascination with mythology began with a kids’ book of Greek myths way back in elementary school. From there, I branched out to explore stories of the other pantheons, the differences and similarities they shared. I majored in psychology and, if I had to specify a school of thought, I’d call myself a Jungian/Skinnerian. Archetypes, collective unconscious, and the effects on behaviour. I’m still most familiar with the Greek myths, but since then I’ve studied Norse, Mayan, Egyptian, Celtic, and many others. It’s hard to pick a favourite. A lot has survived from the times of Greece and Rome, which makes them easier to learn about … but so little has survived of the Norse and Mayan that it lends an extra level of mystery.

If you could kill off any character from any other book, who would you choose and how would they die?

That is quite the question! Any other book? By any other author? Hmm. Do I go big, epic? Like, say, Sauron? A smaller but more personal and sinister evil, like Iago? (What a prime bastard that guy was!) Dolores Umbridge, who was way worse than Voldemort, in my opinion? And kill … I’ve killed off plenty of my own characters, some of whom deserved it and some who definitely didn’t … I’ve certainly wanted to slap characters in other books (looking at YOU, Mrs. Bennet and most of Jane Austen’s) … but the only ones I’ve ever wanted to rid the world of were those who were just so badly written that the literary world as a whole would be better off without them. And that’s never really the character’s fault.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?

Not the old “write what you know” clunker. I think that one’s done, and does, way more harm than good. How dull and limiting that would be. I prefer “write what you want to read.” The drawback, in my case, being that I want to read almost everything. For books on the craft, I’d go first and foremost with Stephen King’s On Writing, and the A Way with Words series of Modern Scholar lectures by Professor Michael D.C. Drout. Most of the truly best advice I’ve received, though, hasn’t come in words so much as by example, the examples of writers who love what they do, who have fun with it, and let that shine through on every page, no matter how dark the subject matter might be.

Room 101 time: what one genre cliché would you get rid of?

The Prophecy. The whole one destined chosen hero balance to the force save the universe no matter what a reluctant dimwit or twerp. Hate that. It usually goes hand-in-hand with boring, insipid main characters who, for supposed protagonists, are never very proactive.

What are you up to next?
My next horror novel, a non-sparkly vampire book called His Blood, is coming out soon from Belfire Press. I have stories in several upcoming anthologies, a lot of which are Lovecraftian or mythology-inspired (or both; myth-meets-Mythos is a blast!), and many Viking-themed tales. I’ve also recently taken on a few editing gigs, helping out with the Grimm Red/Black/White books from Fringeworks, a nature-run-amok anthology called Teeming Terrors from KnightWatch, and the Fossil Lake anthologies. The next convention on my schedule will be Portland’s BizarroCon in November, always an awesome time, though I’m also planning to drop by Bellingham ComicCon in October.

Find more information about Christine at her website here!

14 September 2014

Cool Kickstarters: Holdfast, Accessing the Future, Clarkesworld Chinese

For those who love excellent fiction, there's some more funky fundraiser projects you should take a look at!  May I direct your attention to the Accessing the Future anthology, the Holdfast Magazine anthology and the Chinese translation campaign for Clarkesworld...

Accessing the Future - a SF anthology exploring disability & the intersectionality of race, class, gender & sexuality.

The Pitch:
"We are raising funds to publish a special anthology of disability-themed speculative fiction, Accessing the Future, co-edited by Kathryn Allan and Djibril al-Ayad, to be published by Futurefire.net Publishing.

"Futurefire.net Publishing is the publisher of both The Future Fire magazine of social-political speculative fiction, and of two previous anthologies, Outlaw Bodies (2012, co-edited by Lori Selke) and We See a Different Frontier (2013, co-edited by Fabio Fernandes). Djibril al-Ayad, a historian and futurist, co-edited both volumes and has edited TFF since 2005.

"Kathryn Allan is an independent scholar of feminist SF, cyberpunk, and disability studies, and is the inaugural Le Guin Feminist Science Fiction Fellow (2013-14). She is editor of Disability in Science Fiction: Representations of Technology as Cure (2013, Palgrave MacMillan), an Associate Editor and Reader of The Future Fire, and her writing appears in both academic and popular venues. She tweets and blogs as Bleeding Chrome.

