This week’s Write Tip addresses a question I get a lot. I have been fortunate enough to get blurbs on my books from many well known authors, and people want to know how I manage it. So here are some tips for getting blurbs from name authors.
1) Ask. — It sounds really obvious but it’s the truth. If you don’t ask, you won’t succeed. When it comes to asking for blurbs, you just target the desired authors, and politely ask if they’d consider reading for a blurb. Authors won’t put their name on something they don’t feel good about, and not every author who agrees to read the project will blurb it, but getting them to take a look is the first step. So ask.
2) Pick Appropriate Authors. — This one may be less obvious to some of you. Don’t just ask your favorite authors. Ask authors who are known for writing the genre in which your book falls. These will be people who typically enjoy reading books like yours. They will also have names familiar and most enticing to your targeted readers. There’s no point putting a blurb on your book from someone who might not be considered informed on the topic and genre. Unless it’s a meganame like Stephen King, having inappropriate blurbers may not add any benefit at all.
3) Give Them Time. — If you can get permission from your publisher, the time to ask for big name blurbs is after the book is turned in to the editor or goes to copyediting. Don’t wait for galleys. By the time most galleys show up, your turn around time is usually very short. By starting early, you can offer several months to potential blurbers which gives them a lot more flexibility to work such an obligation into their own very busy schedules and makes it more likely they’ll agree to take a look. For our Baen anthology Shattered Shields, Jennifer Brozek and I got permission from Toni Weisskopf to ask for blurbs just after we turned in our manuscript. This gave us the opportunity to ask people like Mike Resnick, John Marco, Catherine Asaro, and Ken Scholes for blurbs. All four said yes, and before we even have copyediting marks to review, three of them have sent us great blurbs for the book.
4) Pick People You Have a Relationship With. — In the age of social media, building relationships with authors you admire is simpler than ever. All you have to do is engage smartly. Strike up a conversation. Encourage. Ask thoughtful questions. And soon you’ll find yourself in dialogue with them. Over time, this can develop into a familiarity and even friendship that will make requesting blurbs not only much easier but much more likely to be well received by them. It’s not like they don’t have to do the same thing themselves. But if they don’t know your work, knowing you are cool and likeable will make them much more willing to both help you and to assume you’re not sending them crap.
5) Be Grateful. — Whether they say “yes” or “no,” be grateful that they considered it. Graciously thank them either way, and consider it a positive that you even got to interact. You never know what possibilities that may present in the future. Even if they say “no,” they may see you at a con later and ask how things are going with your book. That opens a door to dialogue and building a relationship which might lead to a future “yes.”
6) Do Not Abuse The Privilege. — Don’t over ask. Don’t ask people constantly for help. Be careful who you ask and how often. This shows consideration for both the level of your relationship and their own busy schedules. They have deadlines of their own, and those come first. Whenever you’re asking someone to take time out from those and help you, be respectful of the fact that they have limited time to do such things. They have to make choices. They are more likely to choose you, if you are considerate and don’t over impose.
7) Offer To Return The Favor. — Okay, if you’re not a known author yourself, your blurbs are likely meaningless for them. But what you can offer is to proof or review their books on Amazon, Goodreads, etc. and authors are almost looking for help with that. You can’t repay them. You shouldn’t pay them, as it’s really not standard and it violates most people’s ethics. But you can offer to do them a favor in return.
8 ) Send Them Quality Projects. — This tip may seem obvious but I guarantee it’s not. The better quality your project, the more likely the askee is to agree to consider a blurb. Make sure the manuscript is clean, copyedited, and formatted professionally. If you are self-publishing or working with a small press, this is especially important. Authors know the Big Five New York houses will clean up the manuscript to make it professional. Small presses and self-publisher are less reliable. If their name is going on it, they want to be sure it’s worthy, and besides content, that means presentation, so send them a quality project with quality presentation and they are more likely to say “yes.”
Well, there you have 8 tips for getting blurbs from name authors. Remember, they’re doing you a favor. So “no” is never personal. A “yes” is always a gift. And treat them accordingly. If you follow these guidelines, use good common sense, and are professional, you’ll likely have a good chance of getting blurbs from known authors in the future. Maybe not for every project, but then again, if you follow these tips, you won’t send them every project. Regardless, these tips have worked well for me.
For what it’s worth…
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is an author and editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction. His debut novel, The Worker Prince (2011) received Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases for 2011. His short stories have appeared in magazines, anthologies and online. He edited the anthologies Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 (2012), Beyond The Sun (2013), Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera For a New Age (2013) and coedited Shattered Shields (Bean, 2014) with Jennifer Brozek and is working on Monster Corp., A Red Day, Mission Tomorrow, and Gaslamp Terrors, among others. He hosts #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter.
“RAYGUN CHRONICLES breathes supercharged life into the space opera genre with exciting and inventive new tales by a superb line-up of writers. This is why science fiction will live forever!”—Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of PATIENT ZERO.
