Saturday, January 31, 2015

From the Shelf to the Page: This Week in the Ruins

Another busy week in the Ruins this time around, with some very exciting posts:

Stacking The Shelves and Mailbox Monday are a pair of weekly memes that are about sharing the books that came your way over the past week, and which you've added to your shelves - whether they be physical or virtual, borrowed or bought, or for pleasure or review.

A quieter week on the review front this time around, but there were a few titles that hit my sweet spots and demanded I snatch them up for review:

Behind The Darkness: Alien Abduction by Robert E. Dunn
An alien abduction 20 years ago, a group of friends at an isolated ranch, and the return of not just the abductee but the monsters as well.

Sea of Darkness by Brian Hicks
A real-life tale of the civil war submarine H.L. Hunley, its discovery by Clive Cussler, its raising, its restoration, and its secrets revealed.


It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is another weekly meme, this time focused on what books are spending the most time in your hands and in your head, as opposed to what's been added to your shelf.

• Doll Face by Tim Curran
Six friends, trapped in a town that does not exist, stalked by a supernatural force that demands they submit and become living dolls.

Cannonbridge by Jonathan Barnes
Something has gone wrong with history in this gripping novel about a lie planted among the greatest works of English fiction.

What's topping your shelves this week?

Friday, January 30, 2015

WTF Friday: Dead Heat by Ren Thompson

Every once in a while, as the mood strikes me, I like to indulge in those titles that are a bit odd . . . a bit different . . . a bit bizarre . . . and a bit freaky. These are books that don't get a lot of press, and which rarely get any retail shelf space.

They're often an underground of sort of literature, best shared through guilty whispers, and often with embarrassed grins. These are our WTF Friday reads!

Pay no attention to the gorgeously misleading cover. Dead Heat is a book that was pitched to me as a "horror / zombies / lesbian novel" with a trigger warning for "dark themes and also for snuff" - and that pitch is exactly what this novel is all about.

The post-apocalyptic zombie genre has been done to death, but Ren Thompson has managed to do something fresh and original with it that I really enjoyed. This was dark, twisted, and extremely creative in the telling.

Before I get into the story itself, let me geek out for a moment. This may be a near-future zombie apocalypse, but the soundtrack here consists of classic Motorhead, Iron Maiden, Guns 'n Roses, and more. Thompson uses music to set the scene in a number of places, and the rumbling bass and racing guitars are perfect for getting the heart racing. Also, this is a story that unabashedly Canadian, taking us from the abandoned ruins of Ontario Place, to the streets of Etobicoke, to the Scarborough Bluffs, Wasaga Beach, and even Niagara. I'll be honest, that makes my heart bleed red and white all day long.

Okay, so back to the story. This is a book about zombie hunting, brutal cage matches, and near-homicidal rules of conduct that involve beating strength into people . . . and tenderness out. As the story opens, we see Dana Layton falter in the face of true zombie horror, putting the rest of her zombie hunting team at risk. It's completely understandable but, in this world, just as completely inexcusable. Upon return to camp, she's summoned before their leader, who proceeds to invite the team - including her girlfriend - to beat her nearly to death.

And that's the normal part.

So, where does the WTF element come in? Well, in a world torn apart by a zombie apocalypse, there are always people who are willing to sink lower than zombies. In this case that means zombie snuff porn . . . and that means precisely what you think it does. We're talking women riding zombies bound to the bed, some of whom are zombified in mid-coitus, while others are left to be fed upon as an after-orgasmic snack. Thompson spares us the truly pornographic details, but there's no question what's going on - and getting insight into the minds of the producers is even uglier. It's not just darkness for the sake of being disturbing, it's a crucial element of the plot, and it all plays into the final climax (no pun intended).

That's not to say it's all doom and gloom. There are glimmers of hope, including an East Coast refuge for repopulating the Earth, and some interesting studies into whether zombies are evil, sick, or just soul-less animals. Then, of course, there is the romance between Dana and Kelly that grounds the two women, gives them hope, and counters the blood and darkness they face night-and-day. The romantic element is definitely secondary to the horror, but still an integral part of the plot . . . and an interesting part of its telling.

