[syndicated profile] fantasy_book_critic_feed

Posted by The Reader


Order Seraphina's Lament over HERE

My first draft of Seraphina’s Lament did not have a communist government system. It wasn’t until I was getting ready to do my rewrite, and doing a ton of research in preparation for that, that I realized that the Sunset Lands really needed to be communist. How could I possibly tell a story even remotely related to the Holodomor without communism?

Furthermore, how could I do it without a Stalin.

It was impossible.

So, in my second rewrite I realized I had to almost completely rebuild the world I’d created. I also needed to create a Stalin, and then a magic system that fit into all of this.

I knew that communist government systems weren’t that common with fantasy books, but I don’t think I realized just how unique having a Stalinist communist system would actually be until people started commenting on it.

This required an incredible amount of research. I’ve got a few books totaling around 6,000 pages on Stalin sitting on my bookshelf at home, and that’s not taking into consideration all the books I’ve read at the library, or the ones I bought through Audible. The thing is, it’s pretty easy to create a world where communism is the government once you know enough about communism to be able to do that. After I’d done all my research, the whole story fell into place and I realized that communism was exactly what had been missing from that first draft that it had desperately needed. I also realized that my own character, Premier Eyad, who is patterned after Stalin in so many ways, really needed to be part of this book.

Stalin was a horrible person. There are no mincing words about that. He killed millions upon millions of people, passed policies that had dire impacts on just about everyone, and left a red-stained legacy behind him. Yet despite all of that, he still thought he was doing the right thing. I really hated doing it, but trying to capture that element of Stalin’s character was really important to me. Villains rarely think they are villains.

Once I stopped looking at Stalin as a hulking historical figure, but started to see the man that made him who he was, creating a character influenced by him was pretty easy.

Communism was really interesting to learn about, and even more interesting to write. Communism is pretty foreign to people located out here in the United States, and while we learn about it, a lot of the details are either glossed over in history class in high school, or just not touched on at all. Basically, from high school, I was left with the understanding that communism is bad, and not much else.

In order to build a realistic communist system in my world, I had to not just understand the policies, but the impacts of these policies and how they were implemented. I had to take the main points of Stalinist communism, and change it enough to fit into the Sunset Lands.

Communism itself has a lot of territory for an author to tinker with. Setting down the policies of this government system and figuring out the impact on society as a whole was really the groundwork for building my world. Once I had that figured out, everything else fell into place.

Going into this, I knew I wanted to create a magic system based on the elements. However, due to communism, and state ownership of both goods and labor, it had to be a magic system that could be utilized like any other skill. It needed to be something that could be worked, and create, or help create, goods and services. Therefore, I ended up deciding that the elemental magic system needed to be something that could be bartered and traded.

Due to the dying world, and the changing nature of magic, the magic in Seraphina’s Lament, is understated, but there are a few situations that show what I’m talking about here. One, early on in the book, where a woman who has a talent, is forcefully separated from her son and sent to a village, ordered to use her elemental talent to help people in that village work their land. Seraphina and her twin brother Neryan are slaves because their fire and water talents are incredibly rare and valuable. Every person in the Sunset Lands is tested at a certain age, and a mark is branded into their cheek that shows if they are null talents (no talent) or what talents they have, and then, depending on the results, are either sent into specialized schools, labor camps, or assigned to villages for labor.

While I chose to write this book with a government system based on Stalinism, I ended up being really surprised that there weren’t more fantasy books with communist government systems. It’s a form of government that has plenty for authors to draw on, and use in the books they write.

The world is a big place, and part of reading is discovering it, and exploring different ways of living. Part of doing that is straying away from the tried and true forms of rulers and leadership in fantasy, kings, queens, emperors and the like. There will always be a place for that in our books, but there are so many other governmental systems out there, and so many other ways that people have lived, and are living. For me, choosing to create a communist governmental system was natural to the story I was telling. I can’t imagine Seraphina’s Lament being told any other way.

*---------------*---------------*---------------*


Official Author Website

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sarah has been a compulsive reader her whole life. At a young age, she found her reading niche in the fantastic genre of Speculative Fiction. She blames her active imagination for the hobbies that threaten to consume her life. She is a writer and editor, a semi-pro nature photographer, world traveler, three-time cancer survivor, and mom. In her ideal world, she’d do nothing but drink lots of tea and read from a never-ending pile of speculative fiction books.

Amber Cowie

Feb. 18th, 2019 03:05 pm
[syndicated profile] writers_read_feed

Posted by Marshal Zeringue

Amber Cowie is a graduate of the University of Victoria and was short-listed for the 2017 Whistler Book Award. She lives in the mountains in a small West Coast town. Cowie is a mother of two, wife of one, and a debut novelist who enjoys skiing, running, and creating stories that make her browser search history highly suspicious.

Her new novel is Rapid Falls.

Recently I asked Cowie about

Re: generation

Feb. 18th, 2019 07:47 am
[syndicated profile] monbiot_feed

Posted by monbiot

Why older people must stand in solidarity with the youth climate strikes.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 15th February 2019

 

The Youth Strike 4 Climate gives me more hope than I have felt in 30 years of campaigning. Before this week, I believed it was all over. I thought, given the indifference and hostility of those who govern us, and the passivity of most of my generation, that climate breakdown and ecological collapse were inevitable. Now, for the first time in years, I think we can turn them around.

My generation and the generations that went before have failed you. We failed to grasp the basic premise of intergenerational justice: that you cannot apply discount rates to human life. In other words, the life of someone who has not been born will be of no less value than the life of someone who already exists. We have lived as if your lives had no importance, as if any resource we encountered was ours and ours alone to use as we wished, regardless of the impact on future generations. In doing so, we created a cannibal economy: we ate your future to satisfy our greed.

It is true that the people of my generation are not equally to blame. Broadly speaking, ours is a society of altruists governed by psychopaths. We have allowed a tiny number of phenomenally rich people, and the destructive politicians they fund, to trash our life support systems. While some carry more blame than others, our failure to challenge the oligarchs who are sacking the Earth and to overthrow their illegitimate power, is a collective failure. Together, we have bequeathed you a world that – without drastic and decisive action – may soon become uninhabitable.

Every day at home, we tell you that if you make a mess you should clear it up. We tell you that you should take responsibility for your own lives. But we have failed to apply these principles to ourselves. We walk away from the mess we have made, in the hope that you might clear it up.

Some of us did try. We sought to inspire our own generations to do what you are doing. But on the whole we were met with frowns and shrugs. For years, many people of my age denied there was a problem. They denied that climate breakdown was happening. They denied that extinction was happening. They denied that the world’s living systems were collapsing.

They denied all this because accepting it meant questioning everything they believed to be good. If the science was right, their car could not be right. If the science was right, their foreign holiday could not be right. Economic growth, rising consumption, the entire system they had been brought up to believe was right had to be wrong. It was easier to pretend that the science was wrong and their lives were right than to accept that the science was right and their lives were wrong.

A few years ago, something shifted. Instead of denying the science, I heard the same people say “OK, it’s real. But now it’s too late to do anything about it.” Between their denial and their despair, there was not one moment at which they said “It is real, so we must act.” Their despair was another form of denial; another way of persuading themselves that they could carry on as before. If there was no point in acting, they had no need to challenge their deepest beliefs. Because of the denial, the selfishness, the short-termism of my generation, this is now the last chance we have.

The disasters I feared my grandchildren would see in their old age are happening already: insect populations collapsing, mass extinction, wildfires, droughts, heat waves, floods. This is the world we have bequeathed to you. Yours is among the first of the unborn generations we failed to consider as our consumption rocketed.