"This anthology will call for and publish speculative fiction stories that interrogate issues of disability—along with the intersecting nodes of race, nationality, gender, sexuality, and class—in both the imagined physical and virtual spaces of the future. We want people of all abilities to see themselves, as they are now and as they want to be, in our collective human future. The call for stories will open immediately after this fundraising campaign ends."

Why It's Cool: 
Dude, seriously, how is it not? As per Future Fire's previous and very excellent anthologies, this is an opportunity for seriously underrepresented voices to be heard, with stories that will cover disabilities in way that doesn't marginalize people's experiences by making their disability a cheap plot point.

The Link: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/accessing-the-future

And speaking of underrepresented voices -

Clarkesworld: Chinese Science Fiction Translation Project - Clarkesworld magazine wants to translate and publish a Chinese science fiction story in each issue, funding is for the first year.

The Pitch:
"China has one of the largest science fiction reading populations in the world and has produced a significant body of work that has remained relatively unseen by English-speaking audiences. In recent years, a few stories and novels have made their way to English language publication, but we are unaware of any project to regularly feature Chinese works in a science fiction magazine.

"Clarkesworld Magazine has always aspired to publish stories from a global pool. It's our opinion that different perspectives make the genre stronger. We've published authors from all over the world, but quality translations have been few and far between. In recent years, thanks to the efforts of writer/translators Ken Liu and John Chu, it's been our privilege to publish five. These stories include:
  • "The Fish of Lijiang" by Chen Qiufan (2013 Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Awards Winner)
  • "A Hundred Ghosts Parade Tonight" by Xia Jia (2013 Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Awards Honorable Mention, 2012 Locus Recommended Reading List selection, and reprinted in The Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2013 Edition, Rich Horton ed.)
  • "Pepe" by Tang Fei

"and we'd like to bring you even more.

"I've recently signed an agreement with Weixiang (Storycom International Culture Communication Co., Ltd.) to add a translated Chinese science fiction story to each issue of Clarkesworld. Each month, Storycom's team of experts will send us a list of stories they think would work well for us—much like we use our slush pile to choose our current fiction offerings. I'll select one from that pile and then work with the author and translator to get the story ready for publication. Every story will appear in all editions of Clarkesworld—our free online edition, podcast (audio fiction), ebook and digital subscriptions, print issues, and annual anthologies—and provide these authors with significant English language exposure. (They'll be paid too.)

"We believe that providing markets that actively publish translated fiction is good for readers, authors, translators, and the genre as a whole. Our past experience tells us this is something we are qualified to and should do."

Why It's Cool:
Because there needs to be way more translated fiction out there. And if Clarkesworld make their stretch goals, there'll be translated fiction from other regions of the world too which will be all the awesome.

The Link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/clarkesworld/clarkesworld-chinese-science-fiction-translation-p

And for more awesome, check out -

The Holdfast Magazine Anthology - the first print anthology of Holdfast Magazine

The Pitch: "Holdfast is a free, online speculative fiction magazine (that means science fiction, fantasy, horror and all the stuff that falls between),that celebrates and examines these amazing genres. Check it out at www.holdfastmagazine.com

"The Holdfast anthology will be a beautiful artefact, comprised of new unpublished fiction, and some of the best articles from our online magazine, all in one, gorgeous good-quality paperback volume, including fantastic original artwork like this papercut piece from Issue 2 by Zoe Lee, as well as original cover artwork by artist Faye McNulty, who designed the Issue#2 header above.

"Read about a time-travelling law enforcer making a difficult choice, a cursed cycling tour that goes hopelessly and hilariously wrong, and what happens when the drugs don’t work on Sleeping Beauty in our fiction section. Discover what shark brains look like (spoiler: a human uterus), find out about the underrepresentation of Black women in science fiction, read a thank you letter to Margaret Atwood, and witness our attempts to convert a literary snob over to SFF in our non-fiction section."

Why It's Cool:
Because it's Holdfast Magazine, and Holdfast is fab. And there'll be some shiny new stories in it. Also there are not that many UK based online mags so supporting the ones we do have is always a good thing.

The Link: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/holdfast-magazine-anthology

11 September 2014

Urban Mythic 2: Lou Morgan Interviewed

Tell us a little about yourself and your writing.

I’m a novelist and short story writer, and I bounce infuriatingly between any kind of genre that takes my fancy. So far, that’s urban fantasy and horror for both adult and teen readers, because at the end of the day, I just like telling stories.

