Sunday, 5 February 2012

Alchemy Round Table

A new year brings a lot of excitement about new projects so we asked our Alchemy Writers what they were looking forward to in 2012 and what they liked about 2011...

What three novels did you enjoy most in 2011?

Debbie: Blimey. I can't remember what I read last week, never mind 12 months ago. Books I can actually remember (so they must have been good) are Guillermo Del Toro's vampire trilogy - I liked the new spin on vampires. And while we are on vampires, I guess I have to mention Justin Cronin's The Passage, since it's sort-of vampire based. I had serious issues with this novel (see my Goodreads review) but it was a good read. And I read all of the Stephenie Meyer vampire books for the first time too. Shit. It looks like I only read vampire stuff and I don't. I hate vampire books normally - really I do. I've read a lot of indie stuff too, but to be honest I haven't read as much as I'd like as I've been concentrating on writing throughout most of 2011 and I don't tend to read when I'm writing.

Jan: Last year I seemed to start so many and finish so few. Probably being BFS reviews editor gave me a touch of 'sweetshop syndrome’. So many books and so little time. I could write a list as long as Peter's arm (mine would not stretch) to include all the books I've read and enjoyed in 2011, but among them (and leaving aside any novels by members of this group) are these:

Downpour by Kat Richardson and Ghost Story by Jim Butcher. I mention both together because in addition to being cracking books are both parts of a long running series; both used a similar trope of pressing a re-set button, whereby the main protagonist, who has spent the previous X books building strength and ability, is killed and ‘resurrected’. The characters are whipped back to almost newbie status where they have to survive with only a fraction of their previous power. An excellent way to breathe new life into their respective heroes.

Bloodshot and Hellbent: books 1&2 of the Red Cheshire series by Cherie Priest (which must count as one choice surely?) A fun vampire. What can I say?

Bryant & May and the Memory of Blood by Chris Fowler is a great read. Again this is part of a series featuring a pair of elderly detectives who, though undoubtedly eccentric, are free of the usual clich├ęs of the current crop of 'damaged detectives' gracing our TVs and bookshelves. It is so good to have detectives who actively get on with the job of detecting without wallowing in page after page of the tedious angst and self-pity that seems to be considered necessary of late! :-)

I am going to cheat and have a fourth choice - Rivers of London and Moon over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch. Yes, I know, two books again. These are the first two books in a series about an apprentice wizard Police Constable attached to the Met Police. There is a lot of fantasy and humour - but without diving into humorous fantasy! Great reading.

Jenny: Gosh, only three? I read so much last year it's difficult to pick (and I'm legendary in my inability to make decisions...) Ok then, first up - God's War by Kameron Hurley. Kick-ass female protagonist working in a fabulous backdrop with all kinds of nifty tech and beasties and aliens wandering around. It's action-packed, full of conspiracies and just fantastically jaw-dropping in places, and one where you want to read more after you finished it.

Next up will be Seanan McGuire's One Salt Sea - the latest in her Toby Daye urban fantasy series and the best one yet. It's another one with a kick-ass female protagonist, set in a US where the fae are living, if not side by side with the human populous, then at least, close enough in the shadows to be a major influence on those who know about them. OSS has all the fun of resolving old mysteries while setting up new ones and for bonus points there's the excellent undersea kingdom of Saltmist. Very much cool bananas!

Third will most definitely have to be Traitor's Gate by Kate Elliott. It concludes her Crossroads trilogy and is an absolutely marvellous piece of epic fantasy. It throws some sharp and quite unexpected twists into the story, there's the mucky results of war, break ups and make ups, conspiracies, rebuilding of wartorn settlements, honking great eagles carting people around and after all the build up, the ending is just perfect.

Peter: I can't remember reading any novels in 2011 -- I recall starting several and giving up in despair.

Sam: I didn't get much chance to read last year however I really enjoyed Angel Of Brooklyn by Janette Jenkins, Hamelin's Child by Debbie Bennett and Cyrus Darian and the Technomicron by Raven Dane.


What three novels are you looking forward to in 2012?

Debbie: I've got a stack of indie stuff on my kindle I'm waiting to get stuck into.

Jan: I really don’t know. There will be more titles to add to the various lists I am sure, but apart from that? I shall wait and see.

Jenny: Only three? Again? Who wrote these questions? (Oh, wait, that was me...) Okay then, first and foremost, the most anticipated novel of 2012 has to be: Blood and Feathers by Louise Morgan. It's Alice in Wonderland goes to Hell and peeps, let me tell you, it is unbelievably awesome. Lou is a fabulous writer and the book is pure perfection. (I can say this with authority because I got a sneak peek of it last year... Best. Thing. Eva!)

Next up, I think, will have to be The City's Son by Tom Pollock. I read an extract of it in the Jo Fletcher Books sampler given out at Fantasycon and like both his style and the very cool story it's introducing. Plus it's set in a hidden London, which is always a fun thing

Third is Kate Griffin's The Minority Council - it's the next one in her Matthew Swift series of books which I adore as they combine all the fun of urban fantasy in an alternate London with a glorious turn of phrase when it comes to the storytelling.

Peter: I'm not sure what's due out in 2012. To be honest, I much prefer short stories and novellas. Yet again, I can't recall any that really, really grabbed me.

Sam: I bought Kronos by Guy Adams for David for Christmas and have dipped into it. I now want to finish it because it is beautifully written. I also have Cyber Circus By Kim Lakin-Smith lined-up for that elusive spare minute and I have John Lindqvist's Handling the Undead.

Are there any other works of fiction (eg. short stories/collections/anthologies/comics/films etc.) that you particularly enjoyed in 2011?