But those of us who have long been engaged in this struggle will not abandon you. You have issued a challenge to which we must rise, and we will stand in solidarity with you. Though we are old and you are young, we will be led by you. We owe you that, at least.

By combining your determination and our experience, we can build a movement big enough to overthrow the life-denying system that has brought us to the brink of disaster – and beyond. Together, we must demand a different way, a life-giving system that defends the natural world on which we all depend. A system that honours you, our children, and values equally the lives of those who are not born. Together, we will build a movement that must – and will – become irresistible.

www.monbiot.com

 

 

J. Albert Mann

Feb. 17th, 2019 03:05 pm
[syndicated profile] writers_read_feed

Posted by Marshal Zeringue

J. Albert Mann is the author of five novels for children. She has an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Her new work of historical fiction about the early life of Margaret Sanger is What Every Girl Should Know. Born in New Jersey, Mann now lives in Boston with her children, cat, and husband listed in order of affection.

Recently I asked Mann about

A. F. Brady

Feb. 16th, 2019 03:05 pm
[syndicated profile] writers_read_feed

Posted by Marshal Zeringue

A.F. Brady is a New York State Licensed Mental Health Counselor/Psychotherapist. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from Brown University and two Masters degrees in Psychological Counseling from Columbia University. She is a life-long New Yorker, and resides in Manhattan with her husband and their family, including Maurice the canine.

Brady's new novel is Once a Liar.

Recently I

Darius Hinks

Feb. 15th, 2019 03:05 pm
[syndicated profile] writers_read_feed

Posted by Marshal Zeringue

Darius Hinks works and lives in Nottinghamshire, England. He spent the nineties playing guitar for the grunge band, Cable, but when his music career ended in a bitter lawsuit, he turned to writing. His first novel, Warrior Priest, won the David Gemmell Morningstar award and, so far at least, none of his novels have resulted in litigation.

Hinks's new novel is The Ingenious.

Recently I

Crisis? What Crisis?

Feb. 15th, 2019 06:40 am
[syndicated profile] monbiot_feed

Posted by monbiot

The government’s refusal to respond to our democratic emergency is one symptom of systemic political failure

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 13th February 2019

 

Modern governments respond to only two varieties of emergency: those whose solution is bombs and bullets, and those whose solution is bailouts for the banks. If they took other threats as seriously, this week’s revelations of a catastrophic collapse in insect populations, jeopardising all terrestrial life, would prompt the equivalent of an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council. The escalating disasters of climate breakdown and soil loss would trigger spending at least as great as the quantitative easing following the financial crisis. Instead, they carry on as if nothing is amiss.

The same goes for the democratic emergency. Almost everywhere, trust in governments, parliaments and elections is collapsing. Shared civic life is replaced by closed social circles that receive entirely different – and often false – information. The widespread sense that politics has become so corrupted that it can no longer respond to ordinary people’s needs has provoked a demagogic backlash that in some countries begins to slide into fascism. But despite years of shocking revelations about hidden spending, fake news, front groups and micro-targeted ads on social media, almost nothing has changed.

In Britain, for example, we now know that the EU referendum was won with the help of widespread cheating. We still don’t know the origins of much of the money spent by the leave campaigns. For example, we have no idea who provided the £435,000 channelled through Scotland, into Northern Ireland, through the coffers of the Democratic Unionist Party and back into Scotland and England, to pay for pro-Brexit ads. Nor do we know the original source of the £8 million that Arron Banks delivered to Leave .eu. We do know that both of the main leave campaigns have been fined for illegal activities, and that the conduct of the referendum has damaged many people’s faith in the political system. But, astonishingly, the government has so far failed to introduce a single new law in response to these revelations. And now it’s happening again.

Since mid-January, an organisation called Britain’s Future has spent £125,000 on Facebook ads demanding a hard or no-deal Brexit. Most of them target particular constituencies. Where an MP is deemed sympathetic to the organisation’s aims, the voters who receive these ads are urged to tell him or her to “Remove the backstop, Rule out a customs union, Deliver Brexit without delay.” Where the MP is deemed unsympathetic, the message is “Don’t let them steal Brexit, Don’t let them ignore your vote.”

So, who or what is Britain’s Future? Sorry, I have no idea. As openDemocracy points out, it has no published address and releases no information about who founded it, who controls it and who has been paying for these advertisements. The only person publicly associated with it is a journalist called Tim Dawson, who edits its website. Dawson has not yet replied to the questions I have sent him. It is, in other words, highly opaque.

The anti-Brexit campaigns are not much better. People’s Vote and Best for Britain have also been spending heavily on Facebook ads, though not as much in recent weeks as Britain’s Future. At least we know who is involved in these campaigns and where they are based, but both refuse to reveal their full sources of funding. People’s Vote says “the majority of our funding comes from small donors”. It also receives larger donations, but says “it’s a matter for the donors if they want to go public”. Best for Britain says that some of its funders want to remain anonymous and “we understand that.” But it seems to me that transparent and accountable campaigns would identify anyone paying more than a certain amount (perhaps £1000). If people don’t want to be named, they shouldn’t use their money to influence our politics. Both campaigns insist that they abide by the rules.

As they must know better than most, the rules governing such spending are next to useless. They were last redrafted 19 years ago, when online campaigning had scarcely begun. It’s as if current traffic regulations insisted only that you water your horses every few hours, and check the struts on your cartwheels for woodworm. The Electoral Commission has none of the powers required to regulate online campaigning or to extract information from companies like Facebook. Nor does it have the power to determine the original sources of money spent on political campaigns. So it is unable to tell whether or not the law that says funders must be based in the UK has been broken. The maximum fines it can levy are pathetic: £20,000 for each offence. That’s a small price to pay for winning an election.

Since 2003, the Commission has been asking, with an ever greater sense of urgency, for basic changes in the law. But it has been stonewalled by successive governments. The shocking revelations by Carol Cadwalladr, the Guardian, openDemocracy and Channel 4 News about the conduct of the referendum have so far made no meaningful difference to government policy. We have local elections in May, and there could be a general election at any time. The old, defunct rules still apply.

Instead, our politicians have left it to Facebook to do the right thing. Which is, shall we say, an unreliable strategy. In response to the public outcry, Facebook now insists that organisations placing political ads provide it (but not us) with a contact based in the UK. Since October it has archived their advertisements and the amount they spend. But there is no requirement that its advertisers reveal who provides the funding. An organisation’s name means nothing, if the organisation is opaque. The way Facebook presents the data makes it impossible to determine spending trends, unless you check the entries every week. And its new rules apply only in the US, UK and Brazil. In the rest of the world, it remains a regulatory black hole.

So why won’t the government act? Partly because, regardless of the corrosive impacts on public life, it wants to keep the system as it is. The current rules favour the parties with the most money to spend, which tends to mean the parties that appeal to the rich. But mostly, I think, because, like other governments, it has become institutionally incapable of responding to our emergencies. It won’t rescue democracy because it can’t. The system in which it is embedded seems destined to escalate rather than dampen disasters.

