A Collection of Links

I’m not quite sure how we’re in the last week of February – just where has the month gone?  I had a quick glance at my reading log for the month and it has a grand total of four books on it, with half of those (i.e. two) read this weekend (Brandon Sanderson‘s FIREFIGHT and KJ CharlesJACKDAW, if you’re curious).

It’s just been a really hectic month, so let’s wrap up February with links, shall we?

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I always find Rachel Aaron/Bach‘s posts about the writing industry interesting – she compares the promotional benefits of Bookbub v. Amazon’s Kindle Big Deal in this one.  I subscribe to Bookbub and occasionally click through to purchase a cheap-ish book or get a free one, so I guess it works.  But I tend to see a lot of the Bookbub promos (or those that I’m interested in, anyway) also mentioned in daily deal posts/forums so I’m not convinced it reaches new audiences – then again, I’m probably not the average reader.

22162129I loved Kate Elliott‘s cover for her short story collection THE VERY BEST OF KATE ELLIOTT – so this sketch to final cover post @ A Dribble of Ink was a fun read.  Julie Dillon is an amazing artist, and her covers always make me take a second look.

Courtney Milan compares the research she does for her historicals v. her contemporaries.  Fascinating, and not something I’d have thought of before, but it does make a lot of sense.

An interview @ Time magazine with Rainbow Rowell, where she talks a bit about her upcoming novel CARRY ON (how many days is it until October again?).  I kind of think she’ll be spending the intervening months answering questions like this:

TIME: So what do you call a book like this?

Rainbow Rowell: I think it’s just straight-up fiction. Some people have said, “Oh, you’re writing fanfiction for your own book!” I don’t think it’s fanfiction, I think it’s more like canon! Because even though Simon Snow is fictional inside of Fangirl, I still had to make him up. He still feels like he’s my character.

And finally, a bit late, but this post at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books about their new Lady was fantastic – love the peek behind the scenes, and the amount of effort that went into making the image just right sounds incredible.

Five Kickstarters I’ve Backed (and What Happened Next)

The recent-ish umm… discussions around Kickstarter reminded me that I’ve had this post kicking around in draft mode for a bit. Basically, it’s my personal experiences of the (few) Kickstarters I’ve backed so far, in reverse chronological order.

I’ve mentioned Kickstarter briefly a couple of times before on my blog, and have contributed to a few book-related ones.  I view them more as a pre-order mechanism for books (with the (slight) risk of not seeing anything for my money), as opposed to funding the arts or anything remotely altruistic!  I’ve seen a few Kickstarters (or similar crowd-funding campaigns) with rewards that have made me raise an eyebrow, but I usually assume best intentions and just close the tab…

So, FWIW, here are the five I’ve backed to date and the results, plus overall thoughts below.

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24642986Fiction River Subscription Drive: I’d bought a couple of Fiction River anthologies previously (just don’t ask if I’ve read them…), so I was happy to buy a year’s subscription.  I chose the $30 level for six volumes, plus I also got one previously-published volume as they hit a bonus funding goal.

Result: I’ve received the bonus volume (I haven’t actually read it, but we’re not going there, right?) and I’ve had the first of the 2015 volumes come through in January.  No complaints – I suspect I’ve my commuting reading materials sorted for the year.

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22105447Athena’s Daughters: Women in Science Fiction & Fantasy: $5 for a female-positive ebook anthology sounded very do-able, and by the time all the bonus goals kicked in, I got a lot of reading material for my money.

Result: All the additional digital downloads were delivered promptly, IIRC, followed by the completed ebook anthology.  I’ve liked the stories I’ve read so far, and the art has been a nice bonus.  The Kickstarter creator (Silence in the Library Publishing) seem to use Kickstarter quite a bit, which means I get updates on both their projects as well as related ones – some people might not like that, but I don’t mind (and I’d change my update settings if I did).  They just finished another Kickstarter for Athena’s Daughters Volume 2 – I didn’t contribute to this one as the additional Kickstarter rewards didn’t appeal to me and I figured I’d just purchase the ebook once it was released.

