Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Bit of A Dry Spell

Good evening constant reader.

The purpose of The Written Universe is to be able to expose new authors and their work.
However, it can get to the point where sifting through the submissions results in nothing worth reviewing for a while.
This has been my assertion all along: any one and their brother can get published these days, but just because you can get published, does that mean you're worth reading? That's what I'm here to find out.
It is my desire to come across books so fantastic I can't put them down, can't wait to finish them, and can't wait to tell you all about them.

I'm hopeful I have some exceptional books I can publish a review about in the near future.
It's discouraging when you receive books to review and they turn out to be barely readable.
I've been going through a patch like that lately and it's extremely frustrating.

But take heart constant reader, I'm nothing if not stubborn. Every new book for review I pick up, I pick up with an expectant air, hoping I've found a hidden jewel to tell you about.
Hope, she does spring eternal.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

BSFA Award for Best Science Fiction Novel

Good evening constant reader.

Since I've been introducing you to American book awards for science fiction, fantasy, horror and mystery, I thought we'd hop across the pond and see what our Bristish brothers and sisters were up to.
Be advised not all of these titles may have a U.S. publisher and may be tricky to find.

May I present the BSFA's, the British Science Fiction Association Awards, presented every year for the best achievement in science fiction or fantasy writing, novel format. The awards are held each year for the year previous. Here are the winners since the year 2000:

2000 - Ash: A Secret History -  Mary Gentle

2001 - Chasm City -  Alistair Reynolds

2002 - The Separation - Christopher Priest

2003 - Felaheen - Jon Courtenay Grimwood

2004 - River of Gods - Ian McDonald

2005 - Air - Geoff Ryman

2006 -  End of the World Blues- Jon Courtenay Grimwood

2007 - Brasyl  - Ian McDonald

2008 - The Night Sessions - Ken MacLeod

2009 - The City & the City -  China Mieville

2010 - The Dervish House - Ian McDonald

2011 - The Islanders - Christopher Priest

You may be wondering why I'm off on this foreign book award bent, but I think it's important to realize Americans are not the only ones who write genre fiction.
By introducing you to award winning titles and authors from other countries, you will indeed find that the written universe is quite large and diverse.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What Am I Reading Now?

Good evening constant reader.

Currently I'm reading a review book, and alternating between these two books for pleasure reading: Savage Season by Joe R. Lansdale and It Must've Been Something I Ate: The Return of the Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten.

Both are well written and I'm enjoying them both immensely.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Edgar Awards

Good evening constant reader.

I would like to shed some light on the Edgar Awards.

The Edgar Awards (named after Edgar Allan Poe) are presented annually by the Mystery Writers of America. The Edgar goes to the best achievement in mystery fiction, non-fiction, television, film and theatre printed or produced in the year previous.

Seeing as how Edgar Allan Poe is considered the father of the detective story, the awards are aptly named.

Here are the winners for best mystery novel since 2000:

2000 - Bones - Jan Burke

2001 - The Bottoms - Joe R. Lansdale

2002 - Silent Joe - T. Jefferson Parker

2003 - Winter and Night - S.J. Rozan

2004 - Resurrection Men -  Ian Rankin

2005 - California Girl - T. Jefferson Parker

2006 - Citizen Vince - Jess Walter

2007 - The Janissary Tree - Jason Goodwin

2008 - Down River - John Hart

2009 - Blue Heaven - C. J. Box

2010 - The Last Child - Jphn Hart

2011 - The Lock Artist - Steve Hamilton

2012 - Gone - Mo Hayder

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Review: Sunglasses After Dark

Sunglasses After Dark
Nancy A. Collins
Available from Amazon in trade paperback,
from Barnes and Noble as a Nook e-book,
from various other book sellers on the internet.

Good afternoon constant reader.

If you're looking for a gritty, bloody, no holds barred, in your face no-sparkling-vampires-allowed vampire tale, then this is the book for you.
While Nancy A. Collins is not a "new" author by any means, you need to run, not walk, to your nearest book source and read what you've been missing.

Allow me to introduce you to Sonja Blue. She's a vampire with an ax to grind big time.
When we first meet Sonja, she's cooped up in a loony bin and is slowly but surely starting to shrug off the drugs she's sedated with and able to figure out her predicament. Sonja's "other" is getting stronger and stronger and enables her to finally break out and into the freedom of the night, to pursue her identity and some vengeance.

Sonja is a tragic figure. Memories of who she was before she was turned into a vampire plague her and drive her to the edge of madness. Make no mistake though, when push comes to shove, Sonja reacts in true vampire style.
Blood definitely flows...or splatters, as the case may be.

Another pivotal character in our tale is Catherine Wheele. She's a powerful, enigmatic, charismatic televangelist. Add ruthless to that list and you have the ingredients for a humdinger of an antagonist.

The end scene is satisfying when certain people arrive at their just desserts.

Nancy A. Collins's world of darkness is painted from a rich palette populated not only by vampires, but demons, ogres and other bump-in-the-nighters.

The series of Sonja novels stretches 10 books, with a new one on the rise.

The Official Sonja Blue blog
Nancy A. Collins on Twitter
Nancy A. Collins on Wikipedia

Friday, January 25, 2013

Tales From the Trench: Stories of a Former Book Seller

Good evening constant reader.

Once upon a time...

