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Book Review: Star Wars: Scum and Villainy

Star Wars: Scum and Villainy: Case Files on the Galaxy’s Most Notorious by Pablo Hidalgo

Synopsis:
Crime in the galaxy is a constant—whether it’s seedy deals made on the lower levels of Coruscant or organized crime syndicates in the outer rim—but how galactic law enforcement has defined those crimes has shifted with each change of power.

Star Wars: Scum and Villainy profiles the misdeeds of infamous smugglers, pirates, gamblers, bounty hunters, and thieves throughout galactic history. Page through the case files of three generations of galactic law-enforcers and explore their case reports, surveillance images, warrants, artifacts, and much more in this lavishly illustrated and in-world narrated book that is showcased in a slipcase.

This stunning, over-sized book is a cross between a coffee table art book and a story book – with a really nice slip cover.

The images and character span the timeline of Star Wars.

From new characters.

To very familiar ones – the character profiles are diverse and thorough.

This book has an impressive amount of information and dossiers.

The artwork is fantastic. And the case reports are well-written and presented in a creative way. Star Wars fans will enjoy this fun collection of various characters – from rebels to the seedier elements.

Author Guest Post: Brian D Anderson

Author Brian D Anderson joins SciFiChick.com today to talk about his transition from Independent to Traditional publishing! His novel The Bard’s Blade will be released in January 2020.

Making the Change (An Indie’s Transition into the Traditional World)
by Brian D Anderson

So you’ve written a few books, had them edited, paid for a cool cover, learned how to market, and as a result, had a great deal of success selling them online. You’ve even quit your day job. Maybe bought a house or a car…or both. Life’s coming up roses. You’ve achieved something special. Something spectacular. You are a professional novelist! Moreover, you’re an experienced indie, well qualified to pass on your wisdom to the never-ending river of up-and-comers dreaming of emulating your accomplishments.

That’s more or less how I felt a few months ago. For seven years, I have enjoyed a degree of professional success in indie fantasy. Not to say I was at the top of the heap. But I sure wasn’t at the bottom. I had an agent, had made a few significant audiobook deals, and been nominated for an award or two. But that’s where it stopped. I’d reached the limit of where I could go on my own. If I wanted to continue up the ladder, I had to find a way to break into traditional publishing
My agent had submitted several times to the Big Five, without success. I was perfectly satisfied with my achievements as an indie, but the game was changing, and I was rapidly facing the possibility of fading away into obscurity. New indie talent was emerging, and they were hungry, energetic, and motivated. I’d been working at a feverish pace for seven years, and I’m not ashamed to say I was running low on steam. This new class of indies half my age could produce at a rate I simply could not keep up with. And their facility with social networking made me a horse and carriage to their self-driven car.

I decided that perhaps it was time to try something new with my stories, so I wrote The Vale, which is based on the tropes, plotting, and pace of RPG’s like Final Fantasy and Tales Of. I was aware of GameLit and LitRPG, but this was different in the sense that it read like a novelization of a game – no stats, no being sucked into the game world, no other criteria placed on the genre by its fans. I landed a substantial audio deal for the series, which basically crushed my chances to sell it to the Big Five. Still, my agent thought it was worth a shot.

As expected, they weren’t interested. However, an editor over at Tor (Macmillan) read it and liked it very much. And while unable to make an offer, asked that they be given first look at my next project. That alone sent me over the moon. By the way, I saw the lunar lander while I was up there. Take that, conspiracy theorists! I had a mountain of work to do, but I didn’t want to waste the opportunity. I had a new series in the beginning stages saved in a file, so I banged out the first few chapters along with a synopsis. Tor took a quick look and replied by saying that the complexity of the world was too much to make a decision without a complete manuscript.

So, defeated, I went back to my indie work and plodded on, forgetting all about Tor, the book, and transitioning to traditional publishing. Yeah, right! This is Tor we’re talking about. As a kid, most of the books I read came from Ballentine, Del Rey, or Tor. Becoming a Tor author would be the fulfillment of a childhood fantasy. So I shoved everything else aside and worked like my life depended on it.