My first novel, Blood and Feathers, was an urban fantasy involving hellmouths and sarcastic angels with drinking problems, handguns and secrets, and which was nominated for British Fantasy Awards in both the best newcomer and best fantasy novel categories. The sequel, Blood and Feathers: Rebellion, picks up the story, and has also been nominated in the best fantasy novel category for this year’s BFAs. I’ve also written short stories for people like PS Publishing, Jurassic, Fox Spirit and Solaris – and Alchemy Press, of course.

And I have two cats, because that’s the law if you write fantasy.

What is at the root of your Urban Mythic story?

The idea behind “Death and the Weaver” came from Breton folklore. I spent a lot of time in Brittany growing up, and still go back most summers, so I know the stories pretty well. My favourite was always the Ankou,  a skeletal Grim Reaper figure whose role was to collect the souls of the dead from each parish. On the face of it, it doesn’t sound that unusual, but the interesting thing about the Ankou is that he is always one of the parishioners himself: the soul of the last person to die in the year serves as the Ankou for a year and is then replaced. I love the idea that this could (and probably would) mean it was someone you knew – and I started to wonder how that would change your relationship with death.

Bringing the Ankou up to date was a lot of fun. I read as many versions of the legend as I could, which stretched my French about as far as it could go! In most of them, the Ankou is very tall and usually has long white hair and a head which constantly revolves (so no death escapes him). He carries a scythe with the blade pointing forward and rides a cart pulled by two horses – one fat and one thin. Not all of these would work in a modern setting … but the C in a Citroen 2CV originally referred to “chevaux” (horses), so…


You’re known for having soundtracks for your work – did “Death and the Weaver” have a soundtrack or particular song?

Funnily enough, it did! Along with the Breton folklore, I love Breton music and I have quite a lot of it. I started out having some of the more traditional songs playing in the background, but even modern Breton music still has strong folk roots so there’re lots of bagpipes and accordions in there. I ended up with two songs pretty much on a loop, both by Anthony Chaplain. One was “Marie de la Dondaine” (click here) and the other was “Bzh” – basically a mash-up of several different traditional songs. The title is the abbreviation for the Breton name for Brittany: Breizh. Those two songs between them probably came to feel like a part of the story.

How has the transition between writing adult and YA fiction been? Is there anything you can do with your YA work that you couldn’t do with your adult work? Or vice versa?

I’ve probably been very lucky in that the kind of books I want to write hover around the border between YA and adult fiction. I’m always interested in the idea of identity and responsibility, which are two of the biggest themes in YA and still incredibly relevant beyond that. I mean, who gets to 18 and says, “Yes, that’s it. I know exactly who I am. This is me.”?

I love having the opportunity and freedom to work in both fields and I hope I don’t treat them that differently (although, in fairness, I try to swear a bit less in YA!). The one big change I’ve found, though, is that I feel there have to be more consequences in YA. Not in a judge-y, lecture-y sort of way, but the Blood and Feathers books have, for instance, a fair amount of casual violence in them … and I don’t think I’d be comfortable writing that into a YA.

Room 101 time: what one genre cliché would you get rid of?

Every genre comes with its own set of clichés; they’re what help us identify them as a particular genre, aren’t they? I think I’d rather get rid of the idea that there’s “literary” fiction and “genre” fiction and never the twain shall meet. There’s a fair amount of snobbery in either direction, and that utterly infuriates me. There are as many different stories in the world as there are ideas and not all of them will appeal to everyone … and that’s OK.

What inspired you to run a marathon next year and where can people go to sponsor you?

If only it were a full marathon! I’m actually running a half-marathon (although that’s still 13 miles which is enough to make me weep at the moment): the Bath Half, in March 2015. I’ve thought about it for a couple of years now, and never managed to talk myself into it, but I did one many years ago (the Moonwalk, which takes place at night through central London) and I loved the challenge. I am, clearly, a glutton for punishment.

As part of that, I’m hoping to raise some sponsorship money for Kids Company, who operate centres in both London and Bristol to provide practical, emotional and educational support to vulnerable inner-city children. You can find out a little more about them on their website.

