The Exploding Spaceship Visits Bookmarks!


The Exploding Spaceship travels to Winston-Salem for Bookmarks Festival of Books and Authors!

Bookmarks is a festival of books and authors held in Winston-Salem, NC. Lev Grossman, the featured fantasy author, drew us to the event because we had never heard him speak. The festival has indoor venues for author talks and outdoor space for food vendors and vendor and publisher tents. There was a photo booth in the theater lobby where you could dress up in funny hats and props to get a free strip of pictures and this was very popular. The Hanes Brand Theatre is where the events we attended were located. This is a nice venue for events on a stage, but the concessions booth is very expensive, even more extreme than movie theater prices, with some small snacks being four times the grocery store price.


Lev Grossman had a very interesting talk about his new book The Magician’s Land (August 2014, Viking) and the universe in which the book is set. He comes at fantasy from a classical literary background and was raised by parents who were also traditional literature trained. Lev was always a fantasy reader even though by day he read other things. When he began writing fantasy he wanted a universe with a different take on magic. His main character has no advisor to guide him and so wanders around sort of lost and there are no straight-up evil guys, just characters who can be viewed as a darker gray. His stories try to address the question, “What is magic for?”


Lev writes his fantasy in a contemporary American voice and humor is used frequently. His characters are normal people with drinking problems and a sex life to worry about. They do traditional epic fantasy things, like engage in single combat against a champion, but never say or do anything in the manner you expect. He writes to please the teenage version of himself, who wanted magic to be real, so the language including the slang and bad language all reflects modern society. This makes his fiction very approachable for those put off by the trappings of genre fiction.

blu lily lily blue cover 91zc0YLjQkL

Maggie Stiefvater gave a very interesting talk about her fiction, and her life in a celtic band while dressing like a punk band member. Maggie is from Virginia and so she drove to the event. This enabled her to bring her daughter who was seeing her Mom’s writer talk for the first time. Nothing puts pressure on a speaker like an audience whom you see over the breakfast table every morning.  She is a great speaker though, particularly for the young adult audience. We had two young adult males with us for the event and they were very entertained.


Maggie has written several fantasy series for Scholastic Press. Her most recent release, Sinner, is a volume which is almost general fiction but uses characters and background from her werewolf universe.  The setting is LA instead of Mercy Falls, and you see some of Maggie’s knowledge about bands being used in this volume. Her more traditional fantasy series is based on Welsh myth and is called the Raven cycle. The next volume of this comes out in October and is called Blue Lily, Llly Blue.

Both of these fantasy authors were extremely good speakers, even for young adults with short attention spans. Keep a look out for their appearances near you! Maggie has a book out October 14 so check for events near you on and via Twitter @mstiefvater . Lev can be found on and on facebook as lev.grossman and on Twitter as @leverus.

Overall, Bookmarks was a good day out for us. The speakers were great and they all had signings. Note that the signings are under tents with the queues in the sun, so hats and sunglasses are recommended for those wanting books signed. This is an every year free event, so Your Humble Reviewers hope to see many of you there next time! Keep watch on for next year’s event and author events around the area also sponsored by Bookmarks.

The Hardest Part: Tony Daniel on “Islands”

Baen editor Tony Daniel has been a busy man of late. Since his 2012 novel Guardian of Night he has published 3 additional novels (Star Trek: Devil’s Bargain and two books co-authored with David Drake: Manly Wade Wellman Award-nominated The Heretic and just-published The Savior) and two short stories, and directed and hosted Baen’s Parsec Award-nominated podcast The Baen Free Radio Hour. He’s also been active on the convention circuit, both as a panelist and (of course) as a frequent host of the Baen Traveling Road Show. In March of this year, Daniel put out a casting call for “Islands”, his new radio play adaptation of a novella by Eric Flint, and would go on to guide the production through auditions, rehearsals, recording sessions, post-production soundtrack and sound effects, and, on Wednesday September 17, Daniel will finally present the premiere performance at a free screening at Living Arts College in Raleigh, where the radio play was recorded, ahead of its online debut as part of the Baen Free Radio Hour on Friday, September 19, in turn ahead of public availability at Baen’s online store.

It was a thrill and an honor to have had a small part in the production, and to be able to take in first-hand the amazing performances of cast members Tracey Coppedge, Paul Kilpatrick, Lex Wilson, Jeff Aguiar, Izzy Burger, Rika Daniel, Carter, Paris Battle, Gray Rinehart, Pj Maske, and Cokie Daniel. (Between rehearsal takes, the talent on display just ad-libbing around for fun by this group was wonderful to be around.) Both Tony Daniel and director Jerome Davis were likewise amazing to work with, and to watch work. Here, Daniel writes about his background in script writing, and how “Islands” came to be.