Debbie: Um, not that stand out in my mind. Am I really that shallow and boring? Although I did see The Sixth Sense on tv for the first time and thought it was one of the cleverest film twists ever!

Jan: There were so many anthologies published in the horror field (some of which I was in) that it would be impossible to pick any one above the rest.

Welcome to Bordertown edited by Holly Black and Ellen Kushner was an excellent anthology (which sadly I was not in). It did contain some truly great shorts from the likes of Holly Black, Charles de Lint, Emma Bull, Neil Gaiman etc. Both Sam and Debbie put collections of their own work out there this year, both of which I read and enjoyed, and of course I must talk about Rumours of the Marvellous - a collection of fiction by Peter Atkins, not just because it is published by Alchemy Press, but because I genuinely think it contains some of the best short fiction I have ever read! Pete Atkins really is one of Britain’s greats.

Jenny: Get comfy, because I could be here all day... luckily I already did a list of fictiony goodness on my own blog here. However, top picks -
Short Stories: Card Sharp by Rajan Khanna (Way of the Wizard) and The Thief of Precious Things by A.C. Wise (Bewere the Night). Funnily enough both are stories about trickster types - one a classic fox-shifter, the other a gambler with a special set of cards. Both excellent.
Collections: Sourdough and Other Stories by Angela Slatter & Somewhere Beneath Those Waves by Sarah Monette. Both recent author discoveries and both books collecting some wonderful stories.
Anthologies: Way of the Wizard ed. John Joseph Adams - it's rare I find an anthology where I wasn't bored by some of the stories... this bucked the trend and served up all kinds of ace tales.
Film: Thor. Wasn't expecting to like it, turned out it was heaps of fun.

Peter: OK, yes, I read tons for Dark Horizons and for the Alchemy Press book, Rumours of the Marvellous. Those by Peter Atkins are outstanding stories (I would say that, wouldn't I?) but only one was originally published in 2011. I recall enjoying some stories -- such as the first two in The Book of Horrors and some in Carol Emshwiller's collection (PS Publishing) -- but I can't remember the details. Not seen enough new films. The only one that I really rate isn't fantasy: The King's Speech.

Sam: Rhys Hughes The Brothel Creeper was a really fun collection. Macabre and disturbing and extremly humorous.

What one event in 2011 was your favourite?

Debbie: Well I can't say Fantasycon, as I wasn't there. So it would have to be the launch of my thriller novel Hamelin's Child on kindle in February. It started the ball rolling and it's still gathering speed!

Jan: I don’t go to enough events in 2011 to compare and contrast – but I did get to the Annual Writers’ Conference at Winchester, where I pitched a novel with some success; so that has to be my high point!

Jenny: Oh definitely Fantasycon. There was such a fab vibe to it, helped, I think, by the fact that despite it being the end of September, the weather was glorious and the hotel was on the beach so I got to see my fave peeps and wander by the sea too. What's not to love?

Sam: The Asylum Steampunk Convention wins it in the UK. But Gallifrey was fabulous as always! Both of these conventions really know how to treat their guests well.

What one event in 2012 are you most looking forward to?

Debbie: More writing. More book launches. I'd like to get to a Con but realistically I can't see it happening in the current economic climate.

Jenny: Toughie, since I can only afford to do two this year... Fantasycon is in Brighton again so if the weather is anywhere near as nice as last year there'll be some more beach fun. Eastercon, particularly Eastercon when it's at Heathrow, does have a history of interesting programming - such as the fight workshops. There is nothing that isn't good about learning how to beat up people with drain pipes.

Sam: That's a tough one because I have some really exciting and new events I'm attending. The first this year is SFX Weekender and I'm looking forward to seeing all of the friends that are going to be there. But equally I'm very excited about GalaxyFest in Colorado Springs, because it's new and I'll be International Author Guest of Honour there.

Which of your writing/publishing stuff in 2011 are you particularly proud of?

Debbie: Getting an email from a complete stranger who loved my book so much she wrote to tell me! Awesome. And selling over 300 books in 24 hours in late October. Oh and being invited to join Katherine Roberts and a group of mostly traditionally-published authors with a regular blog spot on www.authorselectric.co.uk - I was chuffed that they thought me good enough.

Jan: I had a good year publishing wise with a list of 10 (?) short stories published in various places. Which one am I most proud of? I am probably not the best person to judge – I shall leave that choice to the Alchemy Writers Blog-Meister, Ms Barber! Ms B says - Grey Magic for Cat Lovers was fab, as was The Ballad of Lucy Lightfoot.

Jenny: My stuff on the Girls' Guide to Surviving the Apocalypse blog - because we have so much fun anticipating all the different post-apocalyptic scenarios.

Peter: Getting Rumours of the Marvellous published.

Sam: My Collection, Zombies in New York and Other Bloody Jottings, because it allowed me to try different things.

What have you got coming up/out in 2012 that you want to shout about?

Debbie: Watch my blog on www.debbiebennett.co.uk !

Jan: Three stories due out this year that I want to shout about are Jack Out of the Box : appearing in the Father Grim’s Storybook by Wicked East Press edited by Jessica Weiss; Orbyting: The Hammer Out Book of Ghosts (in aid of the Hammer Out brain tumour awareness charity), edited by the Fantom Films director Dexter O’Neill; and lastly Damnation Seize My Soul which will be appearing in an as yet unnamed anthology edited by the inimitable Ian Whates with Newcon Press.

Jenny: Shiny Shorts! A funky new review blog specifically for all things short fiction.

Peter: I'm planning new Alchemy Press projects for 2012 ... Nothing definite yet.

Sam: Currently working on the fifth Vampire Gene Novel Silent Sand and the second book in my new fantasy series - more about that soon!

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Thank you ladies and gentle-beings of Alchemy! Can't wait to see how 2012 develops...

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