After about eight weeks, The Bard’s Blade was finished. BEA (BookExpo America) was about a month away, and my agent contacted Tor, offering an exclusive look before shopping it to other publishers while she was in New York. Now, here’s where it gets weird…in a good way.

For anyone who has been through the submission process, you know how mind-numbingly, soul-suckingly, nail-bitingly long an ordeal it is. Aspiring writers can spend years finding an agent just to spend years more submitting to publishers. Tor seemed excited to read it and told us that they would have an answer ahead of the convention. While I wanted to believe this, I fully expected to hear back from them saying they couldn’t make a decision within the allotted time frame. I had mentally prepared for this likelihood so as not to drive myself nuts checking my inbox every five minutes.
Not only to my disbelief but to that of every traditionally published writer I know, this isn’t what happened. Tor received the manuscript on a Friday; on Monday they emailed my agent, stating they were interested and intended to make an offer. That alone had me grinning from ear to ear. I had three numbers in mind. What I would take; what I wanted; and the imaginary number that would not happen. There was, of course, the chance they would come back with a lowball figure that I would be forced to reject. That was the nightmare scenario. To turn down an offer from Tor would haunt me for the rest of my life.

But my astonishment increased when Wednesday arrived and my agent received a deal memo. It was to the dollar what I wanted. Sure, there was some tweaking pertaining to rights, but overall, I could not have expected better. It took a full day for me to absorb what had happened.

Once the contracts were signed, it was time for me to come to the realization that experienced as I was in the indie world, I had a lot to learn about working on a Big Five publication. To her credit as both a person and a professional, Lindsey Hall, Senior Editor at Tor, was understanding, and she bent over backwards to help me acclimate to new procedures and expectations. She was always available to talk and responded to my questions, no matter how silly.

After seven years of indie work, I’d ironed out a method of production that worked well for me. There is the first draft, of course, where I give little consideration to prose. This is for getting down the plot and fleshing out the characters. The second draft smooths out some of the rough edges. Then, depending on deadline constraints, one of two things happens. One: If pressed for time, the manuscript goes to my editor, with whom I’ve been working for five years. He knows my style intimately and can make additions and adjustment so close to the way I would write I can’t even pick them out. Or two: A third pass where I give it polish and pay close attention to detail. From there, I send it to my first editor.

Once I have it back, I give it a read through, then send it to my copy/line editor and proofreader. She’s fast, and has it back to me in a few days or a week at most. After another final read, I format it and then upload the manuscript to the online platforms.

During this period, I’m working with cover artists and interior designers for the paperback edition. I’m also busy on my social networking sites, getting the word out and prepping fans for the release. The details are many, and would take a book unto itself to explain. But from writing the first page to publication, I can produce a full length 100,000 word novel in roughly 4-5 months.

On the traditional front, though, things move at a different pace. The Bard’s Blade is not slated for release until January 2020. So the first thing I had to learn was patience. An indie making the transition must understand that this is not just a business – it’s a BIG business, with entire departments dedicated to aspects of publishing that an indie manages alone. Where I was the shot caller, now there were committees. Where I could make a choice and then act on it instantly, now even the discussions about making the decisions were scheduled months in advance. But this was not what had me screaming at my computer.

Switching to traditional publishing meant I was giving up the total dominion I’ve enjoyed over the content of my work. I was not the only one invested in the story and concerned about how it would be received by fans. There are good reasons editors pick some books and pass on others. They are there to pick winners. The books with which they are associated are closely watched by their superiors and the industry at large. How long will an editor keep their job after too many flops? In other words, my success is in a real way tied to my editor’s.

Knowing this did not make it any easier when I received the first round of revisions. Holy moly! I sat at my desk in a stupor for…I’m not sure how long. From my perspective, the entire book needed to be rewritten. Whole chapters – gone. New chapters needed. Even my beloved pointy-eared elf-like people were to be eliminated. It…it was…genocide! It was also as close as I came to refusing to go along with it.