Ecologically, economically and politically, capitalism is failing as catastrophically as communism failed. Like state communism, it is beset by unacknowledged but fatal contradictions. It is inherently corrupt and corrupting. But its mesmerising power, and the vast infrastructure of thought that seeks to justify it, makes any challenge to the model almost impossible to contemplate. Even to acknowledge the emergencies it causes, let alone to act on them, feels like electoral suicide. As the famous saying goes, “it is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism.” Our urgent task is to turn this the other way round.

www.monbiot.com

 

 

Barry Eisler

Feb. 14th, 2019 03:05 pm
[syndicated profile] writers_read_feed

Posted by Marshal Zeringue

Barry Eisler spent three years in a covert position with the CIA's Directorate of Operations, then worked as a technology lawyer and startup executive in Silicon Valley and Japan, earning his black belt at the Kodokan International Judo Center along the way. Eisler's bestselling thrillers have won the Barry Award and the Gumshoe Award for Best Thriller of the Year, have been included in
[syndicated profile] writerbeware_feed

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

Publishizer bills itself as "the world's first crowdfunding literary agency." What does that actually mean? From the company's FAQ:
Publishizer is a crowdfunding platform that matches authors with publishers. Authors write proposals, readers pre-order copies, and publishers express interest to contact authors. Publishizer queries publishers based on pre-orders milestones at the end of the campaign. The author receives a range of offers, and selects the best one.
As near as I can figure (Publishizer's FAQ and Terms of Use are annoyingly non-specific about the details of the process), here's how it works. Authors post their proposals on the Publishizer website, offering perks and incentives, Kickstarter-style, to encourage readers to pre-order. If the campaign reaches 250 pre-orders, Publishizer pitches the proposal to its independent publisher partners. A 500 pre-order benchmark garners a pitch to traditional publishers (which Publishizer defines as high advance-paying publishers that don't charge fees). Below 250 pre-orders, the pitch is to "hybrid" and "service" publishers (i.e., companies that do charge fees).

Campaigns are active for 30 days. Once they end, Publishizer releases pre-order income to the authors (authors keep the money they raise, regardless of how many pre-orders they generate). Authors are then responsible for fulfilling the pre-orders or persuading their chosen publisher to do so--or for refunding backers if the author chooses not to publish (Publishizer's Terms make it very clear that they do not get involved in this process). Publishizer keeps a 30% commission (a good deal higher than other crowdfunding sites; Kickstarter's commission, for instance, is 5%).

All in all, Publishizer sounds less like a literary agency than a crowdfunding variation on the manuscript pitch sites of old, where writers posted proposals and book excerpts for publishers and literary agencies to sort through in search of new properties and clients. Most of these sites, which were billed as replacements of, or at least competitors with, the old-fashioned system of gatekeepers, no longer exist, for a simple reason: publishing professionals never really embraced them. (For a discussion of some of the reasons why, see my 2015 blog post.)

Publishizer's pre-order component does add a contemporary element, in that it could suggest reader interest to a prospective publisher (indeed, that's one way Publishizer promotes the site to publishers). But what kind of publishers actually look for authors on Publishizer? One of the historical problems with pitch sites has been that, even if they could recruit reputable users, they were just as likely to attract questionable and marginal ones. Do high-level, reputable publishers--the kind you might need an agent for--actually use Publishizer?

The answer, as far as I can tell: not so much.

A Look at Publishizer Book Deals

Take, for example, Publishizer's list of member publishers. They're categorized as traditional (no fees, high advances); independent (no fees and no or modest advances); hybrid (fees); and service (self-publishing or assisted self-publishing). There are some agent-only publishers in the first two categories--but also many that authors can approach on their own, no agent needed. Of more concern is the fact that both the "traditional" and "independent" categories include a number of publishers that are nothing of the sort: they either charge fees or have book purchase requirements. (Publishizer is aware of this: see below.) Perhaps the most egregious of these mis-listings: the one for Elm Hill, HarperCollins Christian Publishing's fantastically expensive assisted self-publishing division, which shows up under traditional publishers.

Next, Publishizer's case studies of authors who found publishers via the site. Included are some solid independents (several of which accept submissions directly from authors), and an imprint of the Big 5. However, there's also Austin Macauley, an expensive vanity publisher that I've written about here, and Harvard Square Editions, a small press that pays royalties on net profit (at substandard percentages) and at one point was requiring authors to get their mss. "externally edited".

Next, the testimonials hosted on Publishizer's homepage. These too mention a number of genuine independent publishers--but also Koehler Books, which offers "co-publishing" contracts costing several thousand dollars (yet is listed by Publishizer as an independent publisher). The testimonial that cites HarperCollins turns out actually to mean expensive self-pub provider Elm Hill (see above).

It's much the same for the "Browse Recent Deals" animation at the top of Publishizer's homepage. Alongside reputable independents are acquisitions by fee-based companies including Morgan James Publishing (like Koehler, listed as an independent publisher despite its 2,500 book purchase requirement), Lifestyle Entrepreneurs Press, and i2i Publishing, plus at least three publishers that have managed to issue only one book to date: Sage & Feathers Press, Time Traveller Books, and Christel Foord. A book purportedly published by "Harper Voyage" [sic] turns out to be self-published (and no wonder: every single one of the companies that expressed interest in the writer's campaign are fee-chargers or self-publishing service providers).

Browsing recently completed campaigns makes it even clearer that pay-to-play publishers, marginal publishers, and assisted self-publishing services are major users of the site. Take a look at the publishers that expressed interest in this campaign, which I picked at random. Two have questionable contracts or business practices (Black Rose Writing and Anaphora Literary Press--I've gotten complaints about both). Two are vanities (Morgan James Publishing and Koehler Books). The rest are either fee-charging "hybrids" (I put that in quotes because most so-called hybrids are either vanities or jumped-up self-publishing service providers) or assisted self-publishing companies. Just one is a genuine independent (The Story Plant). (The author chose Morgan James.)

Or this campaign, also picked at random. There's interest from two independent publishers (Karen McDermott, about which I know nothing, but which, based on its self-description, would not seem to be appropriate for the book on offer; and SkyHorse Publishing, an established indie), plus one that has misleadingly listed itself as an independent but is actually "shared risk", a.k.a. pay-to-play (ShieldCrest Publishing). Also one questionable publisher (Anaphora again); four fee-chargers (i2i Publishing, Isabella Media Inc., WiDo Publishing, and Prodigy Gold Books, about which I've received reports of unprofessionalism); and five assisted self-publishing services. (The author chose to self-publish.)

I didn't cherry-pick those two examples, by the way. I looked at at least twenty recent campaigns, and all showed a similar pattern.

Most revealing is the list of 268 books that have been published as a result of campaigns on Publishizer. As a Publishizer representative pointed out to me, many of these campaigns are from the company's early years, when it was strictly a crowdfunding platform. But of the approximately 195 that have been published since Publishizer's publisher-matching component was launched in 2016 (and yes, I looked at every single one):
  • At least 16 books have been acquired by vanity publishers, including Morgan James, Austin Macauley, and Koehler Books. (Koehler has snapped up so many authors via Publishizer that it has a special page for them on its website. It even offers "a discount".)
  • More than 130 additional authors have chosen either to self-publish, or to pay for publication through so-called hybrids or assisted self-publishing services.
  • Of the remaining 45 or so books, most have found homes with smaller presses to which the authors could have submitted on their own--not all of them desirable, as noted above.
  • Only a handful--fewer than 10--have signed up with bigger houses.
"Many Have Satisfying Experiences"

As of this writing, Publishizer makes this promise on its homepage:
Clearly, that claim is not accurate--at least as to the "traditional" part. When I contacted Publishizer to ask about it, a company representative told me that 9 out of 10 Publishizer clients land "a" book deal, but acknowledged that the current wording of the claim is misleading and promised to flag it for the team's attention.

