The Hardest Part: Alex J. Cavanaugh on Dragon of the Stars

North Carolina author Alex J. Cavanaugh already has three Amazon bestsellers under his belt with his first trilogy, as well as a sizzling review from Library Journal which praised the series as one which “calls to mind the youthful focus of Robert Heinlein’s early military sf, as well as the excitement of space opera epitomized by the many Star Wars novels.” After the publication of CassaStorm in late 2013, I’d been on the lookout for his next book, but it wasn’t until I e-stumbled onto it in late December last year on a popular Goodreads list (Most Anticipated Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Novels of 2015) at #3 that I started to get an idea just how much of a following Cavanaugh has grown over first years of his young writing career. As I wrote him, “Dude, That’s one way to let a guy know that you have a new book coming in April!” (Now he’s at #15 on the list, which is still pretty impressive, above such heavyweights as John Scalzi and Stephen King, and this fellow named Neil Gaiman. You may have heard of him.) Here, Cavanaugh writes about finding a new voice and a new world for Dragon of the Stars.

Dragon of the Stars - Alex J Cavanaugh

Starting a New Story After Finishing a Series
By Alex J. Cavanaugh

When I wrote my first book, I never envisioned a series. When it expanded to three books, I found certain aspects of the sequels were easier since the world and characters were already established. It provided a starting point on which I could continue to build.

Once I finished the series, I wasn’t sure I would write another book. I knew I wouldn’t continue with the Cassa universe. I’d taken the main character on his journey and there wasn’t much farther I could go with the story.

And then an idea hit me for a standalone story. Dragon of the Stars would not take place in the same universe though. That meant starting from scratch. Read the rest of this entry »


Paul Kincaid’s From the Other Side, June 2015: David Mitchell, Al Robertson’s Crashing Heaven, Chris Beckett, Neal Stephenson, Terry Pratchett, Laura Barnett, and more

From the Other Side, June 2015
By Paul Kincaid

[Editor’s Note: From the Other Side is Paul Kincaid’s monthly column on books and news from the other side of the Atlantic.]

It has turned out to be something of a David Mitchell month for me. First to the glorious setting of the Union Chapel in North London where Mitchell and Neil Gaiman were in conversation, with Erica Wagner, the Literary Editor of The Times as a (fairly unnecessary) moderator. It turns out that, though they admire each other’s work, this was the first time they had actually met (the conversation was recorded and can be heard here). During the course of the conversation, Gaiman revealed that, just minutes before, he had received confirmation that the television series of American Gods is to go ahead. The novel itself will provide the first three seasons, and he had already laid out his plans for the as-yet-unwritten sequel which will provide subsequent seasons.

A few days later, Mitchell turned up in Canterbury where he gave the first ever public reading from his forthcoming novel, Slade House. He told me that this could be considered as a prequel to The Bone Clocks, though the extracts he read seemed to me to be more like a ghost story, and also one of the funniest things he’s written to date.

Slade House Crashing Heaven

But all of that, of course, is in the future. For the present, the big novel of the month is probably Al Robertson’s debut, Crashing Heaven (Gollancz). It’s a big concept sf thriller with elements of cyberpunk and elements of space opera in the mix, and an intriguing hero in the shape of Hugo Fist, a ventriloquist’s dummy whose AI mind is slaved to that of his companion, Jack Forster, and who is suspected of turning traitor in the recently-ended war against rogue AIs. Read the rest of this entry »


Coming to Town: Nathan Ballingrud for “Noir at the Bar” at 106 Main in Durham

Tonight (Thursday, June 18) at 6:30 pm, Downtown Durham’s 106 Main hosts the city’s second Noir at the Bar event, with eight authors of dark fiction from across North Carolina holding court over drinks to talk about their work, including Durham’s Eryk Pruitt (DirtbagsHashtag) and Chapel Hill’s Jeremy Hawkins (The Last Days of Video), as well as Asheville’s Nathan Ballingrud who took the time for an email interview ahead of tonight’s event. Ballingrud is the author of the award-winning 2013 collection North American Lake Monsters (Small Beer Press) and the recently-released novella The Visible Filth (This Is Horror). Listening to Ballingrud read his story “The Good Husband” from North American Lake Monsters at Quail Ridge Books a couple years back, I could feel my chest tightening, my breath straining, my stomach clenching. He infuses his work with such realism and dread, an unease born of infidelity, weakness and inadequacy, of irrevocable violence, of disconnect, of inevitable mistakes, of decay. Whether grounded in the everyday dirt of reality or, as he does as well as anyone I’ve read ever has, on that rusted knife’s edge between our reality and another which lurks, ever-present even if not mentioned directly, under the surface, just out of your peripheral vision, or even in your own mind. The Visible Filth combines elements of crime fiction and The Weird, with nods to books like Robert W. Chambers’ The King in Yellow and films like Koji Suzuki’s The Ring, as bartender Will deals with the aftermath of a fight and a misplaced cell phone. I’m looking forward to catching up with Nathan, Eryk, and Jeremy, and meeting the rest of the fantastic lineup that Eryk has put together for this one.  See you there!