“RAYGUN CHRONICLES is an impressive anthology with an impressive list of contributors, a real showcase of the color and scope of what science fiction can be.”—Kevin J. Anderson, New York Times bestselling author of the Saga of Seven Suns
“Wonder, adventure, romance, humor–space opera delivers all of these, and this anthology brings together some of the finest talent in the business. Strange new worlds await. So lower your shields, engage your thrusters, and prepare to jump to warp speed!” — Dave Wolverton, New York Times Bestselling author of Star Wars: The Courtship of Prince Leia
“These stories bring the reader back to the days when we dreamt of blasters and flying cars. Golden age space opera fun with a strong Western feel.” — Alex Shvartsman, Editor Unidentified Funny Objects and Official Ken Liu Hugo bearer
Now I just have been mailing out review copies for Raygun Chronicles. It takes a while, but those efforts for Beyond The Sunhave landed us two major reviews and a major podcast appearance this month. The two major reviews are out this week in LOCUS’ October 2013 issue which is THE industry zine and thus a huge boost for us. These are also my first Locus reviews EVER. The first comes from Gardner Dozois, year’s best editor, award winning anthologist and writer:
There’s nothing really exceptional in Beyond the Sun, a mixed original/reprint anthology edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt, but it is a fun read, with some solid core SF work, although a similar concept was explored better last year by Jonathan Strahan’s Edge of Infinity. The theme appeals to me, as stories of exploration and adventure in space beyond the bounds of Earth remain one of the foundation stones of SF, but don’t expect to find hard science and rigorously worked-out physics here, as this isn’t that kind of book. Instead, it belongs to the old Pulp Adventure school, where spaceships flit between planets in days and sometimes even hours, and there are lots of exotic alien races to interact with and/or battle with. The best of the original stories here is probably Nancy Kress’s ‘‘Migration’’, a compelling look at the power instinct can hold over even the most rational minds, but also good are Brad R. Torgersen’s ‘‘The Bricks of Eta Cassiopeiae’’, Jaleta Clegg’s ‘‘One-Way Ticket to Paradise’’, and Nancy Fulda’s ‘‘A Soaring Pillar Of Brightness’’. There is also solid work by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Cat Rambo, Mike Resnick, and others, as well as good reprint stories by Robert Silverberg and Jason Sanford.
Also from October Locus, Karen Burnham reviews BEYOND THE SUN for Diverse Hands:
KAREN BURNHAM Beyond the Sun, Bryan Thomas Schmidt, ed. (Fairwood Press 978-1-933846-38-5, $17.99, 296pp, tp), August 2013. Cover by Mitchell Davidson Bentley. [Order from Fairwood Press, <www.fairwoodpress.com>.]
There are many reasons people may want to settle out beyond our solar system: religious freedom, economic opportunity, exploration, contacting other life, or simply the desire to be left alone. A little bit of all of these can be found in Bryan Thomas Schmidt’s broadly themed anthology Beyond The Sun. There are aliens, religious fanatics, soldiers, and plenty of people just trying to get by in this diverse volume.
One story about going to the stars in search of a simpler life is ‘‘Respite’’ by Autumn Rachel Dryden. In it a more-or-less Puritan couple are trying to reach the main settlement by wagon while the wife is in labor and the local fauna is about to launch into a feeding frenzy. Ann’s internal perspectives on events gives us a wonderfully dry take on a very tense story, and the troubles between her and her husband are deftly sketched. What I found particularly interesting is that the story ends up admiring a particular view of father- hood that is directly critiqued in the anthology’s strong opening story, ‘‘Flipping the Switch’’ by Jamie Todd Rubin. Rubin uses a trope similar to Joe Haldeman’s classic The Forever War to describe a father who is providing for his family but is fundamentally detached from them. The story effectively portrays the increasing tension the man feels as he drifts farther and farther away from his loved ones.
Returning to religious themes, Jean Johnson’s ‘‘Parker’s Paradise’’ depicts a colony that’s been vastly oversold by its religious leader; the acerbic perspective of a soldier tasked to protect the first contact group makes me want to go read some of her military SF, because this was hilarious. Jason Sanford’s ‘‘Rumspringa’’ gives us the space Amish, with a team of post-humans looking to manipulate an Amish colony through one of their own that went out into the world and came back. ‘‘The Far Side of the Wilderness’’ by Alex Shvartsman depicts a man driven by religious faith to hijack a ship and try to find Earth; his single-minded pursuit leaves him dissatisfied with a most amazing journey. Maurice Broaddus’s ‘‘Voice of the Martyrs’’ gives us an interesting blend of military, religion, and colonization – no easy answers in this one.