I asked whether Publishizer is aware that its lists of traditional and independent publishers include a number of fee-chargers. The representative indicated that Publishizer does know this. "It is no secret that some traditional publishers also offer hybrid deals or even accept payment to publish a book - it just isn't publicised. We have had hybrid publishers sign traditional deals with some of our authors."

Leaving aside other issues--including the false (but unfortunately quite common) idea that traditional publishers often engage in secret vanity deals, and the fact that publishers that rely on author fees rarely provide high-quality editing, marketing, or distribution--this obviously doesn't square with how Publishizer defines traditional and independent publishers: both, it says, "do not charge costs". When I pointed this out, the representative asked for more information. I've provided her with a list of the companies that I know offer fee-based contracts.

Finally, I asked why Publishizer believes writers benefit from having their books pitched to hybrid publishers and self-publishing service providers, which not only require payment but don't typically work with middlemen. "While we do our best to educate [authors] on the differences between self-publishing, hybrid and traditional publishing, we do not choose for them," the representative responded. "Not every book can get a traditional deal, but a lot of books have been realized through Publishizer because we present a range of publishing options that are available, and authors can choose what's best for them...as we are very invested in our authors' success, many have satisfying experiences with us."

All of which is no doubt true, but doesn't really address the question of why it's worth handing over 30% of your crowdfunding earnings for pitches that include companies that are likely to take even more of your money, and that you could just as easily approach on your own.

Conclusions

All in all, the information above suggests that if you post a proposal on Publishizer, the majority of offers you'll receive will likely not be the kind of offers you may have been hoping for, especially given how Publishizer presents itself.

So what does Publishizer actually do for authors? Certainly it helps to generate pre-orders, and some authors have been able to raise substantial sums of money. But Publishizer's poorly-vetted group of publishing partners, top-heavy with fee-chargers, is no boon to authors--and even if the questionables were purged and the misleading listings corrected, you don't necessarily need a middleman to promote your book to independent publishers. You especially don't need an intermediary to pitch your work to fee-charging hybrids or self-publishing platforms or other types of "non-traditional publishers".

As a crowdfunding platform, Publishizer may be worth considering, despite its sizeable commission. As a "literary agency," though, it suffers from the same flaw that doomed the manuscript pitch sites of the past: top-flight publishers are scarce, while marginals and predators roam free. The company representative with whom I corresponded assured me that Publishizer is working to expand and improve its pool of traditional publishers. However, authors who are considering Publishizer for more than raising money should carefully consider how what the site currently appears able to deliver--as opposed to what it claims to deliver--dovetails with their own publishing goals.

Postscript

Despite labeling itself a literary agency, both on its website and in search results, and touting coaching during book campaigns by "our agents", Publishizer includes this disclaimer in its FAQ:


So...not an agency then. Got it.

I'm also curious about the claim that "many agents" use Publishizer. I'd be interested to hear from agents or authors who can confirm this.
[syndicated profile] fantasy_book_critic_feed

Posted by The Reader


Official Author Website
Order Empire Of Sand over HERE

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS:
When you dance with the Rite of Dreaming, you dance with the gods.
Mehr’s got it made, I guess,
There were perks to being the Governor of Irinah’s daughter—even an illegitimate one. People obeyed you. Servants rushed to your bidding. Even the ones who loathed you—and there were many—were forced to veil their contempt and keep their loathing eyes lowered. All people faced hatred. All people suffered. Few had the cushion of wealth and privilege to protect them as Mehr did. nice wardrobe, plenty to eat, time on her hands, but it comes with downsides. Her father’s grounds constitutes a golden cage. And mom’s side presents a whole other problem.
While dad is a member in good standing of the Ambahn clan, the ruling caste in the empire, Mehr’s mother was a member of the oppressed Amrithi clan. Not your usual ethnic minority. The Amrithi began ages ago when a magical being called a daiva (djinn-like, with both a physical and a more ethereal nature) got jiggy with a human, making the Amrithi not entirely our sort. The magical side DNA comes with some benefits, though, for some Amrithi anyway. An ability to communicate with the daiva who still roam the world. And how do they communicate, you may ask?

Here is the genius of the book. Amrithi communicate with the daiva via physical movement, specifically through dance and sigils,something between magic spells and prayer. (If you have ever seen the TV show, The Magicians, they do a lot of hand sigils there, and not all are of the middle finger variety) They also have dance rites that are the equivalent of the prayer rituals common to many religions. Mehr keeps up the rituals she learned from her mother and from a mentor her mother asked to look after her when she left. The rituals give her a sense of connection not only to her heritage, and her mother, but in a very real sense to the magical events in this world.

Suri took some inspiration from her own upbringing. Kids in Indian classical dance training make abundant use of hand symbols. She also wanted to incorporate that signaling with an element of martial arts. Her characters’ hand sigils are no mere form of artistry. They have real world impact. They kick ass.


More family enters into it. Mehr has a little sister she loves and wants to protect, (and whose safety can be used as leverage against her) and then there is the evil-stepmother, Maryam, (a true bloom of Ambhan womanhood) who does her best to hiss and sneer her way across the page whenever she shows up. She is particularly eager to keep Mehr from continuing the practices of her Amrithi heritage.

There’s more. In this fantasy world, which is inspired by a Bollywood version of what the Mughal Empire might have been, reality is not the relatively consistent universe we have come to know. It is a product of the dreams of the gods. Only sometimes those dreams get disturbed, generating hurricane-like storms that dump a whole new type of precip, a thing called dreamfire. Way beyond oobleck.
The dreamfire was everywhere now. It was in the air she breathed, in the sweat at the nape of her neck. She could feel the strength of it churning the city into a storm. The buildings were drenched in light, debris flying through the air as if the world had tipped on its side and sent everything sprawling. Even the earth felt like it was moving beneath her feet. It was dizzying, terrifying. Exhilirating. 
Dad, who clearly loves Mehr, and evil-step-mom, who clearly doesn’t, may have Mehr’s best interests at heart in keeping her confined to the grounds. Seems the talent she has for things magical is in high demand by dark sorts. So, when Mehr slips out and puts her skill to the test, word gets around and she is in a whole mess of trouble. Way worse than being grounded.

The religious leader of the empire (midway between Thanos and the High Sparrow), has sent a delegation of mystics and a not-so-subtle demand offer for Mehr to marry one of them, a dodgy-seeming character called Amun.
Like so many other of the other mystics Mehr had seen in Lotus Hall, his face was swathed by cloth. Only his eyes and bridge of his nose were revealed but his head was lowered, hiding his gaze. The little of his skin she could see was dark She couldn’t tell if he was young or old, ugly or handsome. He was simply male, broad-shouldered and intimidating with footsteps that were soft, too soft. He had a predator’s tread.
It is an offer she cannot refuse. No more mani pedis for you, dear. Mehr hits the road with her new associates and the game is afoot. No, really. No saddles or palanquins. They walk across the desert to the evil leader’s oasis-centered temple. His name is Maha, and the similarity to mwahahaha cannot possibly be accidental.

Ok, entire-world-fantasies can really get you bogged down in describing everything, (like the above) and then you lose track of the thread. Ok? We got all our words straight, Daiva? Sigil? Amrithi? Ambahn? Jeez, can we move on with it already?

The change of scene also signals a change in approach. What ensues is not just learning what dark plans Maha, who is entirely cruel and not entirely human, has in store for Mehr, and taking on that challenge, but getting to know Amun. Is this bad boy really so bad? Why does everyone think he’s a monster? What’s the deal with all the blue tats? And what else will be forced on Mehr? A challenge for sure.