The Visible Filth by Nathan Ballingrud

Q: What are some of the essential differences to you when writing horror v. dark fantasy v. weird v. crime fiction, other than, say, “in some of them there are some possibly supernatural bits”?

I’ve never set out to write crime fiction, so I’m not sure I can answer that. I even like to keep descriptors like “weird” and “horror” out of my mind when I write. I like to keep my own mental field as uncluttered by genre expectation as I can. As far as differences go, crime fiction seems to me to be more about the condition of our society. When I think of the novels of Richard Price, Dennis Lehane, Patricia Highsmith, John D. MacDonald, and others, the focus is either on transgressions against the social order, or they’re interrogations of that order. Horror fiction — if you’re going to set aside the supernatural for the purposes of this question — seems more focused on personal transgression, whether that’s spiritual or physical. Now, that’s a simplistic answer to a question which deserves several thousand words devoted to it, and I’m not sure I won’t change my mind about it as I think about it further.

Q: Tending bar is one of the staple occupations of crime and other dark fiction. Particularly a dive bar. How do you make these elements more than “genre markers”, keep them interesting and not just variations on a theme? Read the rest of this entry »


Friday Quick Updates: Red Adept, Brian Posehn, Noir at the Bar, and a crowdfunding roundup

Saturda, June 13, 2015: Upcoming events, books on sale, new podcasts, a new writing contest, and a crowd-funding roundup await you in this belated Saturday installment of “Friday Quick Updates”. But let’s be quick about it, because there are three (count ’em) events today alone:

  • June 13 (Saturday) 11 am to 2 pm — Raleigh’s Event Horizon Games hosts a multi-author book signing event for Garner-based publisher Red Adept along with publisher Lynn McNamee. Among those appearing will be local author Karissa Laurel, whose debut novel Midnight Burning is forthcoming from Red Adept.
  • June 13 (Saturday) 1 to 3 pm — Chapel Hill Comics hosts comedian and Deadpool comics writer Brian Posehn for an in-store signing.
  • June 13 (Saturday) 2 pm — The Burlington B&N hosts Samantha Bryant for a reading and signing of her debut novel Going Through the Change.

Meanwhile, on the latest episode of the Baen Free Radio Hour podcast, editor David Afsharirad hosts a discussion of his recently-released anthology The Year’s Best Military SF and Space Opera with authors Matthew Johnson, David D. Levine, Linda Nagata, and more. As Afsharirad says, “It’s a good one, if I say so myself.”

Speaking of that anthology, voting on the first annual Year’s Best Military Science Fiction and Space Opera Award continues through August 31. Read the rest of this entry »


Coming to Town: John L. Deboer, Erica Lucke Dean, and Stephen Kozeniewski for Red Adept Publishing’s annual book signing event at Event Horizon Games, interviewed by Karissa Laurel

On Saturday, June 13, Event Horizon Games welcomes authors, John L Deboer, Erica Lucke Dean, Stephen Kozeniewski, Kelly Stone Gamble, Mary Fan, Claire Ashby, and Karissa Laurel for Red Adept Publishing’s annual book signing event.  John is the author of Skeleton Run, a mystery thriller. Stephen will be signing his horror mystery, Braineater Jones, and Erica’s newest release is Ashes of Life, a women’s fiction novel. Here, Karissa Laurel interviews John, Erica, and Stephen about their books, writing, North Carolina, and Saturday’s event.

Skeleton Run Ashes of Life Braineater Jones

Karissa: Y’all are coming to town for a book signing event hosted by Red Adept Publishing (RAP), which is a small press located in Garner, NC. John, you’re a local guy, is there anything about North Carolina that is special to you as a writer?

John: I’m not originally from North Carolina, but I’ve lived here since 1988. I’ve featured the Tar Heel State, especially Oak Island, where I have a summer place, in my last three novels.