There’s one final story that features a religious colony: ‘‘The Dybbyk of Mazel Tov IV’’ by Robert Silverberg. Unlike most of the stories, which are original to the anthology (there are two other reprints, both from the 2000’s), this is a reprint from 1973. This is the second anthology I’ve read this year that has done this: taking a solid selection of contemporary stories and adding in a cherry-picked story from many decades past. Inevitably, the reprint by an old master (it was a Le Guin story the last time, I recall) blows the others away. Robert Silverberg’s story seems fresher, livelier, and more three dimensional than so many of the stories here – not that any of them are bad, but simply that they don’t get over a bar set that high. Some of them do; I would put Rubin’s story in that category along with Cat Rambo’s ‘‘Elsewhere, Within, Elsewhen’’ (a lovely tale of alien contact that literalizes the metaphor of being trapped in a shell of bitterness and resentment). But it really seems unfair to most of the authors involved. I understand the incredible temptation when you’re offered a Silverberg or Le Guin reprint that perfectly suits your theme, but in a mostly-original anthology I wish the editors would stop and reconsider.
That said, there are plenty of solid and enjoyable stories here. Various forms of libertarianism feature in Nancy Kress’ ‘‘Migration’’ and Brad Torgersen’s ‘‘The Bricks of Eta Cassiopeiae’’. Massive miscommunications with and about aliens feature in Simon C. Larter’s ‘‘Inner Sphere Blues’’ and Jennifer Brozek’s ‘‘Dust Angels’’. Jumping to conclusions is ill-advised in Nancy Fulda’s ‘‘A Soaring Pillar of Brightness’’. Luckily, aliens can be just as quick to misjudge a situation when Mike Resnick depicts them examining our television broadcasts in the concluding story ‘‘Observation Post’’.
Overall, this is a collection of solid stories in the somewhat neglected outer space exploration genre of science fiction. Post-humans are rare and garden variety humans occupy center stage, which feels a bit unusual these days. I worry that it seems that aliens in this volume are so difficult to communicate with: it often takes personal sacrifice to do so, or something improbably hand-waving to do with biology and telepathy. Compared to Silverberg’s 1973 story, in which communication with aliens is not terribly more fraught than communication with a rival human religious sect, this anthology seems a little discouraging about the real potential for relating to and communicating meaningfully with the Other.
Nonetheless, these are enjoyable tales with serious themes, worth the time spent reading them.
Okay, it’s been a few months since I did one of these. I’ll admit, my well was running dry and needed a break to refresh. But I’m going to pick it back up now with a subject that many authors and even small publishers might benefit from: creating releases to go with review copies as you send them out.
If you’re not on a list to receive ARCS from majors, you may not have seen one. But all ARCs (Advanced Review Copies) come with a press release containing key information about the book. They are easy to create. I did mine in Word. And yet, they entice the recipient to read as well as making it easy for them to find key information about the author and book in case they want to write reviews, do interviews, or more.
I recently made these for my latest anthologies and here’s what they look like for Raygun Chronicles:
So let’s break it down. First, your header should include the publisher’s logo and primary business address.
The footer should include the meta data about the book (as shown), including page count, release date, sale price, ISBN, format, etc.
360 pages · ISBN 978-0-9881257-5-9 · Hardcover: $29.95US/$34.95CAD · Publication: December 3, 2013 · Paperback: ISBN 978-0-9881257-6-6 $17.95US/$19.95CAD ·
ebook: ISBN 978-0-9881257-7-3 $6.99US/$8.99CAD
Usually centered. This is the key information for both reviews and articles as well as booksellers and others who might want to order the book.
The header and footer should be the same on every page of the release. And I should tell you, two pages is usually more than enough. In fact, most are a page and a half.
Now let’s look at what lies between.
First, at the top right corner, put contact information. An email address, name hyperlink and even phone number if you want, usually for a publicist or publisher who will serve as key point of contact for inquiries about the book. Sometimes the release date is also included in bold above this information.
Next, key quotes. If you’re fortunate enough to have early reviews or blurbs back, use them. If they’re too long, trim or use judicious ellipses, but don’t change the meaning of anything. This is very important. You will be called on it and having those kinds of questions raised in the middle of a release is not advisable. It’s an unneeded distraction at the least.
Then, centered, in large text and bold, Title and author’s name as a reminder which book this release pertains to. After all, most reviewers and interviewers get many ARCs and releases and they can be easily separated and all look alike. Make it easy for them to be matched up again if necessary.
Then a brief summary about the book, using your best exciting, sales language, of course, to make them want to read.
This should be followed by a bio of the author. 100-150 words should suffice. Less if possible. Concise and quick is what matters here. You want to excite and tease them but not make them stop reading.
Then after the bio, usually on page 2 (as shown) include blurb clips from author’s previous work. Sometimes there can be images of the book, but these increase printing cost. Often a list of the author’s other titles with ISBNs and prices is included.