The book heads in two directions here. First is getting the lay of the land and finding out who you can trust, and where you can get the best figs. Part of this is dealing with being invited to hang by one group, when you really want to be doing something else, figuring out who can be trusted, deciphering the palace politics in her new town. Very relatable, particularly for the younger set. The other major element is the reveal of what the Maha has in mind, and how Mehr will cope. But the major bit for what seems the largest chunk of the book is Mehr getting to know Amun. They have to come up with modus vivendi in order to accomplish the tasks with which they are charged, and not get, you know, murdered.

It was not the fastest read. I enjoyed the first 100 pps of intro to the world and Mehr’s situation, and I enjoyed watching her face diverse challenges and overcome, or not, yet still grow in the process. But I did not enjoy the pace or duration after that. It was reasonably-paced and engaging at first, but settled into a slower, drawn-out tempo that was a bit frustrating. The book might have lost about fifty pages, maybe more, without suffering too much. There are a few interludes when we see events away from Mehr from the perspective of other characters. These offered a break from the central pillar of the tale, and added in a few details Mehr could not deliver to us. There was an element of romantic interaction that was appropriate and engaging, but which took up way too much of the book, detracting from the much more interesting magical, and palace intrigue elements.

You know I like a good romance. Well, I read a lot of romance…That’s something that romance series do really, really well. they create books that draw on each other but they’re also kind of discrete stories in themselves. You’ve got a beginning, a middle and end. You’ve got a satisfying conclusion. You know if you pick up the next one you’re going to get the same thing. So, that’s what I’m trying to do with the series. - from the Reddit session

Not the romance thing, per se, but the beginning-middle-end thing.

It was a bit unclear to me whether this was intended for YA readers or adults. Certain tropes made me think YA. Things like a sheltered girl being forced to face life’s realities and find out if she will face-plant or be the stuff that dreams are made of. We have certainly seen plenty of examples of kids or teens with hidden powers that emerge as they grow and confront danger of one sort or another. Evil stepmothers are a dime a dozen in YA tales. And Mehr has a little sister she is eager to protect, like that Everdeen kid.

But then, the challenges that Mehr confronts extend well beyond showing the world her stuff. She has to contend with complex moral questions. Suri is also looking at larger issues relating to women. She is interested in how women could exercise power in a heavily patriarchal society, and not settle for invisibility. She shows them choosing paths for themselves, despite the external limitations on their freedom, and sometimes having to hide their true feelings.
She managed to catch herself on her hands before her skull met the floor. Then she bowed to the floor, her forehead to the cool marble. She allowed herself to tremble; feigned being a thing bent and broken by his cruelty. She did not have her jewels or her fine clothes, but she had this power, at least: she could give him a simulacrum of what he desired from her. And hold her crumbling strength tight. Let him think he had broken her. As long as he believed he already had, as long as she fooled him, he would not succeed in truly doing so.
CONCLUSION: I very much enjoyed the extreme creativity that went into the literary construction of this world. The magical concepts were impressive, exciting, and fit well with the story. Mehr is an engaging character you will find it easy to root for, particularly when she is faced with wrenching decisions. The writing is beautiful and evocative. I enjoyed much less what seemed a shift from the magical elements and court machinations to an excessive focus on the romantic. But was brought back by the action, twists, and resolutions at the end. I expect there are many castles to be made of Suri’s sands. She has a second book in the series planned, The Realm of Ash, set many years later, looking at the consequences of the actions in book 1. Some dreams can be made real.

NOTE: This review was originally posted by Will on Goodreads.

Adele Parks

Feb. 13th, 2019 03:05 pm
[syndicated profile] writers_read_feed

Posted by Marshal Zeringue

Adele Parks was born in Teesside, North East England. Her first novel, Playing Away, was published in 2000, and since then she's well over a dozen international bestsellers, translated into twenty-six languages.

Parks's latest novel is I Invited Her In.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’ve just finished reading The Mother-In-Law by Australian author Sally
[syndicated profile] fantasy_book_critic_feed

Posted by The Reader


Official Author Website
Order The Glass Dagger over HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Woven Ring
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Imbued Lockblade
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Glass Dagger

Q] Thank you for agreeing to this interview. Before we start, tell us a little bit about yourself. Who is MD Presley? And why should everyone be reading your novels?


MDP: I’m an introvert, so this is my most dreaded question of all times. I swear, I’ve lost more jobs than I can count when I hit the “tell me about yourself” question and I would stutter something like how I’m not a serial killer. Which we all know only makes you sound more like a serial killer. Because who needs to assure you that they’re not serial killers other than serial killers?

Now that the creepiness is (mostly) out of the way, I guess you should know I’m a former screenwriter who still works in the industry and got tired of no producer ever greenlighting the bizarre and budget-busting ideas I had. So I decided to self-publish, which might just be the best retirement plan for all screenwriters who don’t quite “make it.” But I like to think I learned a lot about plotting and characters from my time in the trenches, which hopefully shows in my novels, which is why you should read them.

Plus floating trains. And psychic exoskeletons. Who doesn’t want to read about those?

Q] When and why did you decide to become an author?

MDP: Ugh… I am the writer cliché that always wanted to be an author. Ever since I was a kid playing with my GI Joes/ Star Wars action figures, which I acted out really, REALLY intricate stories with. Then I would run the scenario again, but changing one event to see how it played out. Not borderline-type behavior at all…

Shortly after college I learned about screenwriting, which embodied everything I loved: Stories that no one ever read. I don’t particularly care for my prose, and screenwriting is a medium where no one but the film crew actually reads your work. So it seemed perfect.

Smash Cut To: 15 years later as I write novels and expose my prose to everyone who will deign to look.

Q] What draws you to writing in the genre of fantasy?

MDP: My mother checked out a single chapter of The Sword of Shannara on tape when I was in fourth grade and I listened to the battle between Panamon Creel and Keltset versus the skull bearer and I was pretty much hooked. Which sort of put me at a disadvantage since I encountered post-Tolkien authors (ala Dragonlance) before actually reading any Tolkien. So it was always a bit of a letdown when I read the source from which all inspiration sprung.

Neil Gaiman’s Sandman was the next real eye-opening moment for me when I realized authors could do anything, be it blending comics with sacred myths, all the while adding our own idiosyncratic mythos in a modern setting. It really was pivotal for me, and probably why I focused on epic urban fantasy during my screenwriting career.

Q] Tell us a little bit about your writing process. What do you start from? Do you start with a character, an image, or an idea? Talk a little bit about how a novel “grows” for you.

MDP: I’m a creative cannibal in that pretty much all my worlds, plots, and characters were begun in a completely different story idea that never panned out. But there were always some kernels of awesome seeded there, so I would keep them in my notes and wait until they found fertile soil. Usually by mixing them with another aborted idea. Sol’s Harvest, for instance, is a variation on a character I came up with in college mixed with a plot for one of my earliest screenplays, painted on a world I came up with as a thought experiment.

But that’s just planting the idea garden with a bit of compost from other ideas. After everything takes root, I’m really disciplined in my outlining phase, bible writing, world building, plotting, and the like. I would talk your ear off about it, but I realize there is nothing more mentally grating than hearing an author go on and on about their process. So I’ll just say visit my blog, where I go into excruciating detail as to the process weekly.

Q] What’s the hardest thing for you during the whole “writing experience”?