What really amazed me about the story was Thompson's use of language. The frantic, passionate, almost hungry scenes of erotic romance between Dana and Kelly deliberately echo the description of zombies feeding, while their playful bedroom bondage scenes echoes the darker, dirtier, much deadlier restraints used in the snuff films. It's a contrast that isn't immediately apparent, but once you start making the connections, it's really remarkable.

Dead Heat is not your standard zombie novel. It's something deeper, darker, and more delightful. Thompson plays with emotions almost as well as she does with words, crafting a novel that completely delivers on its pitch.

Kindle Edition, 194 pages
Published January 12th 2015 by Storm Moon Press, LLC

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Fantasy Review: The Unremembered by Peter Orullian

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. While I make every attempt to avoid spoilers, please be aware that an ARC synopsis, press release, or review request may disclose details that are not revealed in the published cover blurb.

With Trial of Intentions due to hit shelves in May, Peter Orullian has seized the opportunity to revisit and revise the opening volume of the Vault of Heaven with his Author's Definitive Edition of The Unremembered. I haven't read the original edition, so I can't compare the two, but I can confidently say I enjoyed this new edition on its own and am anxiously awaiting the arrival of its forthcoming sequel.

This is, as some critics have accused, a largely generic epic fantasy that hits on a lot the major tropes. There's the mysterious loner who arrives on the scene to mentor and lead the quest. There are the two simple farm boys, best friends, both of whom are coming of age, and one of whom is 'chosen' to be a form of savior. There's the fallen hero who risks everything, returning from his exile on penalty of death, to do the right thing. There's the seemingly benign organization - in this case the League of Civility - that has short-sightedly put the world as risk with their fear of magic. There are also, of course, the rival empires with divided loyalties who bicker and stall, standing in the way of defeating the evil with a united front.

Now, let's be honest - all fantasy is generic to some degree, and tropes are tropes for a reason. That doesn't necessarily make for a bad book, just a familiar one. What really matters, what ultimately makes an epic fantasy something special, is what the author brings of himself to the genre, and what he does with it that's new and unique. With The Unremembered, Peter Orullian does several things that made this stand out for me.

First and foremost is his writing style. This is a very well-written story, with realistic dialogue, fantastic visuals, and a well-paced narrative. With the exception of a few conversations that are crucial for the reader to understand the mythology of this new world, there is no info dumping or unnecessary exposition. I suspect that may be one crucial difference from the original, since Orullian has said that this edition is shorter and more focused, with fewer POV shifts, but that's hardly a bad thing - and it bodes very well for the next book.

Second is his use of music. Not surprisingly, Orullian is a multi-talented man who has professionally toured as a featured vocalist. Music is in his blood, and it's also in his ink. It has power in his world, a power over mortals, over magic, and over the creatures that lurk behind the magical Veil. In fact, there is a legendary Song of Suffering that is key to the entire story, a song that only a select few can survive the singing of, and which is necessary to keeping the Veil in place. It goes deeper than that, though, with common sounds having a musical quality to them in the way they're described, and even some conversations having a lyrical aspect.

Third, and this connects closely with my next point, is the strength of the characters. Yes, many of them are based on familiar fantasy tropes or archetypes, but they are all well-defined, with distinct personalities. There's no blurring of faces or forgetting of names here. Orullian establishes each character immediately, entrenching them in our imaginations from their first appearance. They're not all likable, but they're not all supposed to be. Instead, they're all realistic, with a good bit of depth, and some real growth throughout the story. Far more than just a coming of age tale, this is also a story about coming to terms with who they are and where they've come from.

Speaking of where they've come from - and this is something that struck me as exceptionally well done - Orullian weaves a compelling theme of parental protection. Birth parents, adopted parents, and an absence of parents are all significant to the tale. The story actually opens with a young woman being accosted by a created from beyond the Veil, even as she tries to give birth to a child who is the product of rape. Another character struggles to deal with the fact of his adoption, while another comes from a race where the women die young, leaving children to be raised by a series of adopted mothers. Perhaps most significantly, that fallen hero I mentioned was exiled because of his actions involving a royal birth, and his punishment is to take the children abandoned in the Waste and find homes for them. Finally, just to keep things dark, there's also the hunger for creatures from beyond the Veil to seize children and drag them back with them.