Regardless, this is the standard information for such releases. The purpose is to get the recipient to prioritize attention to the book in question. And so keep it concise, clean, and positive. But also be honest and don’t overdo it. After all, the book should speak for itself. Remember, with all the requests inundating them and the fact that not every book, subject or author appeals to everyone, your book may not be chosen. Sometimes they’ve reviewed too much in that genre recently or even an0ther of your books. Sometimes, there are other reasons. Regardless, getting it into their hands and getting their attention is your job. What happens after that is not.
Printing these double sided is a good idea, but stapled double pages is also common. Regardless, they are easy to make and cheap to print and they will make even your self-published or micropress book look professional alongside the books from the majors. Provided your cover design and layout can compete, that is. But that’s a different post.
So that’s how to make your own professional Release Cover Letters For Review Copies of your books. I hope it’s useful. For what it’s worth…
I have basically been unable to even look at my website since I switched laptops at the end of July. I was locked out. 403 errors if I tried to either pull up the main URL or the login URL. Today, Jamie Todd Rubin swoops in and tells me how to fix it in 30 minutes or less. One shot of tequila and that man is a genius.
And also, Better WP Security plugin was the culprit. Be very careful with that one folks. I was using it to make it harder for trolls and spammers to access my site but in the process, I wound up being unable to access it myself. The culprit were changes to the .htaccess file, which, once reset to default, made the problem go away.
But it was a frustrating and perplexing month that basically left me blogless. I was so busy with deadlines and other issues, I let it go. Until I got locked out of sffwrtcht as well. Thank goodness Jamie responded to my tweets.
There’s always going to be as many different approaches as there are different types of writers. It’s a fact one must accept, despite any strong opinions an author my hold on various publishing & writing related subjects. The furor this past week over the whole “paid reviews” scandal and John Locke’s How I Sold One Million E-Books In A Month is just a sign of the realities. For many authors, writing is an art and integrity is the goal and of high importance. For others, those who buy into the fairly common myth that all authors are rich, writing is a means to fame and fortune. They want to get rich. Writing a quality book is secondary as long as people buy what the put out there. Others lie somewhere in between. Wherever you are on that scale, it’s easy to be frustrated by the many pitfalls and struggles one faces on the writing journey. And when someone seems to take an unethical short cut to get there, it can make you mad.
Paying for reviews has been around for a while. Library Journal, Kirkus, and Publisher’s Weekly allow people to pay to have books reviewed under certain circumstances: 1) it’s three months past release date; 2) it’s self-pubished. There are others which you can find on their websites under Review Policies. But there’s a big difference between paying for their time and attention to your book (they are not cheap in what they ask, mind you) and paying for a guaranteed outcome. Paying for five star reviews is something that’s about dishonesty and cheating. Paying for the time of respected review sites which are swamped and by which association–good or bad review–your book will draw more attention, that’s the reality of the marketplace. So while paying for reviews isn’t new, the trend toward buying success definitely is and it’s quite disconcerting.
Reviewers, like editors, bookstore staffs and publishers, are gatekeepers. What happens when it becomes public knowledge that the keys to the gate can be purchased? For those who count on gatekeepers to weed out the wheat for the chaff, how will they know where the lines of quality expectations are drawn? Admittedly one of the issues with the rise of self-publishing and POD is that sometimes really good books get mixed in with a whole lot of low quality crap. There are no gatekeepers and it’s way too easy, so some people write their book and rush it onto the market with no money or time spent on editing, quality art, etc. These are not artists, these are capitalists. And so the reader and book buyer is left looking for a way to be sure they spend their limited budget wisely, especially in the current climate. And gatekeepers provide one trusty way to at least cut down the odds that you’ll be buying crap. There’s no guarantee that you’ll like every book you buy from such professionals, but you can at least be sure someone who makes their money warding the gates took a look and signed off on it. You can expect certain standards of editing, layout, art, etc. And for many, those things are indeed a comfort.
So the saddest possible outcome of scandals like this “buy a good review” outbreak is the loss of trust readers may develop in gatekeepers which, in the age of self-publishing and POD, are becoming even more important than ever. Book bloggers are going to play a big role in the future as the publishing industry model changes. This is especially true for independent authors and small presses who don’t have mega-corporate budgets for marketing and must rely on word of mouth. You need reviewers in whom readers place their trust and confidence to help spread the word about your books. If readers begin thinking all reviewers can be bought, you’ll be in big trouble. This is something you should think about long and hard before buying a review. Because the long term impact on the market could be staggering.
But another sad reality is the pressure some may feel to compromise their integrity and beliefs because “that’s what you have to do to make it.” From fellow authors to small presses, if the trend continues, pressure may grow to participate in buying reviews. As New York trade houses cut their staffs and buy less books by new authors, newcomers may find POD and self-publishing is the best way to open the door. But without marketing, they stand no chance to succeed. If buying reviews is the only option or what works, many many put aside their ethical questions to “go with the flow.” And that would be unfortunate, because such decisions can lead all kinds of places, most especially to regrets about what one can never undo.