I was a bookseller.
I started at Taylor's Books on Camp Bowie Boulevard in Fort Worth, TX.
At the time, Taylor's, who had started in Dallas, and had three stores there and one in Arlington, billed themselves as "The Southwest's Largest Bookstore".
At the time, they were. They were the Neiman Marcus of bookstores.
I was part of the crew who opened the Fort Worth store, and business was brisk.
I started out as a bookseller, whose section of responsibility was Art, since that had been my major in college. I had to shelve the art section and make sure it was neat and in order.
Other duties included helping any customer that came my way, answer the phones and help who ever was on the other end, and take a turn at a register up front.

The store was huge by the current standard.
At the time, the other book stores in existance were Walden's, Cole's and B. Dalton and they were all located in the mall. There were a few other bookstores in Fort Worth at the time: J. North, which was right down the street from us, and Thompson's and Barber's bookstores in downtown.
You could have fit those stores inside Taylor's easy.

Taylor's also had a feature none of the other bookstores had besides a lot of space and a varied and interesting stock: if a customer came in looking for a specific title and we carried it, but we were out of stock on it, we had the capability of looking the title up in our system and could see which one of our other locations had a copy in stock. Then we could have it transferred to our store for the customer in one day.
We also offered a fairly comprehensive special ordering system with our two wholesalers: Baker & Taylor and Ingram. If we didn't carry the book and couldn't special order it through a wholesaler, the last resorts were to check Books In Print (three volume set of books of every book in print in the United States, sometimes foreign presses listed), a competitor and see if they had the title and would be willing to hold it for the customer. You may be wondering if calling another bookstore wasn't shooting ourselves in the proverbial foot, but the reasoning was, if I found you the book you were looking for, even if I ended up sending you to another bookstore, you'd remember it was I at Taylor's that went the extra mile to find it for you.

Over time, I was promoted to the Customer Service Desk.
Customer's would come up with some wild requests.
I'll never forget this little old lady who came to the desk and asked earnestly, "Do you have a book about a cat, that's green, with a picture of a cat on page 5?"
As a matter of fact, we did - it was Cleveland Amory's book, The Cat Who Came For Christmas.
When I took her to the shelf and put it in her hand, she was amazed.

During that same Christmas, we had a promotion going with the offer of free gift wrap. The pattern wasn't very attractive, but hey, it was free. Gift wrap was the purview of customer service, so I spent a fair amount of time wrapping as I was the only one really good at it.
One afternoon, a real challenge came across the counter: a globe, in the box. The box was roughly 12 x12 on all sides. The wrapping paper was about the same size in width. I took the box to the wrapping counter and thought about it a moment, and literally wall papered the box, rather than wrap it. It turned out OK and the customer was happy.

There was the afternoon when I was going through the NYR box, (Not Yet Released) to see if books customers had requested but hadn't been released yet had in fact, been released, and I noticed a gentleman at the counter. I asked if he needed help and he said no, he only needed to use the phone. There was a courtesy phone on the counter for customers to use. I went back to my searching. He stayed on the phone a long time. He hung up and left the counter. He returned a little while later and got on the phone again. He stayed on the phone a long time again. This went on for the better part of about two hours.
Later, the phone was "adjusted" to only dial local calls. It seemed the gentleman in question had been calling over seas all afternoon and had run up an huge phone bill.
So much for courtesy...

One afternoon, Milton, an older man on the staff came into the customer service area quite agitated. I asked him what was wrong and he said there was a woman who wanted books on cheeses, and he had taken her to the cookbook section and shown her the books we had on cheese and she said that wasn't right. Milton kept pointing to the books on the shelf and saying "Cheeses" and the woman kept shaking her head and saying "cheeses" over and over.
Our manager happened to come by and asked what was wrong and said he'd see what the woman wanted. He went through the same thing Milton did...only he realized what the woman was trying to heavily accented Spanish..."Cheeses"...was "Jesus". Our manager led her to the religion section and found the sub section on the life of Christ. The woman was all smiles.
Milton was abashed.

So endeth part one of Stories of a Former Bookseller.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Nebula Awards

Good evening constant reader.

Tonight I want to introduce you to the another award given for excellence in science fiction/fantasy writing, the Nebula Award.

The Nebula Awards are presented annually by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, for the best science fiction or fantasy fiction released in the United States during the preceding year and has been described as one of the most prestigious of the American science fiction awards.

For your consideration, here are the winners of the Nebula Award for best science fiction or fantasy novel since 2000.

2000 - Parable of the Talents - Octavia Butler

2001 - Darwin's Radio - Greg Bear

2002 - The Quantum Rose - Catherine Asaro

2003 - American Gods - Neil Gaiman

2004 - The Speed of Dark - Elizabeth Moon

2005 - Paladin of Souls - Lois McMaster Bujold

2006 - Camouflage - Joe Haldeman

2007 - Seeker - Jack McDevitt

2008 - The Yiddish Policeman's Union - Michael Chabon

2009 - Powers - Ursula K. Le Guin

2010 - The Windup Girl - Paolo Bacigalupi

2011 - Blackout/All Clear - Connie Willis

2012 - Among Others - Jo Walton

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Update to The Regulators auction

Good afternoon constant reader.

In my January 4th post to The Written Universe, I brought your attention to the auction of a rare edition of The Regulators, written under Stephen King's pen name Richard Bachman. King found out about the auction and signed the book, upping the value of the book.
Proceeds were to go to buy fuel oil for lower income families being served by the Emmaus Homeless Shelter, in Ellsworth, Maine.

Today I've found out the book sold for $2,850 which will buy 740 gallons of fuel oil.