Their work is amazing and incredibly worthwhile, with the potential to make an enormous difference to so many children’s lives, but they need at least £13.5 million a year to keep doing it. Even the tiniest donation helps towards that and is incredibly welcome, so if anyone would like to sponsor my months of running (which, believe me, is something you won’t hear me saying very often) to train through the winter, and for the race itself, you can find my sponsor page here: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/runloumorgan

What are you up to next?

I have a couple of stories I’m really excited about which should be surfacing in the near future. Besides “Death and the Weaver”, there’s a story about Oliver Cromwell’s other head which will appear in Fox Spirit’s Missing Monarchs issue of their Fox Pockets series, and I was thrilled to be asked to contribute to the third volume of the Zombie Apocalypse! anthologies. Zombies have never been my favourite monsters, so the chance to create one that interested me was too good to pass up.

The beginning of 2015 also sees the paperback release of Sleepless, my first YA book for Stripes Publishing as part of their Red Eye horror series, which follows a group of friends who take an unlicensed study drug they find on the internet. It’s all set around the Barbican and Smithfield meat market in central London, because ever since I lived there I knew I wanted to set a horror story there! And it’s probably not giving too much away to say that for it won’t end well for everyone…

For more information, check out loummorgan.wordpress.com or @LouMorgan

12 August 2014

Nine Worlds Geekfest 2014

Short version: OMG!OMG!OMG! That! Was! Awesome!

Longer version:
Well gosh, that was fun. And if ever there was a convention that needs a lot of photos taking during it, it's Geekfest.  Alas, I took none. So you'll just have to take my word for the fact that there were so many cool costumes!  Harley Quinn, Dr Who and Ace, baby in a flying saucer pram, Judge Dredd, assorted manga type people, Daenerys, a Sharknado...! 

And panels.  Good lord, were there panels.  About a million of them, with a handy digital programme thing to make it easier to sort personal scheduling out.  Missed a load I wanted to go to because they clashed with other ones I wanted go to a bit more.  I need a Time Turner for next year, I think, so I can see all the things.

But what I did see - well, there was the Urban Fantasy panel, of course, which I live tweeted due to the perplexingly small amount of women being mentioned as having written urban fantasy and/or city based fantasy.  There'll be a blog forthcoming on that shortly, I think, as there's a lot of thinky thoughts bubbling in my head about urban fantasy, cities and visibility of women.  Though, apart from the issue with forgetting women authors, it was a good panel with some intriguing points made and the panellists were excellent. 

I also made it to the Time Travel panel; the Mythology and Fairy Tales panel; the Writing LGBTQ+ Characters in SFF talk by Laura Lam; the Rule 63: Gender and subversion in History, Popular Culture and Fandom panel; the 'It's A Man's World...': Where Are The Women In The Creative Industry? panel; the Looking Backwards panel, which was a cool history thing; and the podfic vs podcasts thing - which I somehow managed to not realise would be about fan fic, despite the fact it was in the fanfic track! But it was a fun one, and very interesting.

And I may have gone a bit mad shopping in the dealer room. And that's before the post-con book binge of buying up stuff recommended on panels and mentioned by lovely random people. And talking of people, I saw many, in that ships that pass in the night kind of way, and big hugs to Alasdair and Marguerite and Adrian and Adele and Ian who were particularly lovely and made the con just that bit better!

Definitely need to book up for next year. 


29 July 2014

Wicked Women contents!

Why yes, we have a Wicked Women announcement!



Wicked Women
 Edited by Jan Edwards and Jenny Barber 

Presenting twelve stories of women who gleefully write their own rules, women who’ll bend or break the social norms, who'll skate along the edge of the law and generally aim to misbehave.

Contents:
(in alphabetical order, final order TBC)

A. R. Aston -  No Place of Honour
Stephanie Burgis - Red Ribbons
Zen Cho - The First Witch of Damansara
Jaine Fenn - Down at the Lake
Juliet E. McKenna - Win Some, Lose Some
Christine Morgan - The Shabti-Maker
Tom Johnstone - Kravolitz
Gaie Sebold - A Change of Heart
Sam Stone - The Book of the Gods
Adrian Tchaikovski - The Blessed Union
Jonathan Ward - A Change in Leadership
Chloë Yates - How to be the Perfect Housewife

Due to be published late 2014 from Fox Spirit Books

24 July 2014

Urban Mythic 2: Cover, Launch, ToC

Darlings! Hello!  We have a launch date for the ever marvellous Urban Mythic 2!
We will be unleashing the Anthology of Awesome at Fantasycon in York, on Saturday 6th September at 2pm.  Hurrah!