Finally, there's the world-building and the mythology, which are always at the heart of any really good epic fantasy tale. The Unremembered is a book that mixes the sprawling sort of epic fantasy that we expect from Robert Jordan & Tad Williams with the more intimate, sometimes claustrophobic grimdark fantasy that Peter V. Brett & Mark Lawrence have made famous. Mythologically, there's a lot going on here, and Orullian doesn't waste any time throwing us to the Bourne, just one of the monsters from beyond the Veil. Historically, there's a long and complicated history to the world, involving heroes, villains, sacrifices, betrayals, and strained alliances. Politically, it's just as complicated, with those rival empires, divided loyalties, and the taint of the League of Civility I mentioned earlier. It's a book that demands some patience in terms of explanations, but I was well satisfied by the end that I understood what was going on and why.

Ultimately, The Unremembered is not a book that's going to greatly challenge you or thrust you far outside your comfort zone. It's not a ground-breaking work or one that's destined to shatter genre expectations. Enter into it with an appreciation for familiar fantasy tropes, however, and you will find yourself well-rewarded with a darker, more mature sort of epic fantasy that has a lot of flair and a lot of depth to be enjoyed.

Paperback, 480 pages
Expected publication: April 7th 2015 by Tor Books
(first published March 31st 2011

Tough Travels - Law Enforcement

Every Thursday, Nathan (over at Fantasy Review Barn) leads the gang in touring the mystical countryside, looking for fun and adventure. His Tough Traveling feature picks one of the most common tropes in fantasy each week, as seen in The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynn Jones, and invites us to join in the adventure. All are invited to take part, so if you're joining the journey late, no worries . . . we'll save you a spot in the caravan.

This week’s tour topic is: LAW ENFORCEMENT

Seems odd to think that in fantasy cities in which entire economies revolve around crime there is room for the men in blue (or crimson, or whatever). But the law does the best it can, even when faced with magic, mystical creatures, or rogue deities.

I can think of a ton of titles that come to mind, but foremost among them are The Watch novels (from Guards! Guards! to Thud!) of Terry Pratchett. Whether you're talking the City Watch or the Night Watch, it doesn't get better (or funnier) than the adventures of Commander Vimes, Captain Ironfoundersson, Corporal Nobbs, Sergeant Cheery Littlebottom, Constable Visit-the-Infidel, and Corporal Buggy Swires. They've evolved considerably since the days when a bunch of thief-takers saved the city from a dragon, becoming rather respectable and diverse, even allowing a vampire to join their ranks (the wonderfull named Lance-Constable Salacia von Humpeding)

In City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett, law enforcement (or occupation) of the city of Bulikov is very much at the heart of the story. This is the story of a land conquered and oppressed by the Worldly Regulations, which outlaw the possession of divine objects and the worshiping of the old gods. What starts as a simple murder investigation soon turns into a story of rebellion, with two women standing against the tide of chaos - Shara Komayd, diplomat and spy, and Turyin Mulaghesh, soldier turned reluctant governor.

Meanwhile, Sebastien de Castell's Traitor's Blade is about the clash between law enforcement officers new and old. The Greatcoats have been disbanded, following the death of the King, but they were once the most elite of law enforcement, responsible for meting out justice and upholding the King's Law. It's not just a story about law enforcement being usurped, but one about bastardizing and betraying it altogether. One of the key turning points in the story revolves around a week during which the current rulers and protectors stand back and watch as blood is allowed to run freely.

A more unusual take on the idea of law enforcement is found in Shield and Crocus by Michael R. Underwood, which mixes a little superhero vigilante-ism into the epic fantasy. The superhero powers here are a birthright bestowed upon the heroes by virtue of their race. Known as the Shields of Audec-Hal, they are a small group who fight against the tyrants by means of what is essentially vigilante guerrilla warfare. It's a fantasy novel with a comic book or video game feel, but really quite imaginative.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday: The Skull Throne by Peter Brett

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

The Skull Throne by Peter Brett
Expected publication: May 26th, 2015 by Tor Books

The first three novels in New York Times bestselling author Peter V. Brett’s groundbreaking Demon Cycle series—The Warded Man, The Desert Spear, and The Daylight War—set a new standard for heroic fantasy. The powerful saga of humans winnowed to the brink of extinction by night-stalking demons, and the survivors who fight back, has kept readers breathless as they eagerly turned the pages. Now the thrilling fourth volume, The Skull Throne, raises the stakes as it carries the action in shocking new directions.