MDP: The process is pretty streamlined for me at this point, so I’ll say the waiting and myopia. Even with the great community of fellow self-published authors I get to hang out with online, writing is a very lonely endeavor: I literally sit alone in a darkened room after the rest of the household goes to bed. So you develop an intimate relationship with the material that isn’t always healthy. You (meaning me) get too close to the story, to the point you lose perspective and can’t tell if it’s good or bad anymore. I try to schedule time between the rough drafts and the editing phase so I can approach it with fresh eyes, but you (meaning me) honestly can’t tell what it’s worth until you start getting some sort of feedback, usually in terms of beta readers. Unfortunately, this is several months into the process, while all the while you’re left wondering if you’d just squandered your time and sanity on something no one will ever possibly love.

Which is why, I guess, there’s always such a cliched comparison between writing and raising children.

Q] What made you decide to self-publish as opposed to traditional publishing?

MDP: Like I joked earlier, I see a lot of screenwriters turn to self-publishing as a means to get their ideas out when no one in Hollywood will listen. We come from a world where the screenwriter makes (maybe) 2% of the budget of the film and then has to do rewrites (which are invariably TERRIBLE) based on the director/ producer/ actors’ notes multiple times throughout the process. Now don’t get me wrong, I obviously value others’ opinions (see above answer), but it gets very soul-crushing to be the one whose specialty is the story, yet having the least amount of control over it in the room. So writing novels was my escape from this, the ability to tell the stories I wanted to tell the way I wanted to tell them.

Which is why I avoid the traditional process like the plague: It’s the same thing I was trying to escape from the film world. Now this is my personal path, and I do not begrudge anyone who wants to go the traditional route. I just didn’t have the time/ inclination to start the same process over again at this point in my life. And, as advances drop and publishers try to wring diminishing profits out of their authors and new mediums like e-books and audio books, I feel I’ve made the right decision.

Q] One of the big challenges with self-publishing is finding readers. Was that your experience?

MDP: Oh dear God, yes. As wonderfully democratic as it is that anyone can now publish a book and get around those mythical gatekeepers of quality in the traditional publishing approach, the double-edged sword takes effect in that anyone can publish a book… usually of dubious quality. And as much as I am a proponent of self-publishing, I do realize there’s a lot, LOT of crap out there flooding the market. So the real problem in being a new self-published author is convincing a potential reader that you’re not like the rest of those terrible writers.

Which, just like a serial killer, is exactly what a terrible writer/ serial killer would say.

I did make some good early connections with fellow authors early on, but Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off was really a turning point for me in finding an audience. I ended up here at Fantasy Book Critic, and while I lost the opportunity to bear your banner to the championship round to eventual second-place winner Alec Hutson, the reviews I received here gave me that seal of approval I could tout to others as to why they should give my books a chance.

Q] What advice would you give someone who wants to self-publish?

MDP: Learn the lay of the land. Writing is a great personal experience, but you need an audience. And chances are you’re probably writing for/ in a subgenre. So go find that subgenre and where they hang out ahead of time. Become one of them so your book will have a better chance of reaching a receptive audience when it comes out.

Then make sure to put out a professional product. The reason self-publishing gets a bad rap is because much of it is crap. So rise above and take the extra effort to look like the real deal. That means professional proofreading, editing, and a great cover… all things I made mistakes on in my first fledgling steps.

But there are resources out there for authors now, covering everything from how much you should spend on editing to creating your author newsletter. Learn it and practice it.


Q] As you know, I'm a huge fan of your series. The novels can be read simply for fun and engaging plot, but they also deal with issues of politics, sacrifice and religious zealotry. Why were these themes important for you to write about?

MDP: I joke that the true pitch of my series is The Last Airbender put through the True Detective blender, which is to say I want to take everything that is bright and enjoyable of a fantasy world, then cover it in grit. And as much as I’m riding the current grimdark wave as it crests, I think it’s important that we don’t gloss over these big issues as we write our escapist genre. I’m a firm believer in the anti-hero, which also means that no one thinks they’re the villain in their own story. Which is why it matters so much to me that there’s shades of grey from all perspectives in this series.

Q] What was your initial inspiration for the Sol's Harvest series?

MDP: Oops, I answered that above. It really was The Last Airbender in that I wanted to test myself to see if I could create a world equally as lavish and interesting as that series, and True Detective in that I wanted to do a multiple timeline tale where you get to watch the protagonist(s) arc twice in the telling of each book, so that when you finish one timeline the events that preceded it now offer a different perspective than when you were reading it at the time.

Q] The thing I really enjoyed about the story was how you’ve orchestrated different, but converging time lines and how each book of the series focuses on a different character. Why have you decided to write them this way?

MDP: That’s the True Detective influence again (I should probably read the upcoming questions ahead of time so I will stop answering them in the previous questions). But each perspective adds new insight to previous events, so that knowing what you do about Luca in book two, you would read book one differently. Ditto with Graff from book three. And don’t even get me started on how book four will shift the understanding of the whole series…

Q] One of the things I’m torn about is my favorite character in this series, and that’s a good thing. I am definitely partial to Marta, though I probably find Luca most charming and Graff interesting in a creepy way. Do you have a favorite to write yourself?

MDP: I shouldn’t admit this, but Carmichael and Oleander were probably my favorites. I do like Marta and Luca (and Isabelle) as characters, but I don’t think I’d like to actually hang out with them as people. Not now that I’ve dealt with them for years on end. Oleander gets the benefit of the doubt because she’s remembered as a perfect and loving foil by Marta, which Carmichael is the exact opposite embodiment of. Which makes him so much fun to write.

Is it bad that I always identify with villains?

Q] The characters do develop and change as you read the novels. Did you find your own views of the characters changed as you were writing or was it always your intention for things to be “as they are”?

MDP: All their arcs are mapped out way ahead of time, although the path they take to get to those beats that I’ve planned out sometimes surprise me in the execution. And yes, my opinion of Graff changed significantly before/ after writing book three.

Q] The setting of the books is excellent. Though we’re not told everything, there feels like a rich backstory of history, myth and legend. What challenges did you face not just in making it accessible, but in incorporating all the information that needed to be conveyed to make the story work?

MDP: This is a tough question in that I’m currently doing research on a book on fantasy worldbuilding and will talk your ear off on the subject. But I do think it’s something we should discuss as fantasy fans/ authors because I think, along with plot and characters (and maybe prose), worldbuilding is one of the table legs that support our genre.

Personally speaking, I wrote something like 100 pages of worldbuilding spanning from their creation myth to the different factions currently vying for control before I even began outlining the books. But worldbuilding is a lot like backstory for characters in that, while the author needs to know it all, the audience doesn’t. It’s all about context and what you think is necessary for the story to make sense. I tried to show-not-tell the bits I could, but didn’t fear the infodump when I couldn’t. How well I accomplished creating audience context is entirely up to the readers to decide though.

Q] What sort of research did you do for Sol’s Harvest?

MDP: I hate to admit, but most of my research was Wikipedia. I mean, I read some books on the Civil War as well as a lot of myths, but mostly relied upon my memory of high school history and used my imagination (it is fantasy after all). Wikipedia was for moments where I needed specific details like how many troops are actually in a brigade.

Q] What was the most difficult part of writing this series? What was the most enjoyable part?

MDP: The most difficult part was the starting out as a self-published author and not knowing a damn thing. It was like being a newly blinded person let loose in a mob and told to go purchase a train ticket from a machine a half-mile away (I don’t know where that simile came from). Needless to say, there was a lot of fumbling and some skinned knees.

The best part, I hope, is yet to come when book four comes out and people see this unholy monstrosity I’ve wrought over the last several years.

Q] If you would be given the chance to rewrite any of the scenes in The Woven Ring before publication, would you do it? If yes, what and why?