I think integrity still matters in life and in writing. Readers who know you continue to sweat over your words and put out quality stories, characters, etc. will wait, despite the length of your process, anticipating your next book with excitement. The integrity of your process may frustrate their patience but it won’t disappoint their sense of respect for you as long as the books are worth the wait. There’s still value in remembering who you are doing it your way. No matter what pressures arise in a culture of cheating like the one that seems to be arising around buying reviews and all kinds of other aspects of publishing. If it truly gets to the point that people of integrity have no place in publishing or in society, we’re in big trouble. We’ve already seen major repercussions of that around the world.
So despite the claims of those who would buy their way to the top, I would still remind and urge fellow writers to Do It Your Way, be yourself. It’s okay to say “No, that’s not for me.” It’s okay to separate wrong from right. It’s okay to pursue dreams with a moral compass and do the right thing. It’s still okay to believe in art.
For what it’s worth…
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is an author and editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction. His debut novel, The Worker Prince(2011) received Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases for 2011. A sequel The Returning followed in 2012 and The Exodus will appear in 2013, completing the space opera Saga Of Davi Rhii. His first children’s books, 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Books For Kids (ebook only) and Abraham Lincoln: Dinosaur Hunter- Lost In A Land Of Legends (forthcoming) appeared from Delabarre Publishing in 2012. His short stories have appeared in magazines, anthologies and online. He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 (2012) and is working on World Encounters and Space & Shadows: SpecNoir with coeditor John Helfers, both forthcoming. He hosts #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter and is an affiliate member of the SFWA.
It’s not that often that a science fiction story bordering on space opera comes along that everyone will enjoy reading. That’s what Schmidt accomplishes with the Worker Prince. Revolving around a recent graduate prince who leaves home for his first assignment only to discover his slave-class origins, the story mirrors that of the Biblical Moses in many aspects.
While the main protagonist, Davi Rhii, does not spend 40 years in the dessert, he does wrestle with identity issues and the status quo of an empire built on the back of slave labor. The conflict that ensues is the classic story of one against the many. The result is watching an individual discover his unique place, and this is something most of us long for in our own lives.
Schmidt finds a nice balance between moralizing and adventure in his tale that I thought suited anyone between the ages of 13 and dead.
That being said, it didn’t hit the sweet spot for me. I prefer a little more grime and grit in my space opera. Rhii is a champion and hero more along the lines of Luke Skywalker (without all the whining) and less like Han Solo. But the prose is elegant and well-paced.
If you enjoy young adult literature, coming of age tales, and/or science fiction adventure then you’ll enjoy The Worker Prince. Read it! Review it! Share it!
In 2009 when I started writing The Worker Prince, my debut science fiction novel, I had no idea what urban fantasy was. Of course, as I got into the industry and reading I heard bits and pieces. True Blood showed up and I met and became friends with Kat Richardson and John A. Pitts whose novels fell in that category. One of the advantages of hosting Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat is that I get sent tons of books to read and deliberately book and ask for a variety of genres. So I finally managed to read John and Kat’s books and I loved them. I have never been that into paranormal. Poltergeist was amusing but silliness. I do believe in spirits but I’m don’t think about ghosts a lot, and vampires and zombies to me are about the most tired things out there. It takes a lot to get me interested in them. I loved Anne Rice’s series and that did it for me on vamps. Zombies have just never interested me. Let dead people stay in the ground. Just a body. Meh. On the other hand, urban fantasy is huge with tons of bestselling authors, including Charlaine Harris, Jim Butcher, Kat Richardson…need I go on? So of course SFFWRTCHT needs to cover it and I need to be aware.
Now, I simply love it! One of my favorite genres and someday I will write some. I have ideas in development now, in fact. I read 52 books a year just for chat plus extras for blogging on SFSignal, etc. and blurbs, which I get asked for now. Usually 70 books at least is around the number, so it may take me a while to get through a lot of stuff (no Hamilton or Butcher yet). But these 9 are the Urban fantasy I’ve read so far. And I loved all of them for different reasons. They’re quite distinctive from each other.
1) Greywalker by Kat Richardson – Harper Blaine is a P.I. who died after an attack for two minutes then came back with the ability to see spirits. Yep, she’s a Greywalker now, and this series has gotten deserved high praise. [See Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Paul Goat Allen raving about them here. ]These are bestsellers for a reason and the seventh book, Seawitch, just arrived this month. Mysteries with Harper investigating and dealing with all kinds of spooky creatures from vampires to ghosts, etc., they are well paced with a great noir feel and make good use of their Pacific Northwest settings. From the cover description, although I like Kat as a person a lot, I was not at all sure I’d enjoy her books. Never have I been so wrong. I’ve read two so far and own all but the latest. Cannot wait to find time to read them!