The Skull Throne of Krasia stands empty.

Built from the skulls of fallen generals and demon princes, it is a seat of honor and ancient, powerful magic, keeping the demon corelings at bay. From atop the throne, Ahmann Jardir was meant to conquer the known world, forging its isolated peoples into a unified army to rise up and end the demon war once and for all.

But Arlen Bales, the Warded Man, stood against this course, challenging Jardir to a duel he could not in honor refuse. Rather than risk defeat, Arlen cast them both from a precipice, leaving the world without a savior, and opening a struggle for succession that threatens to tear the Free Cities of Thesa apart.

In the south, Inevera, Jardir’s first wife, must find a way to keep their sons from killing one another and plunging their people into civil war as they strive for glory enough to make a claim on the throne.

In the north, Leesha Paper and Rojer Inn struggle to forge an alliance between the duchies of Angiers and Miln against the Krasians before it is too late.

Caught in the crossfire is the duchy of Lakton—rich and unprotected, ripe for conquest.

All the while, the corelings have been growing stronger, and without Arlen and Jardir there may be none strong enough to stop them. Only Renna Bales may know more about the fate of the missing men, but she, too, has disappeared. . . .

Okay, so technically I'm no longer waiting, since I nabbed the e-ARC last week, but this is a book I've been anticipating for a while. I read the first 3 books back-to-back-to-back, so waiting on a new Demon Cycle novel is kind of a new experience, but I'm looking forward to diving in soon.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Getting Published in Canada by Kristi Charish (with GIVEAWAY)

Regular readers here in the Ruins are likely already familiar with Kristi Charish, whose debut novel, Owl and the Japanese Circus, I had the pleasure of reviewing last month. This is a book for fans of urban fantasy who are looking for something a little different, with Kristi managing to successfully reignite my excitement for a genre that I felt was becoming tiresome and repetitive. There is already a sequel on the release calendar, along with her first novel in a new series, which is actually what brings her by today . . .

Getting Published in Canada
by Kristi Charish

Over the past two weeks since my debut novel OWL AND THE JAPANESE CIRCUS came out I've been hitting the blog tour/promotion circuit. It’s been an absolute blast talking to readers both this side and the south side of the Canada/US border, but one of the themes that keep coming up this side is getting published in Canada. So that’s what I’m here on Beauty in Ruins talking about today.

Now, my first disclaimer before you read anything below is that I’m new to the game. Very new. I only started writing in Feb 2010 (I was on vacation) and finished my first novel (OWL) in the spring of 2013. After querying I was picked up by my agent, Carolyn Forde at Westwood Creative, and by the fall had a contract for the first two books in the OWL series with Simon and Schuster. Back in December, I signed three books in my second urban fantasy series, KINCAID STRANGE, with Anne Collins at Random House Canada.

One could successfully argue I’m too new to the writing/publishing game to know what the hell I’m doing (it’s a fair point). One could also argue I managed to get five books in two series under contract with publishers before the first book came out so I must be doing something right. Personally, I figure it’s probably a bit from column A and a bit from column B, plus a whole heaping bucket load of luck.

The point is take absolutely everything I say below with a grain of salt.

With that heavy disclaimer, I give you 9 things I’ve come away with over the past five years about publishing and getting published.

1. There are No Rules, Only a Handful of Patterns
I went into the querying process (sending out a letter to agents asking if they want to see your manuscript) fully expecting to be rejected by at least 50, maybe accepted by the 100th, and then have my first novel not sell. Harsh expectations but this was the consensus, the average publication path most speculative fiction authors out there had experienced.