Islands Poster

By Tony Daniel:

We made radio plays back in 2000 and 2001. I got hired at Seeing Ear Theatre at SCIFI.COM by its creator, Brian Smith, who later became a good friend and writing partner, and we made many radio plays with wonderful, cinematic soundtracks, quite unlike anything that had been made before, because they, those who created and developed the form, and created its Golden Age, simply didn’t have the technology before. We had a wizardly sound engineering genius named John Colucci. We had a great budget to work with, so we hired stars to get more people to listen. For about two years, I was perhaps the only full-time audio drama scriptwriter and story editor in the world. At least in America. Then the dot com bust came along, and the whole thing, the whole web site, got shut down to ashes. Probably a hundred people laid off, poor kids suddenly out $65,000 a year and with no prospects except Starbucks, if that. To be laid off in New York City is no joke. You will quickly get eaten alive by rent.

Brian, by the way, took a job as an audiobook editor after Seeing Ear, and then quit and started an artisanal ice cream shop in Brooklyn. It has become a New York phenomenon. Ample Hills. You have to go there when you’re in town. Read the rest of this entry »

Coming to Town: Kim Harrison at Quail Ridge Books for The Witch with No Name

This is it. This is the big one. Kim Harrison’s bestselling “Hollows” series kicked off with 2004’s Dead Witch Walking and yesterday saw the publication of the concluding thirteenth novel, The Witch with No Name. Harrison has come through town on her tours for many of the previous books, most recently just back in March for The Undead Pool, and NC writer/editor Sharon Stogner reprises her role as “Coming to Town” interviewer ahead of Harrison’s next local appearance, this Friday (September 12) at Raleigh’s Quail Ridge Books as part of her full tour which includes events nationwide.


Interview by Sharon Stogner:

Q: Hello and welcome back to NC. This is your second visit to NC this year to promote a Hollows book. How have these last six months been? And how does an author celebrate the release of their final book in a successful series?

Thank you, Sharon! I always like getting back to Raleigh, though this time it is sooner than I had anticipated. I just couldn’t ask the readers to wait an entire year for the last book, and since it was already turned in, we went for it. Being the last book is very much a double-edged sword. Some of the readers are feeling the sting of it, and if the truth be told, I had a very hard time writing it. But the best way to get over the last book blues is to start right in on what comes next. Getting out and giving the readers a chance to say good-bye to the Hollows is going to be a great way to send Rachel off on her happy ever after, and Harper is going all out with a midnight kick off and final good-bye party the night before Halloween, and lots of stores and events in between.

Q: You will have a few double signings on this tour with author Richard Kadrey and have just done a Reddit Q&A together. Does The Hollows and Sandman Slim books have the same fan base? Whose idea was it to combine the promotional tours? Read the rest of this entry »

Coming to Town: Stuart Rojstaczer for The Mathematician’s Shiva

“Her craziness was happily wed to her intellect. There are no reasonable geniuses in this world, I am convinced.” So writes middle-aged fictional geophysicist Alexander “Sasha” Karnokovitch of his mother, within the pages of actual geophysicist Stuart Rojstaczer‘s debut novel The Mathematician’s Shiva. A brilliant mathematician, Rachela is rumored to be taking the secret proof to the Navier-Stokes equation to her grave. But first, and trust me, somehow this all works, Rojstaczer gives us alternating scenes of heartbreak and humor, introducing Rachela on her deathbed along with her fantastically weird family. As the story continues, a parade of mathematicians will arrive to poke around her house in search of her last work, but there is so much more than the ongoing narrative at work: Rojstaczer employs chapters recalling Sasha’s youth, learning mathematics at his father’s hand, complete with diagrams and historical context — “Leo” in one of his father’s instructional stories turns out to be Leonhardt Euler — as well as excerpts from Rachela’s memoir A Lifetime in Mathematics, chronicling her Jewish family’s flight from the rise of Hitler. If this is beginning to sound too heady or heavy, a brief remark: even the chapter titles contain bits of humor. And if you pause to take a sip of vodka as often as Rachela’s younger brother Shlomo…

Rojstaczer, a long-time professor at Duke University now living in California, will be at Durham’s The Regulator Bookshop this Thursday, September 11, at 7 pm for a reading and signing event. Via email, he answered some questions about his book and his background in reading and writing.


Q: You and “Sasha” are both Wisconsin-born geophysicists, the son of Polish-Jewish post-WW2 immigrants. Do the similarities end there, or is there any shared familial or other background of yours which you were able to use to inform the character and his family?

Sasha is older I am, has a bit stronger Eastern European roots, is more arrogant, is a better mathematician, and is a lifelong skirt-chaser. He’s an amalgam of people I know and love and sure, there’s more than a little of me in Sasha. You can only act so much in creating a character. There’s at least a little of me in all of the characters in this novel. Originally, the family in this novel was going to be Hungarian. But I quickly realized I knew nothing about Hungarian culture. In contrast, I know about Polish and Russian Jewish culture intimately. It’s a bitter fit. Grounding this novel in a culture I know emotionally and intellectually gives it necessary and vital authenticity, I think.