2) Sarah Beauhall by John A. Pitts – Another where I love the writer as a person but the description didn’t enthrall me. And again, I was soooo wrong. (Are you noticing a pattern?) Pitts has taken the old tropes and made them new with this one. Also set in the Pacific Northwest, Sarah Beauhall is a blacksmith apprentice and movie props maven whose prop sword turns out to be a magical dragon killing sword. The magical dragon killing sword. And she finds this out, of course, by encountering someone looking for the sword to kill dragons. But these are not the green, scaly dragons of legend and lore just yet. They are men and women who work on Wall Street and various places. And when their schemes begin to threaten Sarah and her world, she puts her sword to good use. Great fight sequences, a fun play with an SCA-like reenactment group, nice humor, and a touch of romance with Sarah struggling to open up to her girlfriend. Packing enough testosterone-laced action to satisfy male readers and enough romantic emotional moments to please female readers, this series is for everyone and books 2 and 3 are out too. Fantastic!
3) Jane Yellowrock by Faith Hunter – A member of the illustrious Magical Words blog team with David B. Coe, amongst others, Hunter has been inspired by Anne Rice but made vampire tales set in New Orlean’s her own. If you read my introduction, you already know I would not have picked me up if her publicist hadn’t scheduled her for SFFWRTCHT. I’m so glad she did. The last of her kind, a part Cherokee vampire hunter and skinwalker capable of shapeshifting into any creature she wants, Jane’s been hired by Katherine Fontaneau, one of the oldest vampires in New Orleans and the madam of Katie’s Ladies, to hunt a powerful rogue vampire who’s killing other vamps. In the process, she gets more than she bargained for when her employer is murdered and Jane winds up working for Leo, the head vampire of the entire region. In subsequent books, she works with Leo to investigate incidents involving other vampires, even heading off to North Carolina at one point as a mediator. Jane is not the dainty heroine but an ass kicking, motorcycle riding, take no prisoners badass, but yet Hunter manages to write the books with no gratuitous sex, violence or language, keeping it PG despite the violence. And I doubt you’d have noticed if I hadn’t said that. Great writing, inventive worldbuilding and pure fun. Highly recommended.
4) Hallie Michaels by Deborah Coates– Brand new, the first book having just arrived a few months back, this series surprised me too. A new author sent to me by Alexis Nixon, publicist at TOR, Coates’ stories have appeared in Asimov’s, Strange Horizons, Fantasy and Science Fiction and Best American Fantasy, amongst other places. Hallie Michaels is a soldier fighting a war in Afghanistan when she’s called home for her sister’s funeral. The police and townsfolk say “suicide,” but Hallie can’t believe it and her investigation into it uncovers a startling plot that endangers the entire town. Something magical or supernatural is going on and a trail of bodies are associated with it. She soon discovers someone she used to know is responsible and winds up fighting for her life. I don’t know where book 2 will take us when it comes out, but Coates used the rural South Dakota setting masterfully in Wide Open and I can’t wait to read more!
5) Sookie Stackhouse by Charlaine Harris – I came to this series late, after already watching the TV show, because I was invited to interview Harris. (Confession: yes, I watch True Blood despite my lack of interest in vampires. It hooked me early on and I can’t look away, okay? Is that so wrong? Plus, I have a crush on Anna Paquin…) The books are better than the series and filled with great humor, southern charm and fun. I really enjoyed these. Told solely from Sookie’s quirky point of view, these are fast, can’t put them down reads. I can’t wait to read more.
6) Control Point by Myke Cole – Not your typical urban fantasy, Cole, a veteran of the Gulf War, has envisioned a contemporary world with various types of magic. The military even has a special unit assigned to hunt down rogue users. A few with the approved classes of magic actually work for the military, but then Oscar Britton finds out he’s a portomancer–ah oh, verbotten–and he’s forced to run, leaving everything behind. Caught and interned for training by the military he’s sworn to serve, he discovers the gift is the least of his worries. An evil magical force is on the rise and this Army officer must save the world or else. Packed with action and intrigue and great characters, Cole takes you inside military life in an intimate way and still makes you believe its a world where magic could happen. Gritty and powerful, this book opened my eyes to possibilities for creativity I hadn’t imagined and it’ll open yours too.
7) Grigori Legacy by Linda Poitevin – Ah, angels, the tired 80s trope are back. I booked Linda for chat and expected to be bored. Instead, I found myself reading two detective thrillers that just happened to have angels in them. Heaven and hell are at war and humans are caught in between, including homicide detective Alexandra Jarvis whose investigation of a serial killer points to a surprising and unusual suspect. Yes there’s angels and a romance between an angel and a human. Yes, there’s God and the Devil and some Catholic theological worldbuilding used here, but Poitevin used it to enhance worldbuilding not to sell an ideology or religion. Gritty, intense, fast-paced and engaging. Another set of books you won’t want to put down until you reach the end.