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18660656The Great Way, an epic fantasy trilogy by Harry Connolly: Heh. I can’t remember why exactly I backed this. Possibly a weak moment.  No, seriously, I was familiar with his UF work, and while I’d normally balk at $12 for an ebook, the reward came with a few other (already-written) books.

Result: The book was delivered in December 2014, so slightly later than planned.  I haven’t read it yet, but am looking forward to doing so! (Also, writing this post prompted me to check that all the books were actually loaded on my Kindle, which is always a good thing.)

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16485694Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera: I have a soft spot for space opera (surprise, right?) and Seanan McGuire was a contributor to this anthology.  It was $5 for a copy of the ebook.

Result: No issues with delivery, the ebook came out more or less on time, I think.  I felt the stories in the anthology were a bit uneven, but haven’t finished reading the whole anthology yet.

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15715749Tales of the Emerald Serpent: Shared World Mosaic Anthology: This was me dipping my toe into the Kickstarter pool.  I can’t remember where I first read about this, but I was prompted to toss in $5 because I was keen to read a couple of contributors in the list.

Result: Ebook came out sooner than I expected, IIRC, and I liked the anthology.   There was a follow-up Kickstarter for Volume 2, which I passed on because the reward level for an ebook increased to $10.

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Main takeaways from my very limited sample of Kickstarter campaigns… I buy too many books?

Okay, seriously:

  • I lean towards anthologies, which makes sense, as they have broader appeal than a single-author book.
  • I back campaigns where I’m fairly certain that the creator is going to deliver the product, usually because of a good track record and/or if the book’s nearly done.
  • Conversely, I’m not too bothered about delivery timelines (YMMV) – it probably ties into the fact I’m not massively invested in individual campaigns.  Also, I manage projects in my day job, and if someone’s new to Kickstarters/projects, I suspect they’ve under-estimated the amount of work and external dependencies involved in doing one.
  • I do consider value for money – I wouldn’t pay extra for an ebook than I’d pay in the normal manner (taking into account any extras/add-ons).  In that sense, I suppose the “premium” the creator gets from me is the cash upfront, as opposed to any additional money for non-tangible rewards.
  • I go for digital rewards because of the international shipping costs associated with physical ones.
  • And really, yes, I do have a book-buying habit.

I should also say that I’ve chosen not to back a project many times – either I didn’t care for the subject matter (I’m very unlikely to back anything involving zombies, for example) or I just didn’t feel that the reward levels made sense to me personally (e.g. $10 for an ebook or rewards I didn’t want).  I also feel quite strongly that no one should feel obligated to contribute towards a Kickstarter, even if it is for a “good cause” – there are always other ways to support causes.  At the end of the day, it’s your money and you choose how to spend it.

So there you have it – everything you ever cared to know (and more) about my views on Kickstarters.  Tell me your thoughts – love them, hate them, don’t really care?

Books for February

There is something rather uplifting about leaving work when it’s still light outside.  (I’m pretending the freezing temperatures don’t exist.)  It’s felt like a very long dark gloomy January, and even the tiniest signs of spring cheer me up. So yay for a new month… and of course, new releases.

Here are the ones for February that have caught my attention:

22162129Kate Elliott‘s THE VERY BEST OF KATE ELLIOT short story collection (fantasy): I’m slowly making my way through Kate Elliott’s backlist (JARAN has been my favourite so far), and this one sounds like a must-read.

Also, the 10/10 review by Ana @ The Book Smugglers didn’t hurt.

Strong heroines and riveting storytelling are the hallmark of groundbreaking fantasy author Kate Elliott (“Crown of Stars,” “Crossroads”). Elliott is a highly-compelling voice in genre fiction, an innovative author of historically-based narratives set in imaginary worlds. This first, retrospective collection of her short fiction is the essential guide to Elliott’s shorter works. Here her bold adventuresses, complex quests, noble sacrifices, and hard-won victories shine in classic, compact legends.