MDP: I would rewrite it from page one on until the final punctuation mark. Not the story beats, mind you, but the prose. As I’ve said, I hate my own. But I hate what I’ve recently written less than I hate what I wrote long ago. Which is why I only read what I’ve already published to find specific details I need for the current story. Otherwise, reading it pains me since I want to correct it to fit my current style.

Q] Would you say that Sol’s Harvest series follows tropes or kicks them?

MDP: Well, it kicks the farmboy with a sword trope in the balls right out the gate with an aristocratic female with all the gifts who has already failed at life as the protagonist. Although I guess she does have a sword. There’s also no immediately obvious prophesy or dark one, and I do sort of end the initial quest in book two of four.

Which might be why this series isn’t that popular: People like tropes and I don’t think I included nearly enough.

Q] Which question about Sol’s Harvest series do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

MDP: Will character X be the final POV for book four? I love that question because it shows that people are engaged enough to care. And I can’t really answer because that would give it away.

But that was sort of a cheat. So I’ll leave you with this creepy question I got once: Will Marta and Carmichael ever make out?

Short answer: No.

Long answer: Noooooooooo!

Q] Do you have a plan for your career as an author? At the moment you are wrapping up Sol's Harvest tetralogy. Do you have any other authorial goals that you are striving towards that you want to talk about?

MDP: As I said, I’m going to try my hand at a non-fiction book on fantasy worldbuilding when this is through. Then I’ll kick off an urban fantasy series that’s been living in my head rent-free for almost two decades. And I’m also considering returning to the world of Ayr with a series of novellas exploring the other continents and their particular magics with one of the surviving characters from this series. But we’ll see how much energy I actually have.


Q] Can you name three books you adore as a reader, but that make you feel inadequate as a writer?

MDP: Neil Gaiman’s The Wake: I had so many feels for this one that I don’t think I’ll ever produce in anyone ever, even if I live to be 100. 100 Years of Solitude: Just plain lush. And I’ve always wanted to make a movie out of Peter Hoeg’s Borderliners because of the way he captures alienation in a way I’ve never been able to. Although I’ve certainly tried.

Q] Thank you so much for agreeing to this conversation, MD! We greatly appreciate your time and thoughts.

MDP: You’re kidding, right? You appreciate my time?! How often does an author, especially a self-published one, get to go on about themselves on a stage like this without having to pay money (or perhaps an organ) for? Seriously, much of the success that I do have comes from Fantasy Book Critic and the support you’ve shown me, an unknown author with no connections. You opened the doors for me and I will never forget that.

So if you ever need a body buried west of the Mississippi, you got my number.

East? Well, I know a guy…

Padma Venkatraman

Feb. 12th, 2019 03:05 pm
[syndicated profile] writers_read_feed

Posted by Marshal Zeringue

Padma Venkatraman was born in Chennai, India, and became an American citizen after attaining a Ph.D. in oceanography from The College of William and Mary.

She is the author of A Time to Dance, Island's End, and Climbing the Stairs.

Venkatraman lives in North Kingstown, Rhode Island.

Her new novel is The Bridge Home.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Venkatraman's

Jane A. Adams

Feb. 11th, 2019 03:05 pm
[syndicated profile] writers_read_feed

Posted by Marshal Zeringue

Jane A. Adams is a British writer of psychological thrillers. Her first book, The Greenway, was nominated for a CWA John Creasey Award in 1995 and an Author's Club Best First Novel Award. She has a degree in Sociology and was once lead vocalist in a folk rock band.

Adams's new novel is Kith and Kin.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I tend to have several

The Mask of Anarchy

Feb. 11th, 2019 12:21 pm
[syndicated profile] monbiot_feed

Posted by monbiot

Why disaster capitalists are praying for a no deal Brexit.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 8th February 2019

 

Part of me wants to smash it all up. I want to see the British bubble burst: the imperial nostalgia, the groundless belief in the inherent greatness of this nation, the casual dishonesty of those who govern us, the xenophobia, the intolerance, the denial, the complacency. I want those who have caused the coming disaster to own it, so that no one ever believes them again. No Deal Brexit? Bring it on.

Such dark thoughts do not last long. Then I remember it will be the poor who get hurt, first and worst. The rich leavers demanding the hardest of possible Brexits, with their offshore accounts, homes abroad and lavish pensions, will be all right. I remember the eerie silence of the City of London. While the bosses of companies producing goods and tangible services write anxious letters to the papers, the financial sector stays largely schtum. Shorting sterling is just the first of its possible gains.

The Asian financial crisis of 1997-98, caused by the IMF’s insistence that countries removed their capital controls, began with an attack by foreign speculators on Thailand’s baht. As currencies tanked and nations raised their interest rates, indebted companies went down like flies. Foreign corporations, particularly from the US, swept in and bought the most lucrative assets for a fraction of their value. Though the causes are different, it’s not hard to see something similar happening here. If it does, the City will clean up.

But this is not the end of it. What a no-deal Brexit might offer is the regulatory vacuum the Brextremists fantasise about. The public protections people have fought so hard for, that we obtained only through British membership of the EU – preventing water companies from pouring raw sewage into our rivers, power stations from spraying acid rain across the land, chemical companies from contaminating our food – are suddenly at risk.

In theory there are safeguards. The environment department has been frantically trying to fill the regulatory chasm. It has published more statutory instruments than any other ministry, and has drafted an Environment Bill, with plans for a watchdog to hold the government to account. But a series of massive questions remain, and none of them have easy answers.

The Environment Bill will not be put before parliament until after the Queen’s speech (probably in May). It won’t be passed until autumn, at the earliest. The green watchdog (the Office for Environmental Protection) will not materialise until 2021. During that time, there will be no body equivalent to the European Court of Justice to ensure that the government upholds the law. Instead, there will be a “holding arrangement”, with an undefined “mechanism” to receive reports of environmental lawbreaking, that the watchdog might be inclined to investigate when it eventually materialises.

Replacing just one of the EU’s environmental functions – registering new chemicals – requires, before March 29, a new IT system, new specialist evaluators, new monitoring and enforcement across several agencies and new government offices, filled with competent staff, to oversee the system, in the four nations of the UK. All this must happen while the government attends to scores of transformations on a similar scale. If the shops run out of food, hospitals can’t get medicine and the Good Friday Agreement falls apart, how much attention will it pay to breaches of environmental law?

Already, we are witnessing comprehensive regulatory collapse in the agencies, such as Natural England, charged with defending the living world, due to funding cuts. If they can’t do their job before we crash out, what chance do they have when the workload explodes, just as government budgets are likely to slump? The government’s nomination of Tony Juniper as Natural England’s new chair is a hopeful sign, though the general astonishment that an environmental regulator will be chaired by an environmental champion show just how bad things have become (since 2009, it has been run by people whose interests and attitudes were starkly at odds with their public duties). But the underlying problem Natural England faces will also hobble the green watchdog. Unlike the European Court of Justice, the Office for Environmental Protection will be funded and controlled by the government it seeks to hold to account.

Last week, the Guardian reported panic within government about the likely pileup of waste the UK currently exports to the EU, in the event of no deal. The combination of a rubbish crisis, administrative chaos and mass distraction could be horrible: expect widespread flytipping and pollution. So much for the extremists’ euphemism for no deal: “clean Brexit”.