Not only that, we have cover!  Well, prelim cover.  Slight changes may be made to the font-y bits, but, hey, look... pretty picture from Edward Miller!


And! Final order of contents!

The Mermaid  - Tanith Lee
For the Memory of Jane  - K T Davies
Where the Brass Band Plays  - Adrian Tchaikovsky
How to Get  Ahead in Avatising -  James Brogden
 La Vouivre -  Sarah Ash
Trapped in the Web - Pauline E Dungate
 The West Dulwich Horror  - Carl Barker 
The Cupboard of Winds  - Marion Pitman
Blood*uckers -  Chico Kidd
High School Mythical: Asgard -  Christine Morgan
Paradise Walk  - Andrew Coulthard 
Death and the Weaver - Lou Morgan

Are you excited? I'm excited! ;-)

14 June 2014

Urban Mythic Miscellany

Oh what news we have for you my lovelies!

First, Urban Mythic #1 was kinda sorta nominated in the British Fantasy Awards.  Oh yes! Our very own Adrian Tchaikovsky made the Best Short Fiction short list with his story 'Family Business'.  Massive congrats to Adrian!

Our publisher overlords at Alchemy Press also made the short list for Best Small Press and Best Non Fiction (with Doors to Elsewhere by Mike Barrett); and with our loyal Fox Spirit editor hats on, we're also rather pleased that Fox Spirit Books also made the shortlists in Best Small Press, and Best Anthology (with Tales of Eve edited by Mhairi Simpson).  So epic glee all round!  (Not least because so many women made the BFA short lists this year as well. Hurrah!)

Now! Urban Mythic #2 news! 
Yes, my darlings, we have contents!  In alphabetical order, with proper order to follow anon, here be our fabulous people...

Sarah Ash – La Vouivre
James Brogden – How to Get Ahead in Avatising
Carl Barker – The West Dulwich Horror
Andrew Coulthard – Paradise Walk
K T Davies – For the Memory of Jane
Pauline E Dungate – Trapped in the Web
Chico Kidd – Blood*uckers
Tanith Lee – The Mermaid
Christine Morgan – High School Mythical:Asgard
Lou Morgan – Death and the Weaver
Marion Pitman – The Cupboard of Winds
Adrian Tchaikovsky – Where the Brass Band Plays

And! There will be a cover by Les Edwards - to be revealed at a later date.

Aaaaaalllll the awesome!

28 May 2014

Adventures in Shopping Around

So here’s the thing… I love books (and really, what sane person doesn’t?) More specifically, I love e-books and will quite cheerfully buy vast quantities whenever funds allow, because, what’s not to love?  They take up no space, can be instantly downloaded, I can cart my entire library around in one e-reader which is a big bonus for travelling, and are also handy when I want to be lazy and not actually muck around with boxes stored under beds to find the book I fancy rereading.  I can read them on my kindle, on my iPad, on my laptop or on my iPhone if I squint a bit, so there’s also the bonus of back up options if one device gets a bit glitchy - which is why I very rarely buy dead tree versions of books these days.  Fiction reading and buying, for me, is always e-book format – oh there’s the odd exception if I’m at a convention and have a mad moment of buying something at a launch, or if there’s no e-book version available and I really-really want to read it (though if I don’t really-really want to read it I’ll not bother, and just make a note to keep an eye out in case it ever does get e-bookified.) 

So then the Amazon/Hatchette thing happened.  Marie Brennan does a summary here with handy linkage - so where does this leave the average e-book buyer if they want to keep feeding their habit but would kind of like to not screw over their beloved authors by their shopping choices?  

Happily, as far as the indies and smaller presses are concerned, there’s the option of buying direct from the publishers or from the lovely online Indie stores.  This is something I’ve been trying to do for the last couple of years – not so much because of Amazon’s policies (because I’ve not dug deep enough into them to make a fully educated decision and explain exactly why big corporate = bad), but more because I’m not a huge fan of the file format they do.  I want to have my e-books in DRM free epub or mobi formats that I can keep copies of on my own storage devices and easily chuck at whatever reading device I happen to be using.  I don’t want to be locked into Amazon owning my books or fiddling with them or generally losing them if I use a device without the kindle app. I want control of my books.