In “The Memory of Peace,” a girl’s powerful emotions rouse the magic of a city devastated by war. Meeting in “The Queen’s Garden,” two princesses unite to protect their kingdom from the blind ambition of their corrupted father. While “Riding the Shore of the River of Death” a chieftain’s daughter finds an unlikely ally on her path to self-determination.

Elliott’s many readers, as well as fantasy fans in search of powerful stories featuring well-drawn female characters, will revel in this unique gathering of truly memorable tales.

Out Feb 10

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23524359Amy Bai‘s SWORD (YA fantasy): I admit it was the cover that made me take a second look, but the back cover blurb makes this book sound right up my alley.  Debut novel, I think.

Sword shall guide the hands of men . . .

For over a thousand years the kingdom of Lardan has been at peace: isolated from the world, safe from the wars of its neighbors, slowly forgetting the wild and deadly magic of its origins. Now the deepest truths of the past and the darkest predictions for the future survive only in the verses of nursery rhymes.

For over a thousand years, some of Lardan’s fractious provinces have been biding their time.

Kyali Corwynall is the daughter of the Lord General, a child of one of the royal Houses, and the court’s only sword-wielding girl. She has known for all of her sixteen years what the future holds for her–politics and duty, the management of a House, and protecting her best friend, the princess and presumed heir to the throne. But one day an old nursery rhyme begins to come true, an ancient magic wakes, and the future changes for everyone. In the space of a single night her entire life unravels into violence and chaos. Now Kyali must find a way to master the magic her people have left behind, or watch her world–and her closest friends–fall to a war older than the kingdom itself.

Out Feb 10

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22885333KJ Charles‘s JACKDAW (M/M paranormal romance): KJ Charles is an autobuy author for me – I love how she gets the balance between romance and conflict just right, regardless of whether she’s doing historical, contemporary, or paranormal. Plus I’m guessing we get to see the protagonists of her Charm of Magpie series from a different perspective in this book.

If you stop running, you fall.

Jonah Pastern is a magician, a liar, a windwalker, a professional thief…and for six months, he was the love of police constable Ben Spenser’s life. Until his betrayal left Ben jailed, ruined, alone, and looking for revenge.

Ben is determined to make Jonah pay. But he can’t seem to forget what they once shared, and Jonah refuses to let him. Soon Ben is entangled in Jonah’s chaotic existence all over again, and they’re running together—from the police, the justiciary, and some dangerous people with a lethal grudge against them.

Threatened on all sides by betrayals, secrets, and the laws of the land, can they find a way to live and love before the past catches up with them?

This story is set in the world of the Charm of Magpies series.

Warning: Contains a policeman who should know better, a thief who may never learn, Victorian morals, heated encounters, and a very annoyed Stephen Day.

Out Feb 17

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12390040Andrea K. Höst‘s THE PYRAMIDS OF LONDON (fantasy): I really don’t want to get my hopes up, but this has a release date of Feb 28 on Goodreads.  Another auto-buy author for me, if you hadn’t figured that out already.

In a world where lightning sustained the Roman Empire, and Egypt’s vampiric god-kings spread their influence through medicine and good weather, tiny Prytennia’s fortunes are rising with the ships that have made her undisputed ruler of the air.

But the peace of recent decades is under threat. Rome’s automaton-driven wealth is waning along with the Imperium’s supply of power crystals, while Sweden uses fear of Rome to add to her Protectorates. And Prytennia is under attack from the wind itself. Relentless daily blasts destroy crops, buildings, and lives, and neither the weather vampires nor Prytennia’s Trifold Goddess have been able to find a way to stop them.

With events so grand scouring the horizon, the deaths of Eiliff and Aedric Tenning raise little interest. The official verdict is accident: two careless automaton crafters, killed by their own construct.

The Tenning children and Aedric’s sister, Arianne, know this cannot be true. Nothing will stop their search for what really happened.

Not even if, to follow the first clue, Aunt Arianne must sell herself to a vampire.