Kudos to Mr King for taking part by signing the book.
Kudos to the anonymous party who put the book up for auction.
Kudos to Michael Riggs, owner of Scottie's Bookhouse, where the book was on display and for coordinating the auction.
Kudos to all who bid.
Kudos to the one who won.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Continuing Saga of the Reading Challenge.

Good evening constant reader.

I've finished 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill.
To be honest, I'm glad I'm through with it.

The introduction, written by horror author Christopher Golden, made 20th Century Ghosts sound too good to be true. Unfortunately, that turned out to be the case.

Golden practically reviewed every story in his introduction, eventually having to cut himself off lest he review the entire book.
His over view had me drooling by the time I got to the first story.

It's my opinion that the horror literature genre shines best in the short story format.
I've read some humdingers that stay with you long after you've read the last word.
I was hoping Joe Hill's short stories would be like that. Some of them were quite good. Some were excellent. But most just weren't what the introduction built them up to be. I've read Joe Hill's other work, notably his two horror novels, Heart Shaped Box and Horns, and loved them.

Ah well...more novels are sure to come from Mr. Hill and I look forward to them.

Next book up is It Must Have Been Something I Ate by Jeffrey Steingarten.

Monday, January 21, 2013

When Cover Art Gets Personal

Good evening constant reader.

When you browse science fiction and fantasy titles, you most likely notice the cover art portrays women in scantily clad poses or impossible battle armors. They are definitley aimed at attracting the male eye, but may not appeal to women who read science fiction and fantasy.

One fantasy author who has decided to take aim at defeating gender stereotyping is author Jim Hines.
On his blog site, Jim Hines on Livejournal, Jim can be seen straddling the remains of a fallen alien (a table), and is clasping a gun (a toy gun), triumphantly raising a robot's head (a toaster).
Hines is posing in the same ways as some of the female characters are shown on science fiction and fantasy book covers. Covers Hines say objectify women.
Hines says the way women are portrayed is so ludicrous, people are desensitized to it. He thinks his poses published on his Livejournal will make people more aware and realize how silly it all looks when he's doing it...a 38 year old author as opposed to a ravishing female.

Hines started posting his poses in January 2012. They have proved to be so popular, Hines launched a new series in December, raising funds to fight Aicardi syndrome, a genetic disorder that mostly affects girls.
The series has drawn more than 100,000 hits to Hines' website and raised $15,405.

Hines' project is one expression of a growing dialogue about the portrayal of women in science fiction and fantasy cover art.

Another project to heighten awareness where sexism in cover illustration is concerned is the Hawkeye Test.

The Hawkeye Initiative swaps out male and female characters to challenge the portrayal of women in comics.
Started in December 2012, the project has nearly 1,000 submissions from fans.
Most works cast the Avengers character Hawkeye in the same positions as the female character in the original work.
Then the Hawkeye Test is administered.
If Hawkeye can replace the female character without looking silly or stupid, then it's acceptable and probably non-sexist. If [he] can't, then it's a no go.
The Hawkeye Initiative

What will we see in future science fiction fantasy book/comic cover art in regards to the female form?
Only time will tell.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Quandary Time

Good evening constant reader.

I am experiencing a quandary.

Currently I'm reading one book for review, one book for pleasure, and one book from my reading challenge.

I've hit a snag on the review book, the pleasure book is coming along but I don't want to finish it too quickly as I'm really enjoying it, and the challenge book has come to the last story in the collection - it's a longish story and the momentum I had starting the book has dropped.
I hate when this happens.

The review book I'll continue with.
The for pleasure book I'll keep reading.
The challenge book, I'll finish. However, I don't anticipate it becoming a permanent part of my library.
Updates as conditions warrant.

If you have this Monday off, I hope you spend it somewhere comfy with a good book.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Happy Birthday Mr. Poe

Good evening constant reader.

Today is Edgar Allan Poe's 204th birthday.

When Poe is mentioned, many of us think of his horror works.
But Poe is credited as the inventor of the detective fiction genre.

In 1841, Poe invented the modern detective story with "The Murders In the Rue Morgue".
In his story, Poe introduces his intelligent albeit eccerntirc detective C. Auguste Dupin who solves crimes using the process of rational thinking. Poe called this process "raciocination".
Dupin appears in two more stories "The Purloined Letter" and "The Mystery of Marie Roget".

Poe once stated in a letter to an associate dated 1848: "These tales of ratiocination owe most of their popularity to being something in a new key. I do not mean to say that they are not ingenious - but people think them more ingenious than they are - on account of their method and air of method. In "The Murders in the Rue Morgue", for instance, where is the ingenuity of unraveling a web which you yourself (the author) have woven for the express purpose of unraveling?"

Poe's Dupin is the predecessor of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had this to say about Poe:
"Edgar Allan Poe...was the father of the detective tale, and covered its limits so completely that I fail to see how his followers can find any fresh ground which they can confidently call their own. For the secret of the thinnness and also of the intensity of the detective story is that the writer is left with only one quality, that of the intellectual acuteness, with which to endow his hero. Everything else is outside the picture and weakens the effect. The problem and its solution must form the theme, and the character-drawing is limited and  subordinate. On this narrow path the writer must walk, and he sees the footmarks of Poe always in front of him."

The Mystery Writers of America present an annual award called The Edgar Award for outstanding work in the mystery genre.

Stay tuned for a future post listing past Edgar Award winners.

Friday, January 18, 2013

How Do I Find Something To Read?

Good afternoon constant reader.

If you're like me, you've got a To Read stack of books (or pile, or shelf) and you'll never lack for anything to read.

But some of you might not be like that and as much as you enjoy reading, you may have trouble sometimes finding that next good read.

Here are some tips to help you find the next don't-bother-me-I'm-reading book that you can't put down.

Find out what your friends are reading.
Our friends tend to share common interests with us. A similar taste in books can be one of those, so it never hurts to ask a friend what they're reading and if they like it. Look online for a synopsis. If the book sounds like it will strike your fancy, hunt up a copy and go from there.

It seems these days more often than not, movies are based on their literary counterparts.
Watching the movie of a book first isn't cheating. The film is a director's interpretation of the written material.
After you've seen the movie, seeking out the book can ampliy the film-going experiene.
It's virtually impossible to put every single word of a book on the screen, so your reading experience will expand your viewing experience.
As much fun as it is to sit in a movie and ooh and ah over the special effects, books allow the reader the perspective of what a character is thinking.

Reading the book first can have you expecting to see all the characters and scenes in the book, so it's easy to be disappointed. Screenwriters and directors have to delete whole chapters and sometimes characters, to create a film that won't last 5 hours and cost too much to make.
Genre literature is about to see a lot of titles hit the silver screen: Stephanie Meyers's The Host, Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game, Donald Westlake's (written as Richard Stark) Parker (published as Flashfire), David Wong's John Dies at the End, and Kami Garcia's Beautiful Creatures to name a few.

Browse book seller websites, or be really retro and browse a book store in the flesh. (Yes there are still brick and mortar book stores).
If you find yourself in a book store, it never hurts to ask a book seller for recommendations. All you need to do is tell them your area of interest and they will most likely be able to come up with some authors and books for you to consider.
(Note: ask if their store has a staff recommended shelf. A lot of book stores do).

Check out book reviews, blogs or go to the library and ask a librarian.

There are many avenues to find good reading material. As with any journey, it begins with the first step.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Hugo Awards

Good evening constant reader.

You may have heard the name Hugo Awards mentioned in conjunction with science fiction and fantasy writing.

The Hugo Awards are a group of awards given each year for the best achievement in science fiction and fantasy for the preceding year.
The awards are named after Hugo Gernsback, founder of the science fiction magazine Amazing Stories.
They are organized and overseen by the World Science Fiction Society, and are presented to the recipients each year at the annual World Science Fiction Convention.The first set of presentations was in 1953.
At present, Hugo Awards are given in more than a dozen areas, including both written and dramatic works.
The Hugo is considered the highest honor in science fiction and fantasy writing.

For your consideration, here are the winners of the Hugo for best science fiction novel since 2000.

2000 - A Deepness in the Sky - Vernor Vinge

2001 - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - J.K. Rowling

2002 - American Gods - Neil Gaiman

2003 - Hominids - Robert J. Sawyer

2004 - Paladin of Souls - Lois McMaster Bujold

2005 - Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell - Susanna Clarke

2006 - Spin - Robert Charles Wilson

2007 - Rainbows End - Vernor Vinge

2008 - The Yiddish Policeman's Union - Michael Chabon

2009 - The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman

2010 - The Windup Girl - Paolo Bacigalupi (tie)
            The City & the City - China Mieville (tie)

2011 - Blackout/All Clear - Connie Willis

2012 - Among Others - Jo Walton

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Support Your Favorite Authors

Good evening constant reader.

You have your favorite author, or like me, authors.
You read everything you can get your hands on and wait breathlessly for their next release.

You tell everyone you know how good a particular author is, and can and do, wax rhapsodic about how good they are.

You think you're supporting said author(s) by buying their books and telling folks how good they are, right?

Ah, but there's something else you can do to help them.

Go to Amazon and leave a review and rate their work.

This is especially helpful to new authors trying to get a foot hold in the writing business.
Believe it or not, when people are browsing Amazon for a new book, they do take the time to read reviews left by other readers, especially if the author is someone they're not familiar with.
Finding 4 and 5 star reviews can sway a potential buyer.
Authors need feed back and being able to leave honest, heart-felt reviews about your favorite author(s) is a good habit to start.

In this day and age of everyone and his brother being able to get published, it's doubly important for fresh talent to get a review.
Hence the purpose of The Written Universe.
It's nice when you're a new author and your family loves your book and your friends are enthusiastic.
However, it's the words of praise from the intended audience that can mean the most.

When you have time, head on over to Amazon (you can also post reviews on the Barnes & Noble website, too) and start singing some praises. It will definitely help.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

World Book Night 2013

Good evening constant reader.

World Book Night 2013 is on it's way.

What is World Book Night?
I'm glad you asked.

World Book Night is an international happening, celebrating books and reading, where volunteers give away books to people in their community who are not regular readers. Last year, over 80,000 people signed up to hand out books, and over 2.5 million books were given away in the United States and parts of Europe. This year’s World Book Night has been scheduled for April 23, 2013, and the list of giveaway books has been announced.

From the World Book Night website:
“Each year, 30 books are chosen by an independent panel of librarians and booksellers. The authors of the books waive their royalties and the publishers agree to pay the costs of producing the specially-printed World Book Night U.S. editions. Bookstores and libraries sign up to be community host locations for the volunteer book givers.” (from the WBN website)

The books to be given away this year are:

 The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
City of Thieves by David Benioff
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
My Antonia by Willa Cather
Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros (both English and Spanish editions)
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (also available in both English and Spanish editions)
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan
Bossypants by Tina Fey
Still Alice by Lisa Genova
Looking for Alaska by John Green
Playing for Pizza by John Grisham
Mudbound by Hillary Jordan
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
Moneyball by Michael Lewis
The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer
Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley
Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson
Good Omens by Terry Prachett and Neil Gaiman
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Population 485 by Michael Perry
Montana Sky by Nora Roberts
Look Again by Lisa Scottoline
Me Talk Pretty One Day by Me Talk Pretty One Day
The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
Glaciers by Alexis M. Smith
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain
Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
Favorite American Poems edited by Paul Negri

If you are interested in getting involved, you can apply to be a giver at World Book Night 2013.
PS: The deadline to sign up has been extended to January 25th.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Reading Habits in 2012

Good morning constant reader.

In the January 8th post to The Written Universe, I discussed traditional books and e-books.
In that piece, I cited a study by the Pew Research Center.

Here's more statistics that I found interesting and hope you might as well.

A few of weeks ago, the Pew Research Center published it's study focused on e-reading and total reading.
As mentioned in the January 8th post to The Written Universe, traditional book reading is alive and well despite the continued growth of e-books.
One statistic got my attention: the number of books read last year by the people who read at least one book. Here's what the Pew poll found out:
Readers consumed a mean (average) of 15 books in the previous 12 months and a median (midpoint) of 6 books — in other words, half had read fewer than six and half had read more than six. That breaks down as follows:
7% of Americans ages 16 and older read one book in the previous 12 months

14% had read 2-3 books in that same time period
12%  had read 4-5 books
15% had read 6-10 books
13% had read 11-20 books
14% had read 21 or more books
I fall in the last 14% group as I read 30 books in 2012 and 25 books in 2011.
Where do you fall constant reader?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Allow Me To Introduce a Brilliant Reading Resource

Good evening constant reader.

I want to draw your attention to a website I've been using over the last several years:
Fantastic Fiction, out of the UK.

Fantastic Fiction contains bibliographies for over 30,000 authors.  
You can search an author by their last name, or there are search fields provided to search by book title.
There is information on over 350,000 titles. When you've looked up an author, merely click on a book to see it's cover, a synopsis and publication information. 

Fantastic Fiction includes the following genres:
Science Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery, Thriller, Romance, Historical Romance, Urban Fantasy, Horror, and more.

Author citations divide an author's work into series, listing all titles in the series in order, stand alone novels in order by year of publication, novellas, anthologies, anthologies featured in, non-fiction works, books get the idea.

All in one convenient place.

Forthcoming works are highlighted at the top of the page with cover art and projected publication date.

Give it a look and book mark it. You'll be glad you did.

Fantastic Fiction

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Bram Stoker Award Winning Novels

Good evening constant reader.

I would like to bring your attention to the Bram Stoker Awards. For a long time, I had seen mention of this accolade, but wasn't certain what the details were.
Named after Irish writer and father of Dracula Bram Stoker, each year since 1987, by ballot, the Horror Writer's Association bestows the Bram Stoker award for superior achievement in horror and dark fantasy writing.

I thought listing the past winners for your perusal would be a good idea, as these are supposed to be the best of the best.

Here are the winners since the inception of the award in 1987 for best novel.

1987  Misery - Stephen King
          Swan Song - Robert McCammon

1988  The Silence of the Lambs - Thomas Harris

1989 Carrion Comfort - Dan Simmons

1990  Mine - Robert McCammon

1991  Boy's Life - Robert McCammon

1992  Blood of the Lamb - Thomas F. Monteleone

1993  The Throat - Peter Straub

1994  Dead in the Water - Nancy Holder

1995  Zombie - Joyce Carole Oates

1996  The Green Mile -  Stephen King

1997  Children of the Dusk -  Janet Berliner & George Guthridge

1998  Bag of Bones - Stephen King

1999  Mr. X - Peter Straub

2000  The Traveling Vampire Show - Richard Laymon

2001  American Gods - Neil Gaiman

2002  The Night Class - Tom Piccirilli

2003  Lost Boy Lost Girl - Peter Straub

2004  In The Night Room - Peter Straub

2005  Creepers - David Morrell
            Dead in the Beast - Charlee Jacob

2006  Lisey's Story - Stephen King

2007  The Missing - Sarah Langan

2008  Duma Key - Stephen King

2009  Audrey's Door - Sarah Lagan

2010  A Dark Matter - Peter Straub

2011  Flesh Eaters - Joe McKinney

I've read ten of these and they deserved the award.
I hope this helps you to seek out award winning work by established authors.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Reading Challenge, It Goes On

Good evening constant reader.

I'm nearly finished with Joe Hill's 20th Century Ghosts.
It hasn't been what I expected.
That's not to say it's bad, but it isn't making me want to sit with it on a constant basis.

There are some very good stories.
There are some mediocre stories.

I think the title is a little misleading.
Yes, there are some ghosts in the traditional sense, and some that aren't.
The scope of the collection is ambitious, yes.
Did it fail?
No, but having read two of Joe's novels, this collection is not representative of his talent.

Next up, as I anticipate finishing 20th Century Ghosts before the weekend is out, will be Sunglasses After Dark by Nancy A. Collins.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

13 Questions with Nancy Collins...and don't worry, a review will be forthcoming

Good evening constant reader.

I'm going to do something a little different.

Usually I post a book review, then post the author's answers to the 13 Questions.

This time it's going to be the opposite.

Nancy A. Collins, author of Sunglasses After Dark, In The Blood, Paint It Black, A Dozen Black Roses, Darkest Heart, Dead Roses For a Blue Lady, Search and Destroy, Cold Turkey, Some Velvet Morning (her Sonja Blue series) two more series, Vamps and Golgotham (both trilogies), writer for the comics Swamp Thing and Jason Vs Leatherface, a handful of novels, collections, a lot of novellas, contributor to anthologies...well, you get the idea, she's quite prolific...has answered my 13 Questions.
But I've not reviewed her...yet.

I read Sunglasses After Midnight, In The Blood and Paint It Black when they were first published, (1989, 1992 and 1995 respectively) and they were a knock out. Visceral and twisted, bloody and violent - a vampire lover's delight.
I'm going to go back and re-read Sunglasses After Midnight and publish my review after the 13 Questions.

Nancy has a new Sonja Blue novel in the works and has started a indiegogo page to fund it.
You can find all the information here: Kill City - the new Sonja Blue novel by Nancy A. Collins
If you can help fund this project, I urge you to.

1. You’re hosting a dinner party. What is the menu, and do you cook it yourself, or do you call a caterer?
Grilled shish-ka-bobs made from filet mignon, chicken breast, peppers, onion & Portabella mushrooms; par-grilled corn-on-the-cob; potato salad; and pumpkin-cheesecake with an apricot glaze for dessert. And I'd cheat and do both, because my fiance is a a professional cook and I'd let him do the grilling & the corn, while I'd make the potato salad & dessert.

2. What is your beverage of choice?
Non-alcoholic: Coke Zero.
Alcoholic: Larceny Bourbon.

3. Physical book Vs an E-Reader. Your preference and why?
I still prefer physical books, although I have been reading more and more on my Nook. The basic reason is habit more than anything else--and the fact I can't accidentally skip several pages ahead or back by where I put my thumb.

4. What kinds of books make up your personal library?
It's split between non-fiction reference materials and fiction by friends and those writers who have influenced me over the years. And graphic novels. I have a great deal of J.G. Ballard, William S. Burroughs, William Kotzwinkle, Ramsey Campbell, H.P. Lovecraft, Michael McDowell, Robert McCammon, Joe Lansdale, John Shirley, Alan Moore, Pat Mills and Neil Gaiman in my personal collection.

5. How and when did you catch the writing bug?
Around the age of 3, according to my mother. I got bored waiting for adults to read me stories and started drawing my own--since I still didn't know how to write.

6. What is your writing routine?
Well, I usually do a detailed outline in long hand, breaking the story down into chapters, with each action taken on a separate, numbered line. As I finish that section of the story, I cross it off the list. I usually don't start writing until after dinner, as I spent the afternoon handling the nuts-and-bolts of my business--answering emails, going to the bank, calling agents and editors, etc. I usually work until 2-3 in the morning.

7. If you ever encounter writer’s block, what steps do you take to get past it?
I've had more than one bout of writer's block. The only thing you can do is push your way through it. I try to write something every day, even if its only a couple of paragraphs.

8. Do you have a hidden talent?
I bake.

9. What was your best subject in school?
English, of course.

10. As in any entertainment, there are current trends. How much do these “current trends” influence what you write?
Well, I was approached to write a YA vampire series a few years back, if that answers your question.

11. Mac or PC?

12. Where do your ideas come from?
If I told you that I'd have to kill you.

13 What advice would you pass on to an aspiring author?
Write what you know. Read outside the genre you're writing for.
Grow as thick a skin as possible, and if you can't grow a skin, never read your reviews on Amazon.

Nancy A. Collins on Fantastic Fiction 
Nancy A. Collins on Facebook 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

New Anthology Sales to Aid Hurricane Sandy Victims

Good evening constant reader.

If your e-reader needs a new science fiction/fantasy anthology, a new one has just been released.

Indie author R.T. Kaelin wanted to do something to help victims of Hurricane Sandy.
He felt simply donating his $50 and going about his business wasn't enough.
He reached out to some fellow authors and the science fiction/fantasy anthology Triumph Over Tragedy was born.
Here are some of the authors whose work is featured:
Michael J. Stackpole
Robert Silverberg
Timothy Zahn

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Death of Traditional Books Hasn't Happened Yet

Good afternoon constant reader.

In a 2012 survey, it was revealed that only 16% of Americans have actually purchased an e-book.

When Amazon pioneered its Kindle e-reader five years ago, the assumption was that the future of book publishing was going digital. It was predicted that by 2015, conventional books would be a thing of the past.

Five years after the e-book explosion into our culture, the future of traditional books suddenly looks better.
Hardcover books are still in demand.
The growth in e-book sales is slowing noticeably.
Purchases of e-readers are shrinking, as consumers choose multipurpose tablets.
E-books, rather than replacing printed books, may eventually fill a role much like that of audio books—a complement to conventional reading, not a substitute.

How attached are Americans to old-fashioned books?
Results of a Pew Research Center survey released in December showed the percentage of adults who have read an e-book rose modestly over the last year, from 16% to 23%. It also discovered that fully 89% of regular book readers said they had read at least one printed book during the preceding year. 30% reported reading a single e-book in the past year.

The Association of American Publishers reported the annual growth rate for e-book sales fell suddenly during 2012, to about 34%. That's still a flourishing clip, but it is a distinct decline from the triple-digit growth rates of the last four years.

The initial e-book explosion is beginning to look like an aberration.
The early e-reader buyers, a small but enthusiastic following, made the move to e-books rapidly and in a concentrated period of time.
However, more converts may be harder to come by.
A 2012 survey by Bowker Market Research revealed just 16% of Americans have purchased an e-book and that 59% say they have "no intention" of buying one.