Previously I’ve bought smaller press books from Smashwords, Weightless Books, Book View Cafe, and Spacewitch, and also the sadly missed Wizards Towers Books when it was up and running.  I also buy direct from the Angry Robot Trading Co.  who do a few indies as well as their own books; and I keep meaning to try out the Rebellion Publishing store for all things Solaris/Abaddon and the Tor Books store for all things Tor! 

All of which is great, but if you want something from one of the bigger publishers, Amazon has always been the easiest go-to.  But after the AmaHatch grudge match, I decided to finally get around to checking out some of the other options for e-book buying – Nook and Kobo I’d heard about, and discussions on one of Juliet E. McKenna’s facebook posts brought Waterstones Online and Google Play to my attention, so I’ve been book-buying and downloading reading apps and here’s my not-very-technical-and-has-a-short-attention-span results!

The books: The first four books in The Mysteries of the Greek Detective series by Anne Zouroudi (buying 1 per venue!) – available from Amazon UK for £1.54

Comparison points: Price of book, file formats available, reading apps available, readability on the app-readers

General notes: At minimum I want to be able to read the e-book on either my kindle or iPad, and also my laptop as a back up if possible.  Therefore a downloadable and accessible file format I can convert to mobi is going to be preferable.  I’m not that bothered about the look of the store - so long as it has a basic search widget I can find my way to what I want.  And if there’s too much hassle in downloading reading apps or syncing content between devices I’m done with that venue.

Kobo
Price of Book: £2.63
File Format: Adobe DRM epub
Reading Apps: Kobo app for PC – easy to install and use; Kobo app for iPad – easy to install, a bugger to use and still hasn’t synced up to my account after 3 hours so no book has appeared in my library; iPhone – auto installed when I picked up the iPad app and the purchases sync up! Yay!
App Readability:  PC - short pages but readable.  Bit like a landscape PDF.   iPad – still hasn’t synced with my Kobo library so have no book to test it on!  iPhone – if you don’t mind the titchy screen with not a lot of content per page then definitely readable.
Will I use it again?  Probably not.  No auto sync to the iPad or quick solution to fix that is a big turn off. 

Nook
Price of Book: £1.54
File Format: Erm.. Adobe DRM epub?
Reading Apps:  PC – need Windows 8.0/1 – which I don’t have; iPad – app easy to install and instantly syncs to purchases; iPhone – auto installed when I picked up the iPad app and purchases sync up nicely.
App Readability:  iPad - Very readable, like it.  iPhone – again, if you don’t mind the titchy screen with not a lot of content per page then definitely readable.
Will I use it again? Probably.  Easy to shop, easy to read on the iPad but the lack of compatible PC app is annoying, and I’d quite like an open file format.

Waterstones
Price of Book: £2.99
File Format: Adobe DRM epub licensed for 6 devices
Reading Apps: PC – uses the Adobe Digital Edition – easy to install and use; iPad – uses Overdrive Media Console – easy to install, total bugger to actually use as it’s not syncing to my account; iPhone - ditto the iPad comments.
App Readability:  PC – readable, like the Kobo app you get that squashed landscape page feel but it’s clear and easy to use.  iPad – still hasn’t synced to my account and there’s no easy way to work out why and fix that.  iPhone - ditto the iPad comments.
Will I use it again? No.  Twice the price of the other stores and the mobile device sync failure is a pain in the ass and will take too much time and fiddling to sort out.

Google Play Books
Price of Book: £2.48
File Format:  erm? Dunno. Kept in the google cloud.
Reading Apps:  PC - online via Google Play website; iPad – easy to install and use; iPhone – auto installed when I picked up the iPad app
App Readability: iPad – very easy to read with easy navigation and easy typeface alteration options.  iPhone – easy to read, like it.
Will I use it again? Actually, probably.  Though the cloud access only thing will be a problem next time my internet connection goes down so it’s not ideal, but can see it as a good one for phone reading.

In conclusion – it’s likely that given time and further investigation the Kobo/iPad app problems and Waterstones/Overdrive app sync issues can be fixed but for a quick and easy option I’m erring towards Nook apps or Google Play.  Would still prefer a store that lets you download actual DRM free epub/mobi files though, so neither the Nook or Google Play are completely ideal.