Out Feb 28 (fingers and everything else crossed)

And then the possible buys

  • Elizabeth Harmon‘s PAIRING OFF (contemporary romance): Remember when I mentioned my fondness for sports romances?  Here’s one featuring figure-skating Olympians by a new-to-me author. I’m tempted.
  • Viv DanielsISLAND BORN (NA romance): I’ve the (free) prequel ISLAND ESCAPE still sitting unread on my Kindle, so I’m holding off until I’ve read that. Also, it’s a series of four books – I’ve no idea how they link together and want to avoid cliffhangers if any…

Sports Romances and Other Links (and I Get a Bit Wordy)

I was scanning through my Twitter timeline and apparently there was this thing called the Super Bowl happening yesterday?

Ha. Just kidding.

Kind of.

No, seriously, I know what the Super Bowl is (just don’t ask me to explain it), but know very little about American football. Though the tweets made me laugh. I gather there was some drama at the end.

You could probably swap “American football” in the paragraph above with practically any other sport (apart from tennis! I love tennis! I can talk about tennis for days!), and it would still be true. Which makes my love of sports romances all the more puzzling.

I’m not sure why – I think it’s that competitive spirit, coupled with the fact that if an author loves a sport, that passion comes through in the details and this whole new world springs to life in my mind.

So I’m always on the lookout for good sports romances and there were a lot of recs in this Dear Bitches, Smart Authors podcast (with transcript if you’re like me and can’t listen to podcasts at all – I’m missing the audiobook gene). I was doing my best to refrain from one-clicking every single book mentioned.

downloadAs for sports romances I’ve read:

  • I’m a big fan of Miranda Kenneally‘s Hundred Oaks YA romance books (it’s a loosely-connected series, most of them centre around a different sport)
  • Erin McCarthy‘s steamy contemporary Fast Track books (stock car racing, or NASCAR under a different name?) started off really well, and then dipped for me – I just read the last book and liked it a lot though
  • I enjoy Sarina Bowen‘s voice and her (just re-launched with new covers!) Gravity series have winter sports (skiing and snowboarding IIRC) as a background
  • And you may recall I adored Julie Cross‘s YA romance LETTERS TO NOWHERE (gymnastics), and her more recent WHATEVER LIFE THROWS AT YOU (baseball) was a good one – sweet but non-saccharine YA romance

I think that’s it – do you have any sports romance recs? I’d love to hear.

ETA: I forgot Allison Parr‘s New York Leopards NA romances (American football – ha!) – love them.

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Speaking of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, they’re celebrating their 10th(!) anniversary and Kate Elliott wrote a lovely post about discovering the SBTB blog and what it meant to her and what it meant to her. She also mentioned this experience:

I well recall the time I was on a panel at an sff convention (on what subject I can’t recall) and a certain male writer of hard sf (whose name I will not share), in answer to a question, suggested that he and the other man beside him at *that* end of the table wrote real sf as opposed to us two women at the other end (he waved contemptuously toward us) who wrote material tainted by romance.

I was flicking through my Feedly on my way home, and may have choked out loud on the bus when I read that sentence (no one looked at me though – it’s not the done thing on London public transport to admit your fellow commuters actually exist).  I’d love to believe that kind of attitude doesn’t exist nowadays, but…

Anyway, Kate Elliott’s post got me thinking about my early days exploring online reading websites – SBTB was one of the first romance blogs I read, and I also kept tabs on the All About Romance and (the now-defunct) Suzanne Brockmann message boards.  I was very much a lurker, but I read all the reviews, made obsessive lists of everyone’s recommendations, and nervously posted the very occasional comment.

We’ve come a long way since then.  The book blogging world has exploded (I feel like I stumble across a new-to-me one every other day), but I’m glad that we have places on the internet – that we have a community – where we can share and celebrate genre, and for me, SBTB was one of the pioneering blogs.

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And last but not least, here’s an interview with Robin McKinley @ SF Signal.

I don’t click with all the McKinleys I’ve read (*hides*), but loved THE BLUE SWORD and THE HERO AND THE CROWN, and she talks about winning the Newbery Award for the latter here, amongst other topics.  It’s a fantastic interview – really thoughtful questions and equally thoughtful answers.