Tag Archives: sci fiction

Author Guest Post: Gerrard Cowan

My Experiences as a Debut SFF Author
by Gerrard Cowan

The day I got my book deal is one that will stay with me forever. I remember I was sitting in work, minding my own business, when my phone buzzed. I looked down, and there it was: an email from HarperVoyager, saying they wanted to publish The Machinery.

I came into publishing through a slightly unusual route: the HarperVoyager Digital Submissions programme. This was launched back in October 2012, and allowed writers without agents to submit their novels to the publisher. I had finished writing the book about three months earlier, and had been firing it off to various agents, with little success. I thought, ‘what the hell,’ and sent the book in.

I honestly did not expect to get it. My thinking, rightly or wrongly, was that I could use the experience to judge how good the story and the writing were. If HV knocked it back straight away, I would think it needed a lot more work, but if it got quite far along, I would know I was onto something, at least in the eyes of this publisher. But then I got that email, and I almost fell out of my chair. That is not a joke.

So what’s the experience been like? What have I learned? It’s been overwhelming, exciting, and educational. It’s also been a lot of hard work. I probably shouldn’t boil it down to a handful of key points. But I will.

1) SFF writers are fantastic …

I have heard before that publishing is a fiercely competitive, dog-eat-dog world, where it’s each person for him or herself. OK, yes, of course it’s competitive, like all professions. But other writers are amazing. I’ve befriended a fair few through social media, and they have always helped me out with queries, from the mundane to the complex. That also goes for writers at the very top, many of whom offer opportunities for new authors to blog on their site: John Scalzi is a good example. The SFF writing world is a welcoming place.

2) … and so is the wider SFF community.

Honestly, if you’re a new writer or you aspire to be one, reach out to bloggers and journalists in the SFF world. You couldn’t find a nicer bunch. They really care about the genre, and welcome anyone new with open arms, in my experience.

3) The art of editing

I’ve only had one book go through the editing process, so I might not be the best to judge, but I’ve found it a great experience. My editor made suggestions – never orders – and they really made a big difference to the book. More than anything, they got me thinking about the story in a way I hadn’t before, and led to me making some pretty big changes that I think made it much better. Editing is a real art.

4) You have to let go

Editing is great, but it can take over your life. You have lived with this book for a long time: seven years in my case, from the day I first had the idea to the day I sent in the final proof. When it’s just you and your novel, you can tinker away at your leisure. When there’s a deadline hanging over you, things get more serious; you find yourself flicking through pages late at night, staring at the same sentence for the ten thousandth time, worrying about characters and descriptions and even individual words. But there comes a point when you have to let it go out into the world, to see what others make of it. That’s coming for me soon, and I feel a mix of excitement and apprehension. I imagine the second book will be very different and I won’t be quite so obsessive. I hope not, anyway.

5) You shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover … but …

One of the great things about releasing your book through a publisher is the cover they make for you. OK, everyone knows the old saying about covers and judging, and it is of course absolutely correct. But they are important, particularly in this digital age where they have to look good in a tiny thumbnail. I didn’t really have anything in mind for mine, and was delighted with what they came up with. The Machinery follows a society whose leaders are chosen by an omnipotent machine, but there’s a prophecy that claims the next leader selected will bring ruin to the world. The cover they went with shows a mysterious figure, bathed in a spectral light. I loved it, and would probably have tattoed it to my forehead by now if it weren’t for SOCIETY, man.

So overall, I’ve found only upsides in being a new writer. Obviously I would love my books to do as well as possible, but even if everything was to fizzle out from here, I’ve very much enjoyed it so far. I’ve made great friends and I’ve learned a lot. The main thing I would say to people who have just got a book deal, or who are working towards one, is this: listen to the experts. Things might not go exactly as you expect, but if you have good people on your side, they will probably go better.


The Machinery by Gerrard Cowan is available on ebook now, and paperback in 2016.

Box Review: Comic Bento – August 2015

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Comic Bento is a subscription Graphic Novel Box – A surprise selection of fantastic Graphic Novels with at least $60 worth of comics in every box and mailed right to your door!

Pricing starts at $20/month plus shipping.

This box was sent to SciFiChick.com for review purposes.

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The first thing I noticed is the fantastic packing job. Boarded and wrapped in protective plastic and bubble-wrap, these graphic novels were in mint condition.

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The box comes with a nice card that gives details on each of the selections.

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This month’s theme was EXPLOSIVE and included the following titles:

Grimm Volume 1: The Coins Of Zakynthos by David Greenwalt(W) and Jose Malaga(A)- I’m a huge fan of the tv show, and already own this one. But I highly recommend to fans of the show. (Retail $19.99)

Complete Dracula by Leah Moore(W) and Colton Worley(A)– This is a cool-looking take on Bram Stoker’s original tale. I’m excited to read this one. As a bonus, this is a hardback. (Retail $24.99)

Fear Nothing by Dean Koontz(W) and Bob Gill(A) – Koontz is known for his scifi thrillers, so this will be right up my alley. (Retail $14.99)

New Vampirella Volume 1 by Nancy Collins(W) and Patrick Berkenkotter(A) – Definitely not for me. I usually enjoy vampire stories, but she looks more like an embarrassing pin up. (Retail $24.99)

“Horror” would have been a better theme than “Explosive,” but the reason was that these all have the same publisher – Dynamite!