8 ) Low Town by Daniel Polansky – Another departure and one that’s hard to classify but I’m putting it here. Unlike the others, it’s not set in our contemporary world but a fictional medieval -type world and the protagonist is a disgraced intelligence agent and forgotten war hero turned independent drug dealer. Yes, that’s right. Known as the Warden, he leads a life of crime, addicted to cheap violence and expensive drugs as he constantly hustles for customers and protecting his turf from competition. Then he discovers a murdered child and feels compelled to discover who’s responsible. The mission finds him caught up in a dangerous game of deception between underworld bosses and the psychotic head of Black House intelligence bureau that once employed him. What he finds is far more sinister and dark than he’d ever imagined. Noir and action packed, Polansky has invented a genre almost. He mixes epic/adventure fantasy and urban fantasy with detective noir seamlessly and it’s a compelling debut. Book 2 arrives this Fall.
9) Magic Ex Libris by Jim C. Hines – Hines switches from Goblins and fairy tale princesses to an urban fantasy about Libriomancers, basically people who can pull magic from books and use it in the contemporary world. Hines is a smartass in real life and it extends to his writing, but that’s okay, because the book is laugh out loud funny as a result and endears you tot he characters. This is a voice you’ll be willing to spend time with for a while, and it won’t be long because Libriomancer is a fast, compelling read. Isaac Vainio, a member of the secret order of Libriomancers founded by Johannes Gutenberg himself (yes, that Gutenberg), Isaac is attacked by vampires that leaked from the pages of books into our world and barely manages to escape. Then he discovers his mentor has been killed and Gutenberg himself kidnapped and a hot, motorcyle-riding dryad shows up asking him to help track down her former lover, leading to their discovery of a dark power that’s manipulating both vampires and humans and causing major havoc. Hines cleverly incorporates the mythos of every vampire world you’ve encountered, creating a world of vampire types and layers, and throws in books by famous authors real and imagined as well. Fun, fast-paced, with plenty of action and good coming of age and romantic arcs, this book was a delightful way to while away hours. I can’t wait for the second one, coming from Daw next year.
So there you have 9 Urban Fantasy series that I think you’ll really like. Great weekend, summer or Fall reads to keep you entertained and remind you why you love books. I’m looking for more to read now. So what are some of your favorite Urban Fantasies? I’d love to hear about them in comments. Oh, and click here to buy any of these books,too. For what it’s worth… To the writers, I love you guys!
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novels The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, and The Returning, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and several short stories featured in anthologies and magazines. He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick. A freelance editor, he’s edited novels and nonfiction and also hosts Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter under the hashtag #sffwrtcht. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and SFSignal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.
It rarely happens. While NetGalley is a goto place now for reviewers and others to get advanced looks at forthcoming books, it’s also expensive and thus, dominated primarily by bigger publishers and authors who have the cash to spend on it. Color me surprised when, in July, I was given a special one time opportunity to get my debut novel, The Worker Prince, listed there. While the listing is for around a month only, it’s a great chance to have a book named Honorable Mention by Barnes & Noble Book Club’s reviewer Paul Goat Allen on his Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011 out to more reviewers and, thus, more readers.
Within five minutes of the listing going live, we had five requests already. The listing can be found at http://netgalley.com/PopupHandler.php?module=catalog&func=galleyTitleDetails&projectid=19576 and is available in various ebook formats from .mobi and .epub to pdf and palm. Members of NetGalley simply need to search for it by name, click the More Info or Read Now links and then request their copy. It’s that simple. And as soon as my publicist sees it, she’ll approve it and you’ll be allowed to download it and read it. Of course, we’re hoping you love it, but regardless, please review it. Not just at NetGalley but at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads and Library Thing. Why? Not just because I’m asking or out of guilt for a free copy, but because without reviews, authors and books like me and mine won’t survive. The number of reviews increases the number of people who find the book in searches, and also let’s them know a lot of people are reading it, giving them some idea of outside perspective on what it’s about and whether it’s worth their time, and that word of mouth, above all, is what sells books.
So, if you enjoy reading and free books, won’t you please consider taking advantage of this unique opportunity? The Worker Prince has been frequently compared to Star Wars: A New Hope. People say it captures the feel of the original Star Wars. It’s been compared to pulp and classic old fashioned space operas like Heinlein’s Starship Troopers or the Jason January tales. And it’s garnered praise from authors like Brenda Cooper, Maurice Broaddus, Mike Resnick, David Lee Summers and more.
Here’s the teaser:
What if everything you thought you knew about yourself and the world turned out to be wrong?