But in the end, I set aside my ego and made the changes. And that’s really what it takes. When you make a success out of any endeavor, like I had with indie publishing, you begin to think you possess insights that you do not. You’re surrounded by people looking to you for answers on how they too can sell thousands of books and quit their day job. It makes you feel important; wise. Your association with other authors and the conversations you have can trick you into thinking it’s given you even greater perspective. But until you have experienced the pride-killing blow of being wrong about your own work; yelled at the comment box only to lose the imaginary argument; then looked at the end result of what you did (were forced to do) and grudgingly admitted how much better it turned out, you really can’t know what it’s like.

That’s not to say my skill sets learned as an indie were wasted. I work fast as a necessity. When given a month, I’d only need a few days. When plot issues arose, I was three steps ahead with solutions. And it wasn’t as if Lindsey took over the book and changed what it was about. It felt a bit like that in the beginning, granted, but that was just a visceral reaction, like when an only child has to share a toy for the first time with a new sibling. I was still the one creating the plot points, shaping the characters, building the world. But now I had someone helping me stay on track who could see what I was too close to notice.

I’m still putting out indie books, and will be for some time. Tor, surprisingly, has encouraged this. But I intend to slow my pace considerably. Three novels a year for seven years has taken a toll. Now, thanks to Tor, I’m carrying more tools in the bag, and it’s making it easier for me to move forward. There’s still so much to learn; curtains to be pulled back.
And for the first time in a while, I’m eager to find out what’s next.

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Book Giveaway: Vita Nostra

Courtesy of Imprint, I have a copy of Vita Nostra by Sergey and Marina Dyachenko for one lucky winner!

Contest is open to US residents only. No PO Boxes please. To enter, just fill out the form below. Contest ends November 30. I’ll draw a name on December 1, and notify winner via email.

ENTER DAILY TO INCREASE YOUR CHANCE OF WINNING!

Good luck!

Continue reading Book Giveaway: Vita Nostra

Fantasy Book Review: The Golden Tower

Magisterium 5: The Golden Tower by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Synopsis:
Callum Hunt has been a hero and an outcast, a force of good and a portent of evil. While the doors of the Magisterium have been open to him, he has never felt entirely welcome. If anything, he has felt others’ resentment . . . and fear.

Now, as he begins his final year at the magical school, his place is less certain than ever. With one unique exception, he is estranged from most of his friends. A furtive darkness still hounds him. And the greatest challenge he will ever face is right around the corner.

Review:
Callum has a big secret as he starts his final year at the Magesterium. Meanwhile, a great evil still looms and a clever plan is formed. The Golden Tower is the final installment in this fantastic middle grade fantasy series. Reading this was bittersweet. I love this series – the engaging characters and the inspired story. And this final book is fast-paced and full of drama, suspense, and magic. With several surprises along the way – both good and heartbreaking, the excitement builds to a climactic ending that doesn’t disappoint. Don’t miss this series.

Blu-Ray Review: Beyond the Sky

Beyond The Sky

Synopsis:
In BEYOND THE SKY, Chris Norton (Ryan Carnes) has been hearing about alien abductions his entire life but, in his gut, he knows they are not real. Setting out to disprove the alien abduction phenomenon once and for all, he attends a UFO convention to meet alleged abductees and reveal the truth behind their experiences. It is only when he meets Emily, who claims to have been abducted every seven years on her birthday, that Chris realizes there may be more to these claims than meets the eye. With Emily’s 28th birthday only days away, Chris helps her to uncover the truth as they come face to face with the reality that we are not alone.

Review:
Chris Norton’s father claims that his wife was abducted by aliens, when Chris believes his mother just walked out on them. He even has a video of that night with strange lights that could easily be explained. So Chris visits a UFO convention in New Mexico with the intent to prove them all wrong. He’s disrespectful at times, thinking it’s all funny, as I imagine many people would. And Chris finds the perfect person to investigate when her next supposed-abduction date is in just a couple days.

Beyond the Sky feels like a documentary, with a scifi twist. With the fascinating drama, there is a bit of humor, and several intense scenes. I enjoyed the inclusion of unique-looking alien figures and the creepiness of lost time – caught on camera. Emily is a great character who helps to get the viewer involved. And because of her, Chris becomes more likable as he tries to protect her. I thoroughly enjoyed this film. There were a couple of fun surprises that I didn’t see coming. And I loved the different take on an alien abduction story. This is definitely one of the better low budget scifi films I’ve seen.