Summary: This is a great value for someone looking to expand their graphic novel reading and for those just staring out. I eagerly look forward to the next!


September’s Theme is: Fight the Fight

Right now, there’s a coupon code for $5 off the monthly subscription (PROMOBENTO5) or $10 off the 3-month subscription (PROMOBENTO10).

Blu-Ray Review: The Vampire Diaries Season 6

Vampire Diaries: Season 6 Blu-ray

Synopsis:
The Vampire Diaries continues its sixth season with more delicious drama to sink your teeth into. In season five, after a passionate summer with Damon, Elena headed to Whitmore College with Caroline, not knowing Bonnie sacrificed her life for Jeremy’s. Meanwhile, Stefan and Caroline’s friendship deepened as they stood up to the Travelers, a nomadic witch tribe driven to strip Mystic Falls of magic and cast out its supernatural residents. In the shocking season finale, Damon, fearing he would lose his loved ones on the crumbling Other Side, made a huge sacrifice to bring them all back — with catastrophic and heartbreaking results. Season six follows the characters’ journey back to each other as they explore the duality of good versus evil inside themselves. Matt Davis reprises his role as Alaric Saltzman, recently returned from The Other Side. Plus, the season will make you misty-eyed as the departure of a major character will turn lives upside down and leave us asking what happened to Mystic Falls.

Review:
Big changes happen in this sixth season. Bonnie and Damon are stuck in an (seemingly) empty world stuck decades in the past. The two that hate each other the most are forced together and begin forming a strange relationship. One that will have a big affect on the season finale. The Big Bad Guy this season changes up a bit as well. From a psychotic, power-hungry brother to a surprising return of an old family member, then back again.

No one stays the same for long in Mystic Falls. Even Caroline takes a walk on the Evil side after a heartbreak she can’t handle. This season is full of surprises, mystery, heartbreak, romance, and more heartbreak. Knowing that Nina Dobrev would be leaving, meant that there would be an end to Damon and Elana – my favorite couple. It was a bummer knowing it was coming, but there are so many other strong characters and so many other stories to tell – that I have no doubt the writers can keep the show going without their central character. Caroline and Stefan have great chemistry, and they’ve barely begun. Bonnie’s back, and she and Damon have something… so who knows. We lost Jeremy, but got Alaric back – which was fantastic. I can’t wait to see what the next season holds.


Own it on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital HD September 1, 2015

Box Review: LootCrate August 2015

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“Loot Crate™ delivers the best in geek + gaming gear. From collectibles, apparel, tech gadgets, art, and other epic gear, it’s like Comic-Con in a box!”

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LootCrate is $13.95 plus $6 shipping and handling for month-to-month subscription. Less for multiple month purchases. They also now offer “Level Up,” 3 apparel upgrades at different pricing levels that you can add to your monthly subscription.

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Included is a nice booklet, detailing the box contents.
Los Pollos Hermanos Apron (Retail $29.99 but $25 on Amazon) – This is apparently from Breaking Bad, which isn’t something I’ve ever cared to watch – and isn’t remotely scifi or fantasy. So I’m not sure why the series is sometimes included in geek boxes. Total fail for me.

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Next up is easily the ugliest mug I’ve ever seen.
Carnage Mug (Retail $9.99) – Subscribers could receive either Venom or Carnage mugs (for the Villains 2 theme). Both are equally hideous. And neither would be used, as it looks like something paint-by-numbers not official Marvel. Another bummer.

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The Joker Painted Wooden Figure (Retail $12.99?) – This is another LootCrate original, a cute toy with an interchangeable face.
Hydra Prop Replica (Retail $15) – This was my favorite item in the box, and probably the only thing I’ll keep.
LootCrate Button – Venom

Summary: The two highest retail items were a total bust for me. Not a great start to my LootCrate experience. But they have 2 more months to win me over, since I signed up for a 3-month subscription.

What do you think of this month’s LootCrate?