The government’s commitment to upholding environmental standards relies to a remarkable extent on one man: the environment secretary, Michael Gove, who has so far doggedly resisted the demands of his fellow Leavers. Had any one of his grisly predecessors been in post – Owen Paterson, Liz Truss, Andrea Leadsom – we wouldn’t have even the theoretical protections Gove has commissioned. Boris Johnson has suggested that leaving the EU will allow us to dismantle green standards for electrical goods and environmental impact assessments. Iain Duncan Smith has pressed for the removal of the carbon floor price after Brexit, that has more or less stopped coal burning in the UK.

With Liam Fox in charge of trade policy, and the US demanding the destruction of food and environmental standards as the price of the trade deal he desperately seeks, nothing is safe. A joint trade review by the British and Indian governments contemplates reducing standards on pesticide residues in food and hormone-disrupting chemicals in toys. This must be heartening for Jacob Rees-Mogg (known in some circles as Re-smog), who has proposed that we might accept “emission standards from India”, one of the most polluted nations on earth. “We could say, if it’s good enough in India, it’s good enough for here.”

There is no guarantee that Michael Gove, the unlikely champion of public protection, will stay in his post after Brexit. If we crash out of Europe, the dark money that helped to buy Brexit will strive to use this opportunity to tear down our regulations: this, after all, was the point of the exercise. The tantalising prospect for the world’s pollutocrats is that the United Kingdom might become a giant export processing zone, exempt from the laws that govern other rich nations. It’s a huge potential prize, that could begin to reconfigure the global relationship between capital and governments. They will fight as hard and dirty to achieve it as they did to win the vote.

A combination of economic rupture, sudden shifts in ownership, an urgent desire to strike new trade deals and a possible regulatory abyss presents a golden opportunity for disaster capitalism. Our first task is to see it coming. Our second is to stop it.

www.monbiot.com

 

 

 

Gareth Hanrahan

Feb. 10th, 2019 03:05 pm
[syndicated profile] writers_read_feed

Posted by Marshal Zeringue

Gareth Hanrahan’s three-month break from computer programming to concentrate on writing has now lasted fifteen years and counting. He’s written more gaming books than he can readily recall, by virtue of the alchemical transmutation of tea and guilt into words. He lives in Ireland with his wife and twin sons.

Hanrahan's newest novel is The Gutter Prayer.

Recently I asked the author about

Simon Ings

Feb. 9th, 2019 01:05 pm
[syndicated profile] writers_read_feed

Posted by Marshal Zeringue

Simon Ings is the author of novels (some science fiction, some not) and non-fiction, including the Baillie Gifford longlisted Stalin and The Scientists. His debut novel Hot Head was widely acclaimed. He is the arts editor of New Scientist magazine and can often be found writing in possibly the coldest flat in London.

Ings's newest novel is The Smoke.

Recently I asked the author about what he
[syndicated profile] fantasy_book_critic_feed

Posted by The Reader


Official Author Website
Order The Glass Dagger over HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Woven Ring
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Imbued Lockblade

OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFORMATION: Born and raised in Texas, Matthew D. Presley spent several years on the East Coast and now lives in California with his wife. His favorite words include defenestrate, callipygian, and Algonquin. The fact that monosyllabic is such a long word keeps him up at night. He’s also worked as a professional Hollywood screenwriter who has written for Chinese TV serials as well. When not writing, he also makes jewelry for fun. The Woven Ring was his debut book. 



OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: Some Monsters Secure Our Safety.

Everyone fears a Render, those chosen by Sol to sever the bonds of life with their glass blades. And no Render is more feared than Graff, who single-handedly held the line at Stone Cleaver. Hundreds died by his hand during the Grand War, and hundreds more in the intervening years, despite Graff not spilling a single drop of blood. A relentless monster, Graff has set his sights on the child Caddie, and not even Marta can stop him.

And now Luca doubts if she even should.

Their band shattered and original mission scattered to the winds, Marta must ally with old enemies as new friends betray her. Worse still, Marta now suspects something dark dwells deep in the child she now considers her own.

FORMAT/INFO: The Glass Dagger is 461 pages long divided over twenty-nine chapters. Narration is in the third person via Marta Childress, Luca Dolphus and Solace Graff. This is the third volume of the Sol’s Harvest series.



The book was self-published by the author on February 6th, 2019  as an e-book. Cover art and design is provided by  Michael Shinde.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Solace Graff, Render extraordinaire, is a creep. A huge, clumsy bloke with a glass eye, insane powers and total lack of interest in personal hygiene or well being. His lifelong obsession to become the greatest living Render living on Ayr made him stark raving mad. Obviously, there’s much more to it than we suspected and Graff’s dark past hides many surprises.



In The Glass Dagger, MD Presley brings important plot and character arcs to a satisfying and surprising conclusion, while simultaneously opening new ones.We learn who Caddie is and why the future of Ayr may depend on whether she lives or dies. We learn who and why made the civil war start and how key characters’ pasts intertwined and converged off-page. New reveals blew my mind and attest to MD Presley’s impeccable plotting skills. I love the way he orchestrates timelines and characters arcs while moving between them.



The real joy of the book is how well the magic integrates with the rich Ayr’s mythology. The result feels compelling and immersive and every chapter draws the reader deeper into the dark and disturbing story. The plot, while mostly journey- and hunt-based (Graff and Luca follow Marta and Caddy) has enough twists to remain compelling even after the characters and world are established. Add to this cinematic fight sequences and enjoy the ride.



The Glass Dagger stumbled only with characterisation. An autistic, overpowered and single-minded Graff, while intriguing lacks complexity. Marta, Luca and Isabel lost a sense of direction (a deliberate choice of the author before the final book, I think) and turned into feral animals that fight, bite and destroy things.



Especially Marta. A pity as I always loved her as a character. Killing is her second nature. Caddie awakened her maternal instincts. When someone threatens Caddie, their life ends in seconds. Speaking bluntly, for the most of the story characters feel flatter than in previous instalments. Although their relationships still have much growing left to do, many of the later scenes in the book between them (and in various configurations) felt emotionally rushed. That said, Marta and Carmichael’s confrontation was excellent and showed a genuine development of Marta as a character. It also hit her where she’s always been most vulnerable.



CONCLUSION: While this book won’t make you sit back and feel good about the world, it’ll make you reflect and wonder (on politics, religion, beliefs and ambitions) and that’s the power of a good novel. MD Presley doesn’t provide a salivating cliffhanger, but he sets the stage for final reveals I can’t wait to discover. After this ending, I have little doubt that the ultimate book will be anything less than breathtaking. I can’t wait to see how it wraps up.

Ann Weisgarber

Feb. 8th, 2019 01:05 pm
[syndicated profile] writers_read_feed

Posted by Marshal Zeringue

Ann Weisgarber was born and raised in Kettering, Ohio. She has lived in Boston, Massachusetts, and Des Moines, Iowa. She is the author of The Promise and The Personal History of Rachel Dupree, which was longlisted for the Orange Prize and shortlisted for the Orange Prize for New Writers.

Weisgarber's new novel is The Glovemaker.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her

Patrice Sarath

Feb. 7th, 2019 11:05 am
[syndicated profile] writers_read_feed

Posted by Marshal Zeringue

Patrice Sarath is an author and editor living in Austin, Texas. Her novels include the fantasy books The Sisters Mederos and Fog Season (Books I and II of the Tales of Port Saint Frey), the series Books of the Gordath (Gordath Wood, Red Gold Bridge, and The Crow God’s Girl) and the romance The Unexpected Miss Bennet.

Recently I asked Sarath about what she was reading. Her reply:
The Murderbot

Profile

lizabelle: (Default)
lizabelle

June 2014

S M T W T F S
1234567
89 1011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
2930     

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags