Thoughts

Thoughts #48: My Favourite Female Authors

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As mentioned at the end of January, I’m focusing on female authors for the entire month of February, as my book group Dragons & Jetpacks has declared it ‘Women Writers Month’. I thought I’d start off by discussing my favourite female authors, and I’d love to hear yours!

Diana Gabaldon

diana gabaldon Outlander

My current lady of the moment is Diana Gabaldon, author of the fantastic Outlander series. If you’re into historical fiction, give it a try (or give the show a watch, totally worth it just for Sam Heughan alone, not to mention the beautiful Catriona Balfe and the gorgeous Scottish landscapes). Diana: thank you SO MUCH for creating the beautiful Scotsman that is Jamie Fraser.

J.K. Rowling

JK Rowling Harry Potter

Do I really need to explain this one? J.K. Rowling is my queen and shaped my childhood, forever.

Sarah J. Maas

sarah j maasThrone of Glass (Throne of Glass #1) by Sarah J. Maas

Sarah J. Maas is another female author I love, although I’ve only read one of her series – Throne of Glass. I met her in 2013 and she was the sweetest. She brought her own copy of Throne of Glass for fans to sign, and it travelled all over the world. It was pretty cool being able to sign something that my fellow bloggers had also signed!

Jaine Fenn

Jaine Fenn Downside Girls by Jaine Fenn

I’m going to make a mention of Jaine Fenn, who is truly lovely. She writes science fiction, and I first came into contact with her in 2013. She took part in my Sci-Fi Month event with an author interview, and I’ve met her twice now, both times at Bristolcon (where I was very shy because I actually don’t know how to act around authors…). She recognised my name instantly, thanked me for my review of her recent short story she’d sent me, and mentioned she had a new release coming and would I like to review it. Basically, she knows how to interact with her fanbase very well. Her sci-fi series is a mix of books to be read in order, and others that can be read as standalones within the same universe.

Marianne Curley & Katherine Roberts

Marianne Curley Katherine Roberts

Marianne Curley and Katherine Roberts cannot be forgotten! Both of these ladies write fantasy for younger audiences, and wrote some of my favourite books as a child/teen. And both of them took time out of their busy schedules to let me interview them for my blog. Like Jaine, they are lovely people and know how to treat their fans 🙂 Marianne has written the Guardians of Time series which involves time travel (yaaaas) and Katherine has written several series, my favourite being the Echorium Sequence, where words and song are power.

And because this post will be an entire novel if I write a paragraph about every awesome lady, honourable mentions go to…

Kristin Cashore, S.J. Kincaid, Suzanne Collins, Laini Taylor, V.E. Schwab and Rhonda Mason.

Which fabulous ladies of fiction are your favourites?

Monthly Roundup

Monthly Roundup: June 2015

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Every first Wednesday of the month, I’ll be posting a roundup of the month just gone, and writing about what’s to come in the next few weeks.

June 2015

Last month I read a total of ten books: Vortex (Insignia #2) by S.J. Kincaid, Promise of Blood (The Powder Mage #1) by Brian McClellan, The Witch Hunter (The Witch Hunter #1) by Virginia Boecker, Way Down Dark (The Australia Trilogy #1) by James Smythe, Time Salvager by Wesley Chu, The Great Bazaar and Brayan’s Gold (Demon Cycle #1.5) by Peter V. Brett, Armada by Ernest Cline, The Ships of Aleph by Jaine Fenn, The Parthenon by Mary Beard and The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North.

I managed to read more this year, due to handing in my thesis and having no work to do – what a relief! 😉 I read some really great books this month. Time Salvager and Armada really stood out, and the latter was definitely worth the wait.

 

Challenge progress:

  • I read five books towards the DC vs Marvel Challenge. Next month’s villain is Bane, and I’ve already managed to select my books to defeat him.
  • I have currently read 41 books towards my Goodreads goal.

 

Currently reading:

Shadowscale

How was June for you?

Review

Review: The Ships of Aleph by Jaine Fenn

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4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the author, in exchange for an honest review.

 

‘Every day, I ask myself the same question: would I be happier now if I had never sailed off the edge of the world?’

The opening line of The Ships of Aleph definitely grabbed my attention in an instant. This novella from Jaine Fenn tells the tale of a man who finds himself alone on a mysterious island after a shipwreck. Even stranger, the island appears to be a replica of his home, but if he takes more than 1000 steps away from the village he collapses. Every day, he is visited by an ‘angel’, who brings him food and other resources.

I always find novellas difficult to review due to their length, and often find myself a little disappointed by them. However, I thought the story of The Ships of Aleph was wonderfully imagined, slightly creepy, and made me very curious. How did Lachin end up on this island? Who was the ‘angel’? I had to know. Jaine Fenn’s writing style and pace worked perfectly here: I felt I was given just enough information to satisfy my curiosity, but also not quite enough to stop me from wanting to learn more. And of course, the reader learns along with Lachin.

Ultimately, I’d really like a full length novel of this short story. It suffers in the same way as many novellas – not quite enough time to expand or completely resolve things. The conclusion was a bit too quick for my tastes, and left me wanting more details.

However, this was a very interesting novella, slightly unnerving in places, that clearly demonstrates Jaine Fenn’s talent.

Guest Post

Guest Post: Freya’s Account of BristolCon, October 2014

Bristolcon

Some of you may remember that in 2013, I went to a science fiction and fantasy convention called BristolCon – it was wonderful to have such a thing in my little corner of England rather than all the way out in London or elsewhere. Unfortunately, as I wasn’t in that little corner of England, or much less England at all, for BristolCon 2014, I couldn’t attend. However, my lovely friend Freya did, and she has kindly written an account of her experience!

BristolCon 2014

Hello peeps – Freya here guest posting for Rinn Reads! Last year I attended BristolCon with Rinn and another of our friends from university which was pretty awesome and had a great time! This year due to a few reasons (Rinn being in another country for starters!), I went book-raiding at BristolCon 2014 as a party of one – it was a good day, but going with friends certainly makes the day – I’m looking at you Rinn for attending a Convention next year!

Guests of Honour this year were: Jon Courtnay Grimwood, Emma Newman and Julian Quaye, with a whole host of other authors appearing on panels, doing readings and signings, including: Paul Cornell, Jaine Fenn, Gareth L. Powell, Adrian Tchaikovsky and many more

There were so many exciting talks and panels going on and it was sometimes difficult to decide which ones to go to! I sadly missed the talk on Modelling the Climate of Tolkien’s Middle Earth (and our Earth) which I am STILL kicking myself over!

Freya's BristolCon haul!
Freya’s BristolCon haul!

I did manage to attend Writing Historical Fantasy which discussed historical accuracy and the pros and cons of sticking to events or being only loosely based in fact. I also went to Sex or Death? where the authors discussed killing characters and how difficult it can be to write a sex scene without it being gratuitous or just ending up a reflection of authors’ preferences and experiences! Amusingly in the same time slot in another room was More Weird Sex – apparently ‘when a mummy alien and a daddy alien who love each other very much…’ or more about bizarre mating and offspring in science fiction.

After a number of mugs of tea and some lunch I went to listen to Garth L. Powell interview Guest of Honour Emma Newman. She is amazing, a lovely person who told me not to apologise for wanting some books signed (I have a habit of sprinkling my sentences with ‘sorry’). She is also very funny with her interview having me in fits and some slightly strange but amusing part about fitting turnips into socks?! She’s a roleplayer, and science fiction short story author though I first heard about her through her Split Worlds trilogy. She also runs a podcast with her author husband Peter Newman called Tea and Jeopardy which just sounds amazing! I would recommend you check out her website where there are free stories (who doesn’t love a free story?). She finished off with a reading of her new science fiction novel called Planetfall which sounds like it is going to be great!

Emma Newman Emma Newman

Finally I attended talks on Writing Non-Human Characters with the challenges that brings of making them relatable but trying not to make them sound like a human in a costume, and finally Rogues, Ruffians, Pirates and Thieves where I queried that although these type of characters are often our favourites in fiction, would we actually like them if they were in the real world, as in fiction the consequences of their actions do not affect us? By this point in the day my stomach was growling for supper and I had a tedious headache so sticking around for the evening boardgaming they were planning to do after last year’s pilot was not going to happen for me and I headed home with my goodies from the day.

My goodie bag had a free book by Michael Moorcock, Gloriana, or ‘The Unfulfilled Queen’ and I got books two and three of the Split Worlds Trilogy by Emma Newman signed, Jaine Fenn’s Downside Girls and Principles of Angels signed, and Dragonfly Falling (Shadows of the Apt #2) by Adrian Tchaikovsky signed. The dealers room had a brilliant range of books, graphic novels, jewellery and other goodies being sold and I would have bought a lot more but the Forbidden Planet stall nicked all my money buying books instead (whoops?), however I did want to mention the artwork of Jennie Gyllblad, an illustrator and graphic novel artist who had some beautiful artwork on sale! She has also been writing some of her own graphic novels as well as illustrating them so I suggest you check out her website and take a gander!

Jaine Fenn Jaine Fenn

BristolCon 2015 is earlier than normal on September 26th at the Doubletree Hotel in Bristol. It’s £20 for the day in advance or £25 on the day – really not bad for a Convention price and it’s growing bigger every year. The Guests of Honour for 2015 will be Jasper Fforde, Jaine Fenn and the artist Chris Moore.

Thank you so much to Freya for her account of BristolCon 2014! Have you ever attended BristolCon, or another smaller convention? Do you prefer these sorts of conventions to ones like Comicon?

Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month: My Recap of BristolCon

Just under a month ago, I went to a fantasy and science fiction convention not far from where I live, called BristolCon – and for today’s Sci-Fi Month post, I want to share my experience with you! Don’t forget to check out the schedule for the rest of today’s posts. You can also Tweet about the event using the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.

 

BristolCon is a one day convention, organised by the Bristol Fantasy & SF Society, and held annually. It gives those living in the south-west a chance to attend the sort of events we normally miss out on. 2013 was the fifth con, and it has grown from an afternoon to a full day of panels, stalls and other exciting events over the years. You can view the programme here.

Guests this year included: Philip Reeve, Storm Constantine, Mark Buckingham, Sarah Ash, Paul Cornell, Janet Edwards, Jaine Fenn, David Gullen, Emma Newman, Ian Whates, Gareth L. Powell, David J. Rodger and many more. Several of the guests are actually taking part in Sci-Fi Month, which was particularly exciting!

I went to the con with two friends of mine from university, and we started off by browsing the dealers room. The stalls ranged from Forbidden Planet selling books (many of which were signed; I purchased Earth Girl by Janet Edwards and Queen of Nowhere by Jaine Fenn to be signed later on), Crafty Miss Kitty who sells some wonderful jewellery including many Doctor Who themed pieces, PQ Vintage Sci-Fi who had a massive collection of vintage and secondhand sci-fi classics and various other stalls selling sci-fi books, memorabilia, costumes and more. You can view the list of dealers here.

Then we thought we’d consult our programmes and work out which panels to attend. The first thing we knew we wanted to attend for sure were the book signings at 2pm (all authors at once!). I knew I wanted to get my books signed by Jaine Fenn and Janet Edwards, so I made a beeline straight for them. Sadly Janet was nowhere to be found, but I met Jaine and introduced myself, and she was lovely! It was nice to meet someone I’d been speaking to online, and put a face to the ‘voice’ – but I have this horrible shyness around people I admire and once I’d introduced myself I had a bit of a brain freeze… anyway, I just want to take this chance now to say thank you to Jaine for taking part in the event!

One of my friends had a couple of Philip Reeve‘s books, so she got them signed and they had a long chat! I’ve spotted several copies of his Mortal Engines in my local second-hand bookshop, and wish I’d picked at least one up to get signed, but never mind!

At 3pm we went to our first panel, one that immediately stood out to us by name,

because we are mature and responsible adults: ‘How To Poo In A Fantasy Universe and Other Grubby Goings On’. This was moderated by Dev Agarwal, and the panelists were Ben Galley, Myfanwy Rodman, Lor Graham and Max Edwards. It was a discussion on how, often in big fantasy epics, we never see or hear of our beloved protagonists going off to the toilet, or collecting food, or doing basic things like cleaning pots and pans after a meal. Frodo treks across Middle-earth and never once has to stop for a toilet break. Does Han have a bathroom aboard the Millennium Falcon? Does the Death Star even have plumbing? It was a really fun talk (and very true!) – although we did discuss series that do cover such events as well, like George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. For example, Arya has to make sure she steps well away from the rest of the group to go to the toilet when she’s on the run disguised as a boy, and another rather spoilery moment much later on that I won’t reveal here (but one of the panelists did!). All I will say is that it involves a death, but since it’s a GRRM book that isn’t really a surprise…

Thank you Jaine!

5pm brought with it a talk on ‘Magic in Fantasy’, moderated by Jonathan Wright and featuring Anne Lyle, Storm Constantine, Snorri Kristjansson and Paul Cornell. It was a fantastic talk on fantasy and magic systems, how different authors show magic and which systems we thought were the best. One person suggested the system used in The Name of the Wind, where magic is known as sympathy and requires a sacrifice, and I completely agree!

Another brilliant talk followed, ‘Beyond Arthur’, which was a discussion on folktales and legends that often get ignored in fiction, moderated by Gaie Sebold and featuring Roz Clarke, Catherine Butler, Philip Reeve and Scott Lewis. They discussed many local legends, including variations on how the River Avon got its name (one being that a lady named Avona drowned herself in it after spurned love). It was at this point that I also bumped into Colin, who runs Clarion Publishing, and has been a major help for Sci-Fi Month – he is the one who put me in touch with so many of the authors taking part, so thank you so much Colin!

Our next plan was to head to the quiz (we love quizzes!) which wasn’t until 8.30pm, so we hung out in the bar for the next few hours and just chatted about the day. Whilst we were sat in there I finally spotted Janet Edwards, and managed to grab her just before she left! I explained that I was the one organising Sci-Fi Month, and she told me all about Nara’s interview and one particularly evil question that Nara posed for her! She was lovely and didn’t mind at all that I sort of grabbed her on her way out. And I got my book signed, yay!

And then finally, the quiz! Hosted by Nick WaIters (who has written some Doctor Who novels), it was really fun and a brilliant laugh – me and my two friends had our own team and we did SO badly (we got a grand total of 19 but actually were the losers only by 1 point…). There was an entire round on William Shatner. We know nothing about William Shatner. The round we did really well on? Cats on film. It was a picture round and we had to identify which films the cats were from – Jonesy from Alien, one of the Bond cats etc. We’d been laughing along with the team next to ours, who marked our quiz sheet (sure to draw more laughter), and it turned out one of the members was Ian Whates, who is taking part in Sci-Fi Month! Anyway I introduced myself and he was absolutely lovely. He was very impressed with our feline knowledge.

And that was the end of the con! We arrived back at my friend’s house just after 11pm, a brilliant day only slightly hampered by a constant migraine… And the next day, we went to Bristol Museum (we’re all archaeology graduates so of course) and bumped into Philip Reeve in the museum cafe, as you do (tea and cake were sorely needed). He even recognised us!

Here are my spoils from the weekend:

 

  • Nova by Samuel R. Delany and Limits by Larry Niven – from PQ Vintage Sci-Fi, they had so many amazing vintage and secondhand books for only 50p each so I had to grab a couple at least! We spent a lot of time stood at that stall…
  • The Alchemyst by Michael Scott – this was our freebie book in our goodie bags, and the author kind of makes me giggle because I’ve been watching a lot of The Office US lately (if you’ve not seen it, Michael Scott is the boss, the character played by Steve Carrell). But it does sound good, it’s about Nicholas Flamel!
  • Earth Girl by Janet Edwards – this one has been very highly praised, and Janet is even taking part in Sci-Fi Month. You can win a copy of this one over on Nara’s blog, and read an interview with Janet herself!
  • Queen of Nowhere and Consorts of Heaven by Jaine Fenn – I picked Queen of Nowhere up at the con, and got it signed (see above), but didn’t pick up Consorts of Heaven until the next day (at the £2 Book Shop, it is HEAVEN) so couldn’t get that one signed, sadly! I first encountered Jaine’s writing last year and was really impressed by it.
  • Doctor Who: Shada by Gareth Roberts and Douglas Adams – my other £2 Book Shop find, I’ve been wanting to read one of the Classic Who novels for a while and this seemed like a great one to start with.

I also picked up a copy of Dead Angels by Gunnar Roxen, a very friendly author who was at the con. It’s a short novella so I thought it would be a good way of checking out his work. I also got a little fabric owl (I have an owl collection that has mostly come from other people buying me owl stuff ever since I bought an owl bag and matching purse…), and you can see my con badge in the photo too!

And that’s pretty much it for my recap of BristolCon! I had a fantastic time and would love to go again – but I could do without the migraine next time…

Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month: Publisher Profile (Clarion Publishing)

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Today I want to give a shout out to Clarion Publishing, who have been a major help with regards to this event. It is because of Clarion that so many authors are linked to Sci-Fi Month, and Colin from the company spent a lot of his free time liaising between me and various authors to get everything ready for November. So I thought I’d try and return the favour, and tell you a little bit about the publishing house. Don’t forget to check out the schedule for the rest of today’s posts. You can also Tweet about the event using the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.
 

Clarion Publishing is a publishing house based in London, and publishes both fiction and non-fiction. It has three different imprints, and Monico is the imprint under which science fiction falls. 
 
Clarion’s authors include Chris Amies, Jaine Fenn, David Gullen, Ben Jeapes, Damien Kelly, Anthony McCann, Jeff Shelton-Davis and Gus Smith.

Here are some recent releases from Clarion (click the cover to visit the Goodreads page):

  
 
Several Clarion authors are taking part in Sci-Fi Month. Want to read an interview with Jaine Fenn or a guest post by Damien Kelly, or perhaps an interview with David Gullen?
I now have a small interview with Colin from Clarion Publishing, about the industry and also his interest in science fiction!
 
Rinn: What inspired you to set up your own publishing house?

Colin: Well, that’s a tale. Short version: because I could. Longer version: when I was growing up, Speculative Fiction was the air that I breathed. From PKD to Michael Moorcock – I read extensively and constantly. As I became older, I wanted to write in this world – and write I did. Doing so, I learnt an awful lot about the craft and about the business side of it all. I then became very aware of the trials and tribulations authors faced in regards to rights/ownership of their published materials, as well as the increasingly hard time everybody is having in the publishing biz – authors and publishers alike. There will always be more fantastic books than publishers, so to be able to participate in the sharing of excellent fictions with readers seemed like the perfect way to contribute back into to the ‘industry’.

So, basically, publishing is the result of over thirty years of reading in the genre that has rewarded me time and again with fantastic stories and brain-bending ideas. How could I not say thank you?

Rinn: Can you describe a ‘typical day’ at Clarion?

Colin: If I had a typical day, I’d probably freak out as it would be so unusual!

All days start with the blackest of coffee. Clarion Publishing is actually a division of my main company (I run a business consultancy), so the very first thing I do is that I look at what I need to do for both, and I divide my day accordingly. Depending on the day I might be going through a to-be-published manuscript, making notes to give back to the author – or I might be going through iterations of a cover (depending on what we go for, we might have between three to forty iterations – the latter is thanks to factoring in cover typography). Other days I’m working with editors, or I’m planning promotional strategy and executing on it. Other days see me laying out both the paperback and ebook versions – I’m a stickler for typography and presentation. I want the right font used that both matches the story and reads well on the eyes. I typically use a short list of great fonts for the main body of a book, but I always make sure that the supporting typography connects to the story.

And of course, I email. A lot!

Rinn: Is it a difficult process deciding what to publish?

Colin: For the vast majority of time it isn’t – you find a great book and it just screams at you to be published. If a book isn’t doing that, chances are it isn’t for you. I’ve never had a book that I’ve sat on the fence over.

All publishers publish books that they love, and we are no different. We do however have a slightly different situation to the mainstream publishers in that we are willing to take more chances. Before a book is accepted by the majority of publishers, the number crunching team, using general rules of thumb and occasionally accurate data, can guesstimate based on the size, genre and proposed price-point the high/low of sales and the value of the property vs the investment into the author and the author’s career. Even if a publishing house absolutely loves a work with a mad passion, it can still fall cropper to the hard math.

Thanks to our small nature, we have a radically different infrastructure, which means we can truly publish what we love. Making money and ensuring solvency is always part of the math, but it is so much easier for us than larger organisations!

Rinn: Are you a big fan of the science fiction genre?

Colin: Absolutely. I grew up surrounded by SF and I grew up reading SF, watching SF, talking about SF, and writing SF. In all forms, in all mediums, Science Fiction is part of who I am.

Rinn: What are your favourite things about science fiction?

Colin: As well as the oft-times fantastical elements contained within SF, I’m hugely passionate about humanity – who we are and what we do and say – and what we really do and say. SF can be a mirror on our society and can allow us to look at and understand the world around us – the politics, the ideologies, the human nature – in a new light.

I’m a big fan of the Fool. The Fool in medieval times is often seen as a harlequin-style pratfall master, designed to provoke laughter for the audience of a king. The truth however is different. Thanks to the strictures of society, acquiescence and support for the status quo is a natural bias. In a King’s court, the Fool is to my mind the most important figure. While everybody else worked within the system, the Fool had one duty: to speak truth to power.

Great Science Fiction speaks a truth. It tells us more about ourselves, how we truly are, and we would do well to listen.

Thank you to Colin for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions!

What’s so great about Clarion Publishing? I first came into contact with Clarion last year, when I won a copy of Jaine Fenn’s Downside Girls from Librarything. What really struck me was the personal tone of the email I received – and it definitely was, as it turns out Colin wrote individual emails to each winner! It was one of the first publishers that came to mind to contact when I thought of the idea, and as it happens I won another book from Clarion in August of this year (Feather and Bone by Gus Smith). I mentioned my idea for the event in the email, and since then me and Colin have been emailing about it, and he has worked tirelessly in his own spare time to find authors to take part! I’m so, so grateful to him for all his help, and the reason I find Clarion Publishing so great is the personal approach they take when interacting with book lovers.

You can follow Clarion Publishing on Twitter, or visit their website.

Challenges, Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month: Definitive Science Fiction Reads

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Today I want to share a challenge with you all: my definitive list of science fiction reads! They are books I feel every sci-fi fan should read at least once in their lifetime, and as well as creating a challenge for myself I hope that it can be challenge for some of you too. Although I already have a Top Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books Challenge, I wanted to create one that reflected all different types of science fiction, including Young Adult. So it will actually be a mix of books I’ve loved, books I really feel I should read because they’re considered classics, and some titles that might often be overlooked, as well as some books that I’ve heard a lot of good things about.
 
If you’d like to join in, feel free! I’ll be keeping track of my progress too, on a separate postDon’t forget to check out the schedule for the rest of today’s posts. You can also Tweet about the event using the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.

‘Classic’ science fiction

Newer science fiction

Young Adult science fiction

What do you think of the challenge? Are you going to join in?