Anton Strout

New Books

Lots of friends with new books out this week. Because apparently I don’t have enough to read already? At this rate, I’m never going to reach the summit of Mount To Be Read!

Morgan Keyes’ Darkbeast Rebellion [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] is a middle-grade fantasy, the follow-up to Darkbeast, which I enjoyed and reviewed here.

Martha Wells has a Star Wars book out about Princess Leia, called Razor’s Edge [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy], set between the events of Star Wars and Empire.

Anton Strout’s Stonecast [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] is the second book in his Stonemason Chronicles. There may or may not be were-jaguars.

Laura Anne Gilman’s Soul of Fire [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] is the second part of the Portals Duology, following Heart of Briar.

Marie Brennan has put together a collection of essays on writing fight scenes, called (appropriately enough) Writing Fight Scenes [Amazon | B&N].

Elizabeth Bear’s novella Book of Iron [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] is a standalone prequel to Bone and Jewel Creatures.

Finally, the tenth issue of Seanan McGuire’s serial Indexing [Amazon] has just been released.

As always, please feel free to suggest other new books I’m forgetting, or just share what you’re reading and enjoying right now.

Promo Stuff

1 – I did an interview about Libriomancer [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] over at the Paranormal Book Club, where I mention my legendary battle with disco ninjas. There’s a giveaway at the end for a copy of the book, and five others will win autographed bookmarks.

B) Anton Strout had a new book out this week. Alchemystic [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] is the author of the Simon Canderous series, which I enjoyed. (I’ve talked about a few of them on the blog.) I haven’t read the new one yet, though it’s sitting on the pile waiting for me. But I can say Anton writes fun, fast-paced fantasy, which just might appeal to some of the folks reading this blog. He’s also one of my favorite people to taunt online. Penguin has posted an excerpt of the book here.

III. Vera Nazarian is doing a Kickstarter for her book Cobweb Bride. I’ve reviewed some of Vera’s work here and here, and generally enjoy her stuff. She tends toward a more mythic style in most of what I’ve read. The premise for her new book sounds interesting.

Lastly: Belated congratulations to Sherwood Smith and Rachel M. Brown on the sale of their novel Stranger. Smith and Brown turned down an offer of representation last year that came with a condition: “The agent offered to sign us on the condition that we make the gay character straight…” I’m happy and proud of both authors for refusing to compromise on that, and I’m delighted to hear that the novel has now been picked up by Sharyn November for Viking. Rachel has more details on her LiveJournal here.


And that’s all I’ve got today. Any other new books/projects/announcements we should know about?

Off to Chicon

Our internet is fixed! Just in time for me to leave the state tomorrow morning for Worldcon. I’m reposting my schedule here, mostly so I can find it this weekend when I manage to confuse myself.

  • 8/30, 5:30 p.m., Dusable – Reading (Any requests? I’ll probably do something from Libriomancer, but I’m willing to reconsider. I read the Muppet Werewolf story at WFC a few years back, otherwise I’d do that one.)
  • 8/31, 10 a.m. – Noon – Writers Workshop (Preregistered attendees only)
  • 9/1, 9:00 a.m., Comiskey – SFWA Business Meeting
  • 9/1, 10:30 a.m. – Noon, Columbus IJ – The Art of the Cover Pose (Jim C. Hines, Karen Haber, Steven Vincent Johnson, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Yanni Kuznia)
  • 9/1, Noon – 1:30 p.m., Autograph Tables – Autographing (Charles Justiz, James Kahn, Jim C. Hines, Joan Slonczewski, Lee Martindale, Mary Robinette Kowal, Nancy Fulda, Robert Reed, Tony Pi)
  • 9/2, 6:00 p.m. – ??? – Hugo Reception/Ceremony/Loser’s Party – In which Jim will wear … a suit! Just like a real grown-up! The ceremony begins at 8:00 p.m. Central Time. There should be live video here.