The BEYOND THE SKY DVD and Blu-ray include the following bonus features:
• Interview with Travis Walton, Alien Abductee and Author of “Fire in the Sky”
• Interview with Navajo Artist at the International UFO Congress.

Box Review: TeeBlox – October 2018

TeeBlox

“Our TeeBlox shirts are all 100% official and licensed, guaranteed. Our CommunityBlox shirts are printed with 100% independent and original designs submitted by community artists.”

Subscriptions start at $10/mo and use code: SCIFICHICK24 to get 24% off your first month!

Subscribers can pick from 3 categories right now.

*SciFiChick.com received a box for review purposes.

Continue reading Box Review: TeeBlox – October 2018

Received in October

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

Blu Rays:
Beyond the Sky Blu-ray

Mystery Boxes:
TeeBlox

Ace:
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey by Gordon Doherty

Daw:
Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch

Del Rey / Bantam:
Iron Gold by Pierce Brown
Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch
Thin Air by Richard K. Morgan
The Women’s War by Jenna Glass
The Book of Magic: A Collection of Stories by George R. R. Martin

Disney Hyperion:
The Adventurers Guild #2 Twilight of the Elves by Zack Loran Clark

Entangled Teen:
Toxic by Lydia Kang

Hachette Books:
Planet of the Apes: Caesar’s Story by Maurice

HMH:
Courting Darkness by Robin LaFevers

Harper Collins / Avon:
Diamond Fire: A Hidden Legacy Novella by Ilona Andrews

Harper Voyager:
Dragonshadow by Elle Katharine White
Heartstone by Elle Katharine White
The Rift Uprising by Amy S. Foster
The Rift Frequency by Amy S. Foster
The Rift Coda by Amy S. Foster
The Lost Puzzler by Eyal Kless
<em>The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling
The Kingdom of Copper by S. A Chakraborty

Macmillan Children’s / FSG / Henry Holt / Swoon:
The Beauty of the Moment by Tanaz Bhathena
Comics Will Break Your Heart by Faith Erin Hicks
The Lonely Dead by April Henry
Famous in a Small Town by Emma Mills
Mist, Metal, and Ash by Gwendolyn Clare
All We Could Have Been by TE Carter
A Soldier and A Liar by Caitlin Lochner

Midnight Ink:
Fatal Festival Days by Jamie M. Blair

Pegasus Books:
The Oyster Thief by Sonia Faruqi

Pyr:
The Fall by Tracy Townsend

Shadow Mountain:
Dragonwatch: Wrath of the Dragon King by Brandon Mull

Simon & Schuster Kids / Simon Teen / Simon Pulse / Margaret K McElderr:
Children of Jubilee by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Sky Without Stars by Jessica Brody
Girls with Sharp Sticks by Suzanne Young
Crown of Feathers by Nicki Pau Preto
The Cold Is in Her Bones by Peternelle Van Arsdale
Slayer by Kiersten White

Subterranean Press:
The October Man by Ben Aaronovitch

Tor / Forge:
Starless by Jacqueline Carey
Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds by Brandon Sanderson
The Consuming Fire by John Scalzi
Restless Lightning by Richard Baker
The Dogs of Christmas by W. Bruce Cameron
The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders
Nothing to Devour by Glen Hirshberg
The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons

Tor Teen:
Truthwitch by Susan Dennard
Windwitch by Susan Dennard

Transreal Books:
The Hollow Earth & Return to the Hollow Earth by Rudy Rucker

Book Giveaway: What the Woods Keep


Courtesy of Imprint, I have a copy of What the Woods Keep by Katya de Becerra for one lucky winner!

Contest is open to US residents only. No PO Boxes please. To enter, just fill out the form below. Contest ends November 9. I’ll draw a name on November 10, and notify winner via email.

ENTER DAILY TO INCREASE YOUR CHANCE OF WINNING!

Good luck!

Continue reading Book Giveaway: What the Woods Keep