What in actuality happened:

  1. Finished Owl and the Japanese Circus.
  2. Wrote up a letter, got a list of agents who represented authors I liked, and emailed a batch of them over a month (personal emails only, no spamming lists. You’ll get booted to the junk mail folder) 
  3. Heard back from Carolyn Forde (who represents Ian Hamilton, one of my favorite authors) the day after I emailed her. A manuscript request and phone call later I had representation. 
  4. A few months later Simon and Schuster Canada/Pocket US picked up my manuscript and the sequel.

What is the take away from my experience? The publishing world isn't fair and though it has a lot of patterns there are next to no rules. Everyone’s path to publication is going to be different. I repeat: Mine was unusual. That isn't to say my path to publication isn't valid- it could and does happen to new writers all the time – but it’s not an accurate representation of how getting published is supposed to go. Go into publishing with as few expectations as possible and if someone feeds you a line about rules, run. They’re probably trying to sell you something.

2. First time out you might want to go traditional...or not.
The debate between self-publishing and traditional publishing hasn't changed much since I started writing. If anything it’s intensified. Is one better or worse? It depends on just about everything from the author, novel, readers...

I didn't go the self-pub route so I can’t say much to that. You’d be much better off seeing what Hugh Howey, Amanda Hocking, and E.L James have to say, as all three have had huge success.

As to traditional publishing? I like having an agent. My agent strategizes with me about my long-term career goals and has the connections and publishing industry know how to get my manuscripts in front of the right editors. She deals with the legalities of contract negotiations and it’s her job to make sure I sign the best deal possible for my book and my long-term career goals. My agent/agency also takes care of overseas and film rights, which can be tricky. So far I've found having an agent a huge help to my writing career and well worth the commission.

I also like the advantages that go with having traditional publishers. They've sold books before and they have a much better idea than I do about how to package and market a debut novel. They arrange editors, cover artists, marketing plans and strategies, promotion, reviewers, get books to retailers, and there is the matter of advances. Yes, as many authors have pointed out you now more than ever have to market yourself through social media, but going through a publisher, especially as a debut, opens a lot more doors than you think. Are publishers perfect? Of course not, nothing is, and neither is self-publishing. Pick the one that will work for you and keep your options open.

3. There are serious advantages to being Canadian.
When I first started out I was told in order to be taken seriously as a writer I needed an American agent. New York was where all the big deals were made.

Like most writing/publishing advice out there, there is some truth to the statement. New York is still where the heavy hitters of the publishing world reside. But in my experience, there is a huge advantage to being a Canadian author. First, there are fewer of us, and that’s not marginalizing the Canadian reading population or publishing world. On the contrary, when Canadian writers throw their hats in with the Americans, not only are they competing with each other but with all the Americans and every other hopeful writer on the planet.

A lot of bestselling Canadian authors (Ian Hamilton, Yaan Martel, Kelley Armstrong) have Canadian agents. Canadian Literary agencies are more than capable of negotiating with New York and over seas publishers and do so on a regular basis. The best part? They represent Canadian clients. Yes, there are fewer agencies in Canada than in the US, but they’re an option for us that the Americans don’t have and shouldn't be over-looked. I feel I've had more opportunities working with a Canadian agent and agency than I would have had otherwise.

We also have access to the Canadian publishers. All the major publishing houses have branches in Canada and publish under their own imprints. It’s not easier – there’s tough competition from other Canadian authors and there are fewer editors buying work – but it’s an option our American counterparts don’t have so why not take advantage?

4. Some Things you just can’t buy.
If you take no other advice off this list, please, please, for the love of assorted Gods and your bank account, please, take this one. 

You cannot buy your way into publishing.

Anyone who tells you different (or worse, offers you a way) is screwing you over.

Between writing conferences, critically acclaimed workshops, MFA programs, and conventions there are a multitude of places for you as a budding author to drop a serious amount of coin. And those are just the reputable ones. I know a number of aspiring authors who have spent upwards of 5000 dollars on reputable workshops and university track writing programs and have yet to be published.

For total transparency below I've listed my total expenditures on workshops and conventions before I was published. It was less than 500 dollars.