Q: A novel with (even sparse!) mathematical formulae and graphs seems that it could be a hard sell, particularly for a debut novelist. Was this the case at all? Read the rest of this entry »

Coming to Town, belated edition: Lev Grossman at Flyleaf Books for The Magician’s Land

Lev Grossman was recently in the Carolinas for a stop on his tour for The Magician’s Land, which debuted on the NY Times bestseller list at #1. At a “standing room only” event at Flyleaf Books, he talked about The Magicians and The Magician King, read from The Magician’s Land, and engaged in a lively Q&A session with the audience. Since, he has also just appeared at The Bookmarks Festival of Books and Authors in Winston-Salem; previously, he was a guest of the North Carolina Literary Festival in April, as well as previous book tour stops (for The Magician King in August 2011 at Flyleaf Books, and for The Magicians paperback release in June 2010 at Malaprop’s Bookstore in Asheville). From the road, he took the time for an email interview, after which I’ve included my review of The Magician’s Land.


At Flyleaf Books, August 2014


At the North Carolina Literary Festival, April 2014

Q: You’ve been to North Carolina quite a few times in the past few years. Any particularly fond memories of your readings or other events?

Really my fondest memory is of going out for BBQ after a reading with a bunch of boisterous nerds. In New York City one is always haunted by the sense that one’s BBQ is not truly authentic … now I know that this is true.

Q: In a recent appearance on NPR’s Ask Me Another you mentioned almost in passing that after 10 years writing these characters, you’re ready to move on. Any hints yet about what you might be moving on to? Read the rest of this entry »

Paul Kincaid’s From the Other Side, August 2014: New books from NewCon and Beccon, and two sf novels getting serious mainstream attention

From the Other Side, August 2014

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.]

So the biggest science fiction event in Britain has come and gone. For the record, I thought Capaldi makes a very interesting Doctor, but Moffatt remains a terrible scriptwriter. It seems to me that Doctor Who is going the way of Sherlock: glitzy and full of in-references for the fans, but rather short of coherent storytelling and convincing characterisation.

Oh, and we also had a Worldcon. Actually, by any measure, Loncon 3 was a raging success: more members and more attendees than any previous Worldcon; a more varied membership in terms of age, gender, nationality, than any big convention I’ve known; and probably the most intelligent and engaging programming you could hope to find. It also provided a stage for a couple of very interesting book launches.

The Race cover Paradox

NewCon Press launched a stack of books there, of which the most interesting, to my mind, is Nina Allan’s first full-length novel, The Race. Already the winner of a BSFA Award, for her novella Spin, and a Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire for the translation of The Silver Wind, there is quite a lot of expectation about this novel. Opening in a near-future, post-catastrophe Britain it nests fiction within reality, reality within fiction with an assurance that will be familiar to any readers of her shorter fiction, yet which is still designed to challenge and exhilarate the reader. As one fine review puts it: ‘Readers with a kink for understatement, alienation, and locution will be at home’. Nina Allan has promised for some time to be one of the most interesting of the new generation of British writers, and with The Race she starts to fulfil that promise. Read the rest of this entry »

The Hardest Part: Lou Anders on Frostborn

In his ten years and counting tenure at Pyr, award-winning editor and art director Lou Anders has been on the other side of the desk from many fantastic fantasy novels and their authors, from James Enge’s Blood of Ambrose to Clay and Susan Griffith’s Vampire Empire and Allen Steele’s Apollo’s Outcasts, he’s made suggestions and fought for cuts and rewrites. As he writes here, he intended to (and in fact did) approach writing a novel with a willingness to revise to sell, but something happened along the way that turned the editing process into the hardest part of seeing his debut novel, Frostborn, published. Frostborn is the first book in Anders’s “Thrones and Bones” series for young readers, “a thoroughly enjoyable Viking-infused middle grade fantasy for boys and girls and their parents, with a winning combination of board gaming, frost giants, barrow mounds, and (of course!) dragons; fairly equal parts The Hobbit and (yes!) The Lion King with How to Train Your Dragon and The Black Cauldron flavoring atop a foundation of board games.” (Quoting myself, reviewing the audiobook elsewhere.) I’m already indebted to Lou for his kind words about Bull Spec early on, and for giving me the time for an in-depth, at-length interview in Bull Spec #4, and I hope you’re as interested here in what he has to say as I was.

Frostborn with Blurb

By Lou Anders:

When I wrote my first manuscript, the agent I was courting put me through an intense rewrite before he would agree to take me on and another one after he did. I told him I’d do anything to get it where it needed to be, and at one point we were debating having me rewrite the entire book to take it from third person to first person.

When I wrote my second manuscript, having already put it through several rewrites, I rewrote the entire thing to alter it from a young adult to a middle grade novel at the behest of an editor who thought she would be able to pick it up if I did.

My motto was “do what it takes to sell” and don’t be precious about anything. Read the rest of this entry »


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