For Davi Rhii, Prince of the Boralian people, that nightmare has become a reality. Freshly graduated from the prestigious Borali Military Academy, now he’s discovered a secret that calls into question everything he knew about himself. His quest to rediscover himself brings him into conflict with his friends and family, calling into question his cultural values and assumptions, and putting in jeopardy all he’s worked for his whole life. One thing’s for sure: he’s going to have to make decisions that will change his life forever…
It’s a space western fantasy, epic space opera with great action, space battles, family drama, political scheming, and a bit of romance. Based in part on the Moses story, but also original and takes off from that story into different directions. It’s family friendly and has been enjoyed by 8 year olds and readers in their 70s. It’s 326 pages, trade paperback at $14.95. Released October 4, 2011 from Diminished Media.
I think this is an exciting opportunity for us both. I hope you’ll agree. And if you like it, book 2 is out, too.
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novels The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, andThe Returning, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and several short stories featured in anthologies and magazines. He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick. As a freelance editor, he’s edited novels and nonfiction. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter under the hashtag #sffwrtcht. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and SFSignal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.
Well, this was my first Asimov robots book, and I really enjoyed it. In fact, it’s been a decade, but I don’t remember enjoying the Foundation series as much as I did this. It’s a thriller detective story at heart with a SF setting.
The premise is that Spacers, descendents of Earth who have grown up on colonies in space, have returned to live outside the domed cities of Earth. In this case, New York. The spacers keep most Earthlings from entering their cities for fear of disease and are standoffish. Most of them don’t come into the domes either. Instead, they send robots. But the Earthlings distrust robots. In fact, many fear them. Then a spacer is murdered. Grizzled New York detective Lije (Elijah) Bailey is assigned to investigate and, in the interests of proving he’s fair, assigned a spacer partner named R. Daneel Olivaw. The R designates his species: robot, or really an Android, since he looks identical to his human creator, the murder victim. Lije’s natural distrust of robots and his own family’s fears are brought into play as they get to know each other and begin to investigathe. At first, Lije accuses the Spacers themselves of the murder as a plot to destabilize relations between the two group. But over time, he begrudgingly comes to respect Daneel, and, in fact, together they discover a far deeper plot.
Although there are moments of silly dialogue (Asimov isn’t known for great dialogue according to anything I’ve read) like “Why you need go in for–for no purpose?” AHEM, he is known for great ideas. His future view of the Earth could happen, but I’d hope it doesn’t. The idea of big cities encased in domes and a countryside run by robots solely for agricultural and resource gathering is a bit sad to think about. People so used to dome air they get sick in the open air? Wow. That would be disappointing for someone who enjoys the outdoors like me. Still, the story moves at a nice clip and the character building of the two leads is very strong. Supporting characters who get some attention include Jessi, Lije’s wife, a Spacer robotics scientist, and the Police Commissioner, who is Lije’s old classmate and friend. But mostly the story centers around Lije and Daneel as they investigate and interrogate various bit players and examine evidence.
Unlike today’s novels, the book is short at 191 pages. And there are a few archaic phrases such as “he took a wrong turning” which seem to have been proper usage at the time (1953) when the book was published, but which aren’t common now. So in that sense, the book feels dated. But Asimov gets a lot of plot into its short length. I was engaged from very early on. I wanted to know what would happen next, and I look forward to The Naked Sun, Robots Of Dawn and Robots and Empire. I may squeeze them into this Journey Through The SFF Classics as I expand that list. We’ll see. I have plenty on the list to keep me busy for a while, as you may remember from the introductory post.
In any case, this is a highly entertaining and fast read and I think it would be a great entry not only to classic science fiction and fantasy but to Asimov for anyone who has not yet read his work or many classics.
Next up on my Journey: Do Androids Dream Of Electronic Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novels The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, andThe Returning, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and has several short stories featured in anthologies and magazines. He edited the new anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick. His children’s book 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Jokes For Kids from Delabarre Publishing. As a freelance editor, he’s edited a novels and nonfiction. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and SFSignal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.
Just in from my friend/mentor and one of my favorite authors, a blurb for my second novel: “THE RETURNING has romance, assassins, tension, both modern and classic science fiction notions, and very smooth writing. What more could you want? Bryan Thomas Schmidt keeps improving. As good as THE WORKER PRINCE WAS, THE RETURNING is better.” – Mike Resnick
Sequel to The Worker Prince, The Returning is forthcoming this June. Book 2 in the Saga Of Davi Rhii, the back cover copy reads as follows:
The Vertullians are free and have full citizenship but that doesn’t mean they’re accepted. Now someone is sending assassins to kill and terrorize them and it’s riling up old enmity all over again. The new High Lord Councilor, Tarkanius, Lord Aron, and Captain Davi Rhii find themselves fighting all over again to preserve the unity of the Borali Alliance, while forces from within and without work against them in an attempt to tear it apart.
Meanwhile, Davi and Tela are struggling to keep their romance alive in the midst of busy lives filled with drama and stress and Miri’s adjusting to her new status as a non-royal. The action packed, emotional, exciting Davi Rhii story continues.
Although it’s not out until June, you can preorder The Returning today for $10.11 at Barnes & Noble (30% off the cover price).