Karissa: Erica and Stephen, I’m pretty sure you’ve both been to North Carolina before. What has brought you here in the past?  Read the rest of this entry »


June newsletter: Darin Kennedy, Stacey Cochran, Karissa Laurel, Brian Posehn, “Noir at the Bar”, the Manly Wade Wellman Award nominees, and more

Vol 5 No 4. Saturday, June 6, 2015: Well, maybe this is turning into a bimonthly thing instead of monthly, as I didn’t manage a newsletter in May, either. Since late April we’ve seen plenty of local writers have stories, books, and audiobooks published, added a pile of new events to the upcoming readings calendar, and! found out this year’s nominees for The Manly Wade Wellman Award.

As usual, let’s start with some highlights from events that are right around the corner:

June 7 (Sunday) 2 pm -- Flyleaf Books hosts Darin Kennedy for his paranormal thriller The Mussorgsky Riddle. June 18 (Thursday) 6:30 pm -- Noir at the Bar with Nathan Ballingrud, David Terrenoire, John Saunders, Eryk Pruitt, Eric B. Martin, Jeremy Hawkins, Bryan Gilmer, and more, at 106 Main in Durham.

  • June 6 (Saturday) 8:15 pm — Durham’s Manbites Dog Theater presents the last performance in the opening run of the world premiere adaptation of Nick Cave’s Australian/Southern Gothic/cult novel And the Ass Saw the Angel.
  • June 7 (Sunday) 2 pm — Flyleaf Books hosts Darin Kennedy discusses his paranormal thriller The Mussorgsky Riddle. “Psychic Mira Tejedor possesses unique talents that enable her to find anything and anyone, but now she must find a comatose boy wandering lost inside the labyrinth of his own mind.”
  • June 13 (Saturday) 11 am to 2 pm — Raleigh’s Event Horizon Games hosts a multi-author book signing event for Garner-based publisher Red Adept along with publisher Lynn McNamee. Among those appearing will be local author Karissa Laurel, whose debut novel Midnight Burning is forthcoming from Red Adept.
  • June 13 (Saturday) 1 to 3 pm — Chapel Hill Comics hosts comedian and Deadpool comics writer Brian Posehn for an in-store signing.
  • June 18 (Thursday) 6:30 pm — Noir at the Bar with (among others) Nathan Ballingrud (The Visible Filth), Eryk Pruitt (Hashtag), Jeremy Hawkins (The Last Days of Video), and more, at 106 Main in Durham.

And there are more readings, panels, discussions, and even writing workshops going on next week — check the full listings below. But while I’m in “highlights” mode, how about a few picks from the newly listed events: Read the rest of this entry »


Coming to Town: Darin Kennedy for The Mussorgsky Riddle, at Flyleaf Books this Sunday

As I wrote in the intro for his The Hardest Part essay: “Charlotte “doctor by day, novelist by night” Darin Kennedy‘s debut novel, The Mussorgsky Riddle, is squarely right up my alley. “The Great Gate of Kiev” (part of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition) is one of my favorite pieces of Russian symphony, and Kennedy turns the mythopoeity up to “11” combining music, paranormal mystery, and classical mythology in a heady, panpsychic mix. All set in Charlotte — and the infinite mindscapes therein.” In that essay, he wrote about the hard part of discovering the first person present tense voice of psychic Mira Tejedor, as she struggles to unravel the riddle of 13-year-old Anthony Faircloth’s catatonia, as well as the difficulty and payoff of writing first person from the POV of the opposite gender in and of itself, and of making the various pieces of Pictures at an Exhibition and Scheherazade fit together. Here, Kennedy took the time via email to answer a few brief questions ahead of his upcoming appearances in the Carolinas, at Flyleaf Books (this Sunday, June 7, at 2 pm) [Facebook],  at Scuppernong Books in Greensboro on the 11th (Thursday), and Joe’s Place in Greenville, SC on the 20th (Saturday). Enjoy!

Q: The phrase “paranormal thriller” isn’t all that common. Are there some more well-known cultural referents that can help shorthand things, like maybe the J-Lo film The Cell, or is that the wrong direction?

Let’s see… Paranormal Thriller vs. Paranormal Mystery seems to be where Mussorgsky lies. The main character is Mira Tejedor, a psychic who explores a comatose boy’s mind for the answers to both his catatonic state and a missing persons case in the real world. Between her psychic abilities and the dreamscapes she walks to find her answers, I think these are the best descriptors. It’s funny you mention The Cell, as there are some similarities there. I actually hadn’t seen that movie until after I finished The Mussorgsky Riddle, but I think that writer and I definitely touched on some similar themes, albeit coming at them from very different directions.

Q: Do you believe in any psychic phenomena yourself? Read the rest of this entry »


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