  1. Vancouver Science Fiction Fantasy Convention: Free workshop with published authors included with 40$ weekend convention ticket.
  2. Vancouver Community College 6 week Speculative Fiction Writing Class: $120   
  3. Vancouver Public Library Workshop with writer in residence Spider Robinson: FREE, as in world-class writer, no money left my pocket. 
  4. Shadbolt Community Center 6 week Writing Workshop with Aurora Award winning author Eileen Kernighan: $120
  5. Norwescon Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention (Seattle): FREE writing workshops included with 60$ weekend membership. Also included publishing, editing and pitch workshops. 
  6. Subscribed to David Farland’s Daily Kick, a daily series of writing lessons delivered to your inbox: FREE

Spending money on the more expensive and prestigious workshops will not increase your chances of getting published or getting an agent. Once you’re published and have a bit of money from your work under your belt, great! Try one of the bigger workshops, but there’s no need.

The sorry truth is you can’t buy your way into a book deal. Writing is a solitary event.

5. The outfit doesn't make a book
And I’m not talking about the cover (though covers can totally make or break a book. For example, imagine your favorite action/adventure with a full on romance cover. The readers who pick that up are going to be real pissed). In this case I’m talking about another kind of dressing. The prose.

There’s a real propensity for critique groups and workshops to focus on prose- the way you convey the story rather than the story itself. This may upset one or two critique group workshops out there, but the more I learn about the craft of writing (and the more professional authors I meet), this strikes me as an amateur’s mistake.

It’s like worrying about how a gown for a ballroom dancing competition is going to look without asking yourself whether you know how to dance. The outfit helps you look good but if you can’t dance, no amount of trussing up is going to help. Twinkle Toes who showed up in the potato sack is going to win.

The purpose of good prose is to make a good story look better, but people read a story for the story- especially in commercial fiction. No amount of fancy writing is going to make a lackluster novel better than a spectacular story – even if the spectacular story decided to show up wearing a burlap potato sack and Birkenstock sandals. And don’t doubt for one second this doesn't happen every day in publishing. In fact, once in the publishing door there are a slew of editors (content, copyediting, proofreading) whose job it is to fix up the typos, prose, and make sure the logic of the story fits.

Yes, the story needs to be as ready to go as possible but wasting hours making it perfect is a poor expenditure of your time- especially when you should be working on the next project.

6. You have to pass the crazy test
Now, when I say ‘crazy test’ I am not in any way, shape, or form alluding to mental illness. That would be insulting. What I’m referring to is a writer’s ability to behave in a congenial/civil/constructive manner when discussing their work with an editor or agent, criticism and all. And the behaviors I outline below absolutely deserve the derogatory and insulting imagery the word ‘crazy’ evokes.

The following behaviors all earn a ‘Crazy Test’ fail: Name calling the editor or agent, arguing ostensibly about your work, online flame wars, choosing to take insult without provocation, tantrums, refusing to consider constructive criticism, angry emails sent out at 3 am, and – my favorite – inappropriate comments or jokes involving anything to do with race/sexuality/religion/gender.

Publishing is a business and you will be tested on your professionalism before anyone buys your book.

7. Signal to Noise
  Your enemy isn't a bad review. Your enemy is no review. There seems to be a real assumption going around with new authors that a bad review will prevent hordes of their readers from discovering their book. I haven’t seen it. In fact, the opposite is true. There is many a book I've picked up that’s been denounced as space cowboy trash (I happen to like space cowboys) or an urban fantasy that’s been ripped apart by reviewers for not enough romance (I actually prefer less romance, more adventure in my UF reads). The point is a bad review meant someone read your book and took the time to write something about it. Be thankful. Most people won’t bother reading.

And, speaking of reviewers... Repeat after me: Those reviews are not the reviews you are looking for. They are written for other reviewers and readers. And that goes triple for the comment threads.

8. There is no such thing as a secret handshake.
There is this perverse and pervasive myth amongst hopeful authors that if they just make the right connection, sneak into the right party, and figure out the secret handshake, they will earn admittance to the land of lollypops and unicorns, where editors pay you, the unproven debut author, to write a book they've never seen.

No one is going to give you money to write a novel (except celebrities, and even they don’t get paid to write the book, a ghost writer with an extensive portfolio does).

A novel is a product that a publisher is contracting from an author. Unless you have an extensive, commercially proven portfolio, no one is going to pay you for a product they can’t see.