Past the practical reasons for the decline in e-book sales, something deeper may be happening. We may have mistaken the nature of the electronic book.
Novels are by far the best selling.
These are the most disposable of books. They're read quickly and there is usually no desire to hang onto them after the last page is turned.
We may even be a tad uncomfortable to be seen reading them, which makes anonymous e-versions more appealing. The popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey probably wouldn't have happened if e-books didn't exist.
Readers of literary fiction and narrative nonfiction, have been less apt to go digital. They seem to prefer the  tangible delights of what we still call "real books"—the kind you can display on a shelf.

E-books may turn out to be just another format—an even lighter-weight, more expendable paperback.
That would agree with the discovery that once people start buying e-books, they don't necessarily quit buying traditional books.
According to Pew, nearly 90% of e-book readers continue to read physical books.

Having survived 500 years of technological turbulence, Gutenberg's invention may defy the digital attack as well. There's something about a crisply printed, snugly bound book that we don't seem eager to let go of.
Thank heaven.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Good morning constant reader.

I want to call your attention to something.

At the bottom of each post, it says "comment".

Please feel free to comment on anything you read on The Written Universe.

You can add your own two cents to what's been posted, whether you agree or disagree, ask a question, make a suggestion, expand on what the post is about, whatever.

I encourage interaction on The Written Universe.
However, I do reserve the right to delete any comment that is less than civil or hateful. There's no room for that here.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Reading Into A Brick Wall

Good evening constant reader.

When I read a book for review, I don't read it any diferently than I would any other book I read.
I read a book by a first time author with the same expectations:
1. It will be interesting.
2. It will be a fresh approach to something that has been done before.
3. The plot is going to be engrossing and the characters are going to be ones I care about.
4. It's going to be free from egregious typos, misspellings and grammar mistakes.

All of these seem reasonable.

But the one that is consistently trampled into the dust?

Number 4.

I realize some of the submissions I receive may be vanity press publications.
I realize some of the submissions I receive are lucky to get a publisher, never mind an editor.

But for the love of God and all that is holy, if you are a first time author, or one who has been published a few times, please know this:
You must be your own editor.
If you're lucky enough to be with a publishing house who provides an editor?
Still, you must be your own editor.
Please, please do not rely on spell check.
Do not rely on a program that looks at grammar usage.
Do not blithely  put words to paper and assume it's all good.
Read it.
Read it again.
Read it one more time.
Ask a friend or family member (preferably one with a grammar fetish) to read your work.

I don't know how many times I'll be reading along and the story is working and the characters are working and then I slam up against a brick wall of sentences that don't make sense that stick out like a sore thumb.
It's a jarring experience and one I'm coming across more and more often.

You the author must be your own bird dog in this matter.
Nothing fouls a good reading experience like coming across sentences that are poorly written and make no sense.
In this day and age, there is no excuse for it.
Editing your own work is easy. Not editing your own work is lazy.
Once it passes a certain point with your publisher, it's a lost game.
Your work will be published with glaring errors to last forever, unless someone catches them and corrects them for future editions.
If you're being published in an e-format, errors are easy to fix. Amend the file and it's all good.
If your work is something to be printed and published, an e-mail to your contact at your publisher will do, as long as you stay on them to make the changes.

I was talking once to author Carole Nelson Douglas about the author photo used on one of her books. She told me her husband Sam had taken it. The picture was professional quality, but she said she had to stay on her publisher doggedly to use it, even though they were the ones who had requested it.
Same thing with her dust jackets and paperback covers. She had to stay on them constantly to please include foiling, and please use embossing to make the title stand out.
This is an established author with a major publisher we're talking about here, too.
If Carole had to ride her publisher, then you're going to really have to ride yours.

I say all this not to be critical, but to help.
It's not enough to pat yourself on the back about being published. You've got to take ownership of your baby and make sure it's the best it can be, from the first word of the first sentence, to the editing, to the dust jacket and cover art and author photo.

End of semi-rant.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Reading Challenge Update

Good evening constant reader.

The challenge, it's on.

About halfway through Joe Hill's 20th Century Ghosts.
I admit I like Joe's writing, but I was expecting something different I think.

I've already raided the next shelf for my next book.
The contenders are:
Hellbound Hearts edited by Paul Kane and Marie O'Regan
Behind The Mask of the Horror Actor by Doug Bradley
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Stories edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio

I'll get around to reading all of these eventually. The quandary is, which one do I choose to read next?
Eeny, meeny, miney, mo...

Friday, January 4, 2013

Neil Gaiman's Farewell Tour

Good evening constant reader.

No, Neil isn't going to stop writing.
What he is going to do is stop going out on book signing tours.

In talking about his new book, The Ocean At The End of The Lane, due for simultaneous release in the US and UK on June 18th of this year, Neil states his intent to make this the last book signing tour and why. In his own words from his journal:

"This will be my first actual signing (as opposed to reading) tour since Anansi Boys in 2005. I’ll go places and in each place I’ll do a reading, a short Q&A, then I’ll sign books.

I think the OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE tour will be the last actual signing tour I ever do. They’re exhausting, on a level that’s hard to believe. I love meeting people, but the sixth hour of signing, for people who have been standing in a line for seven hours, is no fun for anybody. (The last proper US signing I did, it lasted over 7 hours and I signed for over 1000 people. I'd suspect a lot of the signings on this tour will be like that, or bigger.)

So I’m going to try and make this tour the glorious last US book signing tour, and then stop doing book signing tours for good."
I am hopeful Neil will be signing somewhere relatively close to me. If not, then I am sad, as I had always hoped to go to one of his book signings so I could meet him in person and get a book signed.
However, I do understand his reasoning behind his decision. If not going out on crazy book signing tours allows Neil to relax and have more time to be creative, then I'm for it.

Good evening constant reader.

Yet another reason I adore Stephen King.

Stephen King has agreed to sign a rare, anonymously donated copy of The Regulators — a book written under the pseudonym Richard Bachman — so that it can be auctioned off to benefit The Emmaus Homeless Shelter, in Ellsworth, Maine.
The winning bid from the auction will be used for the shelter's emergency fuel fund. Scottie's Bookhouse in Hancock, Maine has the novel on display and bids are being accepted by email, phone and in person until Jan. 31.
There are only 550 copies of the book in a special collector's box.
Store owner Michael Riggs said Thursday that the auction has gone national. “Someone called me on the phone from St. Louis and I’ve had bids from Texas. The current bidder now is from California.”
As of Thursday afternoon, the highest bid was $1,500. If you can beat it, contact Riggs at 207-667-6834 or at

Read more here:

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Read All The Books!

Good afternoon constant reader.

My new reading challenge for 2013 and beyond, as there is no way on earth I could read every unread book I own in one year.
Well I could, if I didn't go anywhere else, or sleep.

The genesis of this came about through a chat I was having with a friend on Facebook.
It went like this:
"I've got such a back log. I have no business buying more books for like a that's going to happen. However, I've been tempted to challenge myself and see how long it would take me to read everything I have that's unread.

Wow. You should do that, keep a journal, and then turn your experiences into a book deal!
Hmmm, that's an idea...I've got a moleskin journal that's begging to be used for something just like this. I've got well over 100 books here unread. What a neat concept. I see it as something along the lines of the Julie and Julia book/film, Julie cooking all the Julia Child recipes and keeping account of her success and failures."

Thus my reading challenge was born.
Instead of keeping track of it on Goodreads, I'll keep track of it here.
I doubt I'll be as anal about entering what page I'm on, but I'll make entries when I start a book, how it's coming along, if it has made it pat the Page 50 point, and when I've finished. 

You may well wonder how I decide what to read.
Do I just pluck a book off the shelf? Well...yes, but I've made a pattern out of it. 
The first book I chose, I picked off the bottom shelf. Bottom shelves are horribly ignored and always dusty, so that's where I chose to start.
I picked Thomas William Simpson's The Editor
It was a fair thriller. I had part of it figured out about a third of the way through. I thought Simpson's The Hancock Boys was better.
The second book has come from the fourth shelf.
(The next from the third, the next from the second, etc, when I've read a book from the first shelf, I'll start form the bottom and work my way up. Why? When my ultimate goal is to read everything, does it matter what shelf it comes from? It doesn't. It's me being idiosyncratic, and it helps me stay on task.)
Currently I'm reading 20th Century Ghosts, by Joe Hill.
Joe is Stephen King's son and he's a very good writer. I've read his two novels, Heart-Shaped Box and Horns. I liked them both a lot. This is, by it's very title, a collection of ghost stories. So far, I like what I'm reading and I'm on page 56.

Bear in mind I'll also be reading review books at the same who knows how long this is going to take?
But it is reading.
It's what I do.

A New Year and New Things in Store for The Written Uinverse

Good wee morning hour constant reader.

I am happy to announce The Written Universe is poised to make a return with a few changes in store.

I will still be reviewing first time/up-and-coming authors in the genres of science fiction, horror, fantasy, and mystery.
I will only be publishing positive reviews.
In the past, if I read a submission that I found fault with, I published the review.
I think that's counter productive.
As much as The Written Universe is for the authors, it's also for the readers out there looking for new good books to read. Why check out what I'm reviewing if I'm telling you what to avoid?
I will contact the author and let them know I declined to review their book and I will tell them why. I'll be gracious about it, but I don't see any constructive reason to publish a negative review on The Written Universe.

This brings me to other changes I plan on making.
I will also be blogging my thoughts on anything bookish that strikes my fancy.
- There have been scandals regarding Amazon deleting some reviews from their site as it would seem some authors are reviewing their own work under a "sock" account, or getting family members to leave reviews, leaving negative reviews to their competition and there's a woman who posts ten reviews a day. All this together has made Amazon start to rethink how "customer" reviews can best be handled and maintain some integrity.
- It's no secret to those who know me that I loathe e-readers. I may be addressing pros and cons in the future.
- Book stores are not down and out yet!
- Authors are making news all the time and are more accessible to their readership now than ever before.
I will be blogging on these things and more in the future.

I also have a side project that I am going to be making entries about.
My reading challenge for 2012, through Goodreads,(if you're a reader and not participating on Goodreads, what on earth are you waiting for? Go! Go!), was to read 30 books for the year. That was up five from the twenty-five I read last year. I'm happy to report I made my goal, plus two.
I was talking about this with a friend that worked with me in one of the bookstores I worked in and I mentioned there was a series I was reading and lacked the last three, and was going to have to hit the used bookstore to see if they had them, like I needed to be dragging in any more books to read! She laughed and said she knew what I was talking about. I then mused, how many unread books did I have? I thought about it a moment and estimated I had 100+. I then wondered aloud how long it would take me to read them all?
My friend said that was a reading challenge and I should blog about it as I did it.
So that's what I'm going to do starting this month.
It's not a year long reading challenge. It will take as long as it takes.
I will address this in more detail in a separate blog post.


New things for The Written Universe.

I hope you will find them informative, interesting and entertaining.