I’m looking forward to seeing everyone! If you’re a regular reader/commenter, please say hi if you have a moment! (And if your real name doesn’t match your online handle, please throw me a bone and tell me who you are. I can barely remember my own name at these things.)

I’ll probably be posting random Worldcon-related miscellany on Twitter, and maybe Facebook.

Other things while I’m thinking about it…

Anton Strout’s book Alchemystic [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] comes out September 25. He and Penguin are donating $2 per preorder, up to $3000, to Worldbuilders. Details are on Pat Rothfuss’ blog.

Morgan Keyes has a new book out called Darkbeast [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy], which sounds like a lot of fun. I’m hoping to have a guest blog post from her soon.

Finally, LEGO: The Piece of Resistance is a live-action and CGI LEGO movie, currently in development. It’s just been announced that they’ll be turning Morgan Freeman and Elizabeth Banks into minifigs for the film. The movie will also have Superman and Batman sharing the screen. (In minifig form, naturally.) I believe this is the point where I say SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!!!

In Which I Tell You to Go Away (Sort of)

Over the weekend, I spent 40 minutes chatting with author Anton Strout for his Once and Future Podcast. Anton has posted our chat in Episode 2 of the podcast, in which we talk about the writing process and also werejaguars (of course), as well as me babbling a bit about my own works.


Or if you prefer, you can head over to Marie Brennan’s blog where she and I talk about ending our respective series, and some of the choices and challenges we faced. Marie is very sharp, and worth reading. I’ll be posting part two of our conversation tomorrow.

Book Reviews: Buckell, Mallett, Mantchev, Strout

Despite multiple Internet-related SNAFUs, the Rape Crisis Center Fundraiser has raised $430 in the first 24 hours. Thank you all for the donations and the links. Another $70 and we’ll reach the first bonus prize!


When I was at ConFusion this year, I received a copy of The Executioness [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] by Tobias Buckell. This is a novella-length work, and shares a world with another novella by Paolo Bacigalupi, a world in which magic is outlawed, as its use leads to the spread of deadly bramble. It’s a great setup, as is the premise of the story: Tana’s home is attacked by a neighboring power. Her husband and her father (an executioner) are killed, and her children taken. So she takes up her father’s axe and hood and sets out to save them, beginning a quest “that will change lives, cities, and even an entire land, forever. A quest that will create the legend of The Executioness.”

There were a few times the story felt a bit rushed, and I could easily see this being a novel-length work. But I liked it a lot (though the cover art, while beautifully done, is a bit eye-rolling with the exposed midriff and leg). I like the way Tana’s legend spreads, the way she uses that and learns to take advantage of the fact that women are so often ignored in these conflicts. And without spoiling things, I felt that the ending worked well.


I’ve never read Frazz, but I met Jef Mallett at A Rally of Writers over the weekend, and picked up a copy of Frazz 3.1416 [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy].

Talking to Mallett, he came across as the kind of writer I want to be: he genuinely listened to everyone who came up to talk to him, was generous with his time and advice, and just came across as a really nice, down-to-earth guy. I’m happy to say his comics are much the same: smart and funny, and reading his book just made me feel good. I’ll definitely be picking up more.


I’ve been wanting to read Lisa Mantchev‘s YA fantasy Eyes Like Stars [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] ever since it came out. This is another book with a great premise, taking place within the Theatre Illuminata, a magical theatre where “the characters of every play ever written” live and perform. Beatrice Shakespeare Smith (Bertie) was born in the outside world, but was raised in the Theatre. Throughout the course of the book, she must prove her worth to the Theatre, uncover the mystery of her past, and choose between the pirate Nate and the seductive but dangerous sprite Ariel.

The characters are great. Bertie’s fairy sidekicks are highly amusing. Ophelia was another favorite, complex and tragic (per her script, she’s constantly running off to drown herself).

My only complaint is that the Theatre, which is supposed to include all plays ever written, seems limited to European and American works, and is heavily weighted toward Shakespeare. But overall, Mantchev takes a great idea and turns it into a very satisfying story.


Finally, there’s Anton Strout‘s fourth book, Dead Waters [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy]. This time, Simon Canderous is investigating the death of a university professor and former FOG (Fraternal Order of Goodness) agent, while dealing with budget cuts and relationship troubles.

I really liked seeing more of the Inspectre’s character in this one, and learning about his past. The central mystery was fun, and similar in tone and action to what you’d expect from Strout’s previous book. I wasn’t as happy with Simon’s relationship tension with Jane, which felt a little forced. But the ending … I don’t want to spoil it, but I’m very interested to see how Simon adjusts in the next book. Like previous books, it’s a fun, light read.

Book Reviews: Strout & McGuire

I wrote both of these reviews a while back, when I was thinking I might try to start up a separate book reviewing blog called “Magic ex Libris” — a tie-in to my new series.  And then I realized there was no way in Hades that I could add another blog to my online obligations.  I found my notes tonight, and figured I’d clean them up and get ’em posted.  Better late than never, right?

Dead Matter [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] is the third book in Anton Strout’s light urban fantasy series, in which Department of Extraordinary Affairs agent Simon Canderous uses psychometry and a big bat to fight the nasties of New York.

Our story begins with Simon’s partner Connor taking a sabbatical to look for his missing brother, leaving poor Simon to cover twice the workload.  Simon eventually manages to slip away for some personal time with his girlfriend (ex-cultist and technomancer Jane).  Naturally, given Simon’s luck, Taco Night is interrupted by an angry, lumbering monster with lots of pointy bits.

Pointy monster is just the beginning.  Simon, Jane, and Connor slowly uncover a bigger problem — one which puts Simon in the crosshairs of just about everyone, monster and human alike.

I like this series.  I like the sense of fun, and there’s much less angst than in your average urban fantasy.  (Though sometimes it feels like Strout is trying a little too hard for the funny.)  Like the previous two books, this one is a quick read.  My only complaint is that the beginning meandered a bit.  Taco Night monster seemed like a random encounter, and it took a few chapters to start to get a sense of a larger story.

Dead Matter stands alone pretty well, but you’ll get more out of it if you’ve read the first two books in the series.

Seanan McGuire scares me.  She’s writing two series simultaneously, under two different names.  She’s also a singer with multiple albums, as well as a gifted artist.  I think she’s also Batman.

A Local Habitation [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] is the second book in McGuire’s urban fantasy series about October “Toby” Daye, a half-human, half-fairy changeling and knight of the Shadowed Hills.  (In the San Francisco area, for those not familiar with fae territories.)  This time around, Toby must visit the realm of Countess January O’Leary in the County of Tamed Lightning to investigate a series of bizarre murders.

McGuire gives good fae.  Reading this series, you just know she has a dozen notebooks filled with the details of the various fairy bloodlines, territories, allegiances, and powers.[1. She recently started posting some of her worldbuilding info on her blog.]  She makes them real.  Often more real and complex than humans, who are mostly just background noise this time around.

A Local Habitation uses the locked room mystery format.  Someone in Countess O’Leary’s computer company is murdering her people.  Is it Alex, the irresistibly sexy love interest with a secret?  April, the dryad whose “tree” is the computer server?  Gordan, the cranky but skilled healer?

There were times when I wish Toby had been quicker to pick up on various clues.  It sometimes felt like McGuire was trying a little too hard to hold back information.  In a mystery, you obviously don’t want the reader to figure things out too quickly.  At the same time, the fae of Tamed Lightning were a little too secretive, holding back one important revelation after another, even as they’re dying.

There’s a lot to like about this book.  It was great to see more of fairy society.  I particularly enjoyed the revelations about the night-haunts.  The murder mystery, once we discover the truth, was fascinating on a number of levels, and I hope McGuire follows up on some of the things we learn about Faerie.  And April is just great.  (I tend to have a weakness for dryads.)

First Book Friday: Anton Strout

Welcome to First Book Friday.

For several days now, I’ve been trying to figure out how to introduce Anton Strout (antonstrout on LJ).  I keep coming back to, “He’s just Anton.”  He signs goofy bookplates.  He cofounded werejaguarpunk with me.  He does booksignings with Amber Benson.  He usually wears pants.

He also writes fun urban fantasies, the fourth of which (Dead Waters [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy]) is starting to show up in bookstores.  I posted a review of his first book here, but before you read that, check out Anton’s tale of how he wrote that first book.  And then give him a hard time in the comments.  He deserves it.  Because, you know, he’s just Anton.


I’m four books into the Simon Canderous series now, but writing the first, Dead To Me  [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy], was a far different experience that writing the later ones, because at that time I was untested as a writer.  Writing the first of anything is a scary, pants-wetting time.  I didn’t have contractual deadlines to make, never knew if the book would find a home, and my only motivations to write were simply proving to myself that my love of Ghostbusters, Hellboy, and Buffy counted for something.

I had written one previous unpublished book with The Dorks of the Round Table, my writing group that consisted of now-published authors Jeanine Cummins and Carolyn Turgeon.  That book was a serial killer techno-thriller, and once I was done it went into a drawer, and should never again see the light of day.  Next, I started on an idea about a guy with magic hands that kept him removed from others, ruining all his relationships.  Thus began the adventures of Simon Canderous.

One by one the Dorks of the Round Table joined a workshop run by contemporary fiction author Jennifer Belle. It wasn’t a genre specific one, but I joined because I wanted to be around others working on good writing.  I was glad to be in such a non-genre group, even if I got strange looks from time to time when I would bring in something like a combat scene between Simon and an enchanted, homicidal bookcase.

I was about a hundred pages into the first draft of Dead To Me, and the first thing they pointed out was that it would work much better in first person.  Converting it was a far more annoying task that it sounds, but well worth the effort as I think it strengthened the emotional connection to Simon for readers.

As to how I sold the book, well … my day job happened to be in Sales for Penguin Group, so I also knew a lot of editors.  I asked a friend from Ace/Roc to take a no-strings-attached look at my manuscript, just to tell me if I was going in the right direction.  I gave her every opportunity to say no, but she said she’d be happy to.

Then nine months passed.  In author time, that’s 72.9 years. I used that time to work on new ideas.  It was that, or go mad … well, madder, anyway. 

So cut to a day job meeting then with another fantasy imprint.  They started talking about how they really want to find a new urban fantasy talent to grow, and I had to bite my lip to keep from calling out “Me, me, me!”  I then asked my friend at Ace if they minded if I send my manuscript to this other imprint.  She told me to give her the weekend to finish looking over my work.  That Monday she came back to me, wanting the first two books in the series! Woot!

The strange thing I sometimes hear people say is, “Oh, he had an in … that’s why he’s published.” I’ve always found that strange.  I mean, the people at Ace have to work with me every day in a regular job capacity, so they better be twice as in love with my work if they buy a book from me, right? 

I think the important things I did was what anyone else submitting a manuscript should do — be professional in my querying, put my best work forward, and learn how to write while you wait. Tom Petty was right … the waiting is the hardest part.

SFNovelists Post & Anton’s Taile

1. I have a guest post up at SF Novelists today, where I jump into the conversation about finding/making time to write.

2. CatsCurious Press is opening to submissions on October 1 for the Faery Taile Project 2.  Some of you probably remember the first project, where Christopher Kastensmidt and I did a two-sided retelling of Red Riding Hood.  This time around, were-writer Anton Strout will be writing the counterstory.  The pay is 6 cents a word, for stories between 7500 and 12,500 words.  Details are posted here.

And if neither of those appeal to you, tune back in an hour for First Book Friday with Laura Resnick.

Jim C. Hines