There is no secret handshake or mystical industry party in Shangri-la.

Still don’t believe me? I was (still am in many ways) about as unconnected in the literary community as you can get. First, I have a science degree so no MFA or English department connections. I’m not really on the Speculative Fiction conference circuit (See number 5. Plane rides and conference tickets can get expensive) and though I've made a few local writing friends I’m still getting to know most of the writers in the Pacific Northwest. Yet that didn't stop my manuscript getting picked up off the slush pile or prevent publishing house editors from considering it. Remember what the product you’re selling is. A story.

9. “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more of it I have.” Coleman Cox, 1922.

I left this one for last because it’s a damn good note to leave on.

No doubt about it, I've been incredibly lucky in publishing. I currently have five books under contract to two major publishers before the first one is out and I've only been writing 5 years.

I also have worked harder at writing fiction than anything else I've ever attempted in my life. When I started I was getting up at 7am to write for a couple hours before heading to the lab where I did my PhD, then writing on the train home and until I fell asleep on the computer keyboard (my spousal unit has a lot of unflattering and very un-photogenic dirt on me). Once I switched to full time writing the pace didn't let up- I simply had more time to write. Get up at 7am, write. Break at 9. Then more writing. Gym at 5, then – you guessed it – more writing. And that’s not considering social media, promotion, etc. It’s 2 pm on a Sunday as I’m writing this article. Once I’m done, I've another article to finish, a podcast to go on, writing on my next novel I haven’t gotten to since my book came out. I won’t get to bed until maybe 10 or 11pm. 14 or 16 hour days are a reality for a full time writer. And I wouldn't change it for the world.


About the Author

Kristi Charish is the author of OWL AND THE JAPANESE CIRCUS (Jan 13th, 2015, Simon and Schuster Canada/Pocket Books), an urban fantasy about a modern-day “Indiana Jane” who reluctantly navigates the hidden supernatural world. She writes what she loves; adventure heavy stories featuring strong, savvy female protagonists, pop culture, and the occasional RPG fantasy game thrown in the mix. The second installment, OWL AND THE CITY OF ANGELS, is scheduled for release Jan 2016. Her second urban fantasy series, KINCAID STRANGE (Random House Canada), about a voodoo practioner living in Seattle, is scheduled for release mid 2016.

Kristi is also a scientist with a BSc and MSc from Simon Fraser University in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry and a PhD in Zoology from the University of British Columbia. Her specialties are genetics, cell biology, and molecular biology, all of which she draws upon in her writing. She is represented by Carolyn Forde at Westwood Creative Artists.



Fans of Kim Harrison, Jim Butcher, and Linda Hamilton will flock to the kick-ass world of Owl, a modern-day “Indiana Jane” who reluctantly navigates the hidden supernatural world.

Ex-archaeology grad student turned international antiquities thief, Alix—better known now as Owl—has one rule. No supernatural jobs. Ever. Until she crosses paths with Mr. Kurosawa, a red dragon who owns and runs the Japanese Circus Casino in Las Vegas. He insists Owl retrieve an artifact stolen three thousand years ago, and makes her an offer she can’t refuse: he’ll get rid of a pack of vampires that want her dead. A dragon is about the only entity on the planet that can deliver on Owl’s vampire problem – and let’s face it, dragons are known to eat the odd thief.

Owl retraces the steps of Mr. Kurosawa’s ancient thief from Japan to Bali with the help of her best friend, Nadya, and an attractive mercenary. As it turns out though, finding the scroll is the least of her worries. When she figures out one of Mr. Kurosawa’s trusted advisors is orchestrating a plan to use a weapon powerful enough to wipe out a city, things go to hell in a hand basket fast…and Owl has to pick sides.

To help celebrate the release, Kristi Charish has kindly offered up one (1) copy of OWL AND THE JAPANESE CIRCUS for a lucky readers here in the Ruins (hardcopy for USA/Canada or ebook for International).

To enter, just pop me at email at bob[dot]beautyinruins[at]gmail[dot]com and let me know how you follow the Ruins - whether it be here on the BlogFacebookTwitterGoodreads, or Booklikes.

Giveaway ends Sunday at midnight, and I'll draw the lucky winner Monday morning.