Received in August

The following are the books, movies, television shows, etc. I received in August for review and/or giveaways:

Movies/TV:
The Originals Season 2 Blu-ray
The Vampire Diaries Season 6 Blu-ray
Supernatural Season 10 Blu-ray

Subscription Box:
Comic Bento

Amazon Publishing / 47North:
Here & There by Joshua V. Scher

Berkley:
Undead and Unforgiven by MaryJanice Davidson

Clarion Books:
The Girl Who Could Not Dream by Sarah Beth Durst

Crown / Broadway:
The Martian by Andy Weir

First Second:
The Fall of the House of West by Paul Pope
Little Robot by Ben Hatke
Last Man: The Chase by Bastien Vivès

Gallery Books:
HALO: Last Light by Troy Denning

Harper Teen / Belzer + Bray / Katherine Tegen:
Ice Like Fire by Sara Raasch
The White Rose by Amy Ewing
The Immortal Heights by Sherry Thomas
Endgame: Sky Key by James Frey
Balance Keepers 2: The Pillars of Ponderay by Lindsay Cummings
A Sliver of Stardust by Marissa Burt
The Fate of Ten by Pittacus Lore

Paizo:
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Occult Adventures by Jason Bulmahn

Penguin / Vintage Crime:
The Reckoning by Carsten Stroud

Penguin Teen / Putnam / Speak:
Nightfall by Jake Halpern
Unfriended by Rachel Vail

Pyr:
The Rise of the Automated Aristocrats by Mark Hodder

Quercus / Jo Fletcher Books:
Marked by Sue Tingey

Random House Teens / Delacorte Press:
Reawakened by Colleen Houck

Roc:
Chapelwood: The Borden Dispatches by Cherie Priest

Scholastic:
Voyagers: Project Alpha by D. J. MacHale
Sanctuary by Jennifer McKissack
The Copper Gauntlet by Holly Black

Subterranean Press:
Can & Can’tankerous by Harlan Ellison
A Fantasy Medley 3 by Kevin Hearne

Titan Books:
Gestapo Mars by Victor Gischler
Cracked by Barbra Leslie
Koko the Mighty by Kieran Shea
Nod by Adrian Barnes
The Death House by Sarah Pinborough

Tor:
Nightwise by R. S. Belcher
Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson
Updraft by Fran Wilde
The Sleeping King by Cindy Dees
The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson
Rage by Ken Shufeldt

Blu-Ray Review: The Originals Season 2

The Originals: Season 2 Blu-ray

Synopsis:
As Original vampire-werewolf hybrid Klaus Mikaelson returned to the vibrant, supernaturally charged city of New Orleans in season one, he was stunned to learn — along with his siblings Elijah and Rebekah — that Hayley, a werewolf, was pregnant with his child, and his vampire protégé, Marcel, whom the Original siblings had thought long dead, was ruling the French Quarter. Soon, a bloody war escalated between vampires and witches — the stakes raised by powerful teenage witch Davina and by Klaus’s bond with Cami, a student with a painful past — and a ruthless pack of wolves seized the opportunity to stage a violent coup. Now, in season two, a new status quo must be adjusted to, as the newly empowered werewolves control the city. Klaus struggles with weaknesses as Elijah desperately tries to save Hayley — now a hybrid — from a vicious spiral of self-destruction. Meanwhile, with the re-emergence of several Mikaelsons, “family is power” takes on new meaning.

Review:
The first season of The Originals centered on the rise of the witches in New Orleans. This season, Klaus’ baby is central – keeping the baby hidden and safe. Meanwhile, the witches are still at war with the vampires. And because of the baby, there is an uneasy alliance between the werewolves and vampires. Some of the missing (and dead) Mikaelsons come back in some form or another, but Klaus doesn’t trust any of them.

The Originals just keeps proving that it’s one of the best shows on television. And this second season heats up with new characters, more backstory for the Mikaelsons, and familiar characters in other bodies… My only complaint was that I was ready for the real Rebecca to come back (Original form). She’s a great actress and character; and other actors just can’t pull it off as well. Just like no one else could play Klaus. He is easily one of the most complex characters on the small screen.

This show is full of suspense, horror, romance, magic, and clever twists. The writers for this show never disappoint. And I can’t wait for the next exciting season.


Own it on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD September 1, 2015

Fantasy Book Review: Mechanica

Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell

Synopsis:
Nicolette’s awful stepsisters call her “Mechanica” to demean her, but the nickname fits: she learned to be an inventor at her mother’s knee. Her mom is gone now, though, and the Steps have pushed her into a life of dreary servitude. When she discovers a secret workshop in the cellar on her sixteenth birthday—and befriends Jules, a tiny magical metal horse—Nicolette starts to imagine a new life for herself. And the timing may be perfect: There’s a technological exposition and a royal ball on the horizon. Determined to invent her own happily-ever-after, Mechanica seeks to wow the prince and eager entrepreneurs alike.

Review:
Nicolette (or Mechanica) is a brilliant mechanic like her mother was. But after her parents died, Nicolette is forced to be a servant for her stepmother and stepsisters. However, she still has her little machines – and dreams of the future.

Mechanica is a fun and intriguing twist on the Cinderella story. Nicolette does fall for a young man, but this isn’t a Disney fairy tale. She has a good head on her shoulders and thinks with her head more than her heart. Full of fantastic inventions, magic, and suspense – this story is captivating. YA fantasy meets steampunk in this inspired tale with plenty of heart.