Category Archives: Lou Anders

Lou Anders Leaves Pyr to Write Full Time

Lou-Anders-smallLocus Online reported Friday that Lou Anders, long-time editor at Pyr Books, was stepping down to pursue writing full time.  John O’Neill at Black Gate added some details this morning.

Under his leadership, Pyr became one of the freshest and most innovative imprints in the field while still staying true to the field’s roots.  Some of my favorite titles and series from the last few years were from Pyr.  I’ve got a stack of books that came out over the last few months that I’ve not had a chance to get to.

Anders recently published his first novel, Frostborn, a fantasy for middle grade readers.  In fact, this was one of the things Anders did at Pyr that impressed me.  He began acquiring titles aimed at YA readers.  I’ve met Lou briefly a few times over the years.  The most recent was at Fencon in 2012.  One of the things we talked about was the need for gateway books aimed at YA and middle grade readers.  He’s putting his money (and his career) where his mouth is.  Adventures Fantastic wishes him the best of luck.

Rene Sears has served as Anders’ assistant.  She will step up as interim editor.  I also wish her the best of luck.  She’s got some big shoes to fill, but I’m sure can handle it.

The Gunfight at the OK Corral Like You’ve Never Seen it Before

The Buntline Special
Mike Resnick
Trade paper, $17.00
Kindle  Nook $11.99 (note: ebook prices may vary)

One of the legendary gunfights of the Old West took place in Tombstone, Arizona, between the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday on one side and the McLaurys and Clantons on the other.  Of course there were a number of things leading up to the gunfight and many consequences following.

Mike Resnick has taken a look at the gunfight through a steampunk fantasy lens.  It’s a fascinating blend of fact, almost fact, and should have been fact shown from the point of view of Doc Holliday.

Before I go on, I have to say that for a while as I was reading I kept seeing and hearing Val Kilmer as Holliday.  You may recall he played Holliday in the 1993 film Tombstone.  Kilmer brought such a – [ We interrupt this review to bring you the following public service announcement:

Pyr publicist Lisa Michalski contacted me late last year asking if I would like a review copy of Mike Resnick’s latest Weird Western novel, The Doctor and the Rough Rider.   I replied that while, yes, I would very much like a review copy, I hadn’t read the first two books in the series.  Ms. Michalski very graciously sent me all three, for which I would like to thank her.

Since then a number of Pyr books have shown up without my asking, many of them second or third volumes in series I haven’t started yet.  I’ve been acquiring the volumes I’ve needed, and I intend to read and review them all.

I  would like to apologize to Ms. Michalski as well as editor Lou Anders for taking so long to read and review the titles they’ve sent me.  I’ve had an extremely heavy load this semester, and my reading time has been curtailed like it hasn’t been in years.  Guys, thank you for the books.  I intend to read and review all the ones you’ve sent (plus the preceding volumes I haven’t read, since I hate starting series in the middle).  I greatly appreciate your sending the review copies and only hope I haven’t appeared ungrateful or opportunistic by not having reviewed them yet.

Anyway, once finals are over in a couple of weeks, I intend to take some time off and get caught up on reading, blogging, and personal writing.  About every second or third review here will be a Pyr title until I’ve caught up, so don’t be surprised at the sudden proliferation of Pyr titles.  The straight science fiction titles will be reviewed over at Futures Past and Present.

We now return your regularly scheduled blog post, already in progress.]  – Holliday to say “I’m your huckleberry” like he did in the film.

Val Kilmer, as Your Huckleberry, Doc Holliday

But you don’t want to hear about a 20 year old movie, you want to know about The Buntline Special.  The premise of this series is that in an alternate timeline, the westward expansion of the United States has been stopped at the Mississippi River by the magic of Native American medicine men, Geronimo being chief among them.  This hasn’t stopped individuals from moving westward, settling in many place that they settled in our timeline such as Texas, Colorado, and Tombstone.  (I’m curious if Texas is still an independent nation in this universe.  Resnick mentions Texas but doesn’t give much detail.)

In Tombstone, a pair of inventors, Thomas Edison and Ned Buntline, have been working and producing such things as electric lights, a horseless carriage, and mechanical whores that never tire.  It’s the horseless carriage that is causing the most problems.  The decreased demand for horses has made some of the local horse thieves antsy, particularly the Clantons.  But what has really made Edison a target of assassination is that he has been contacted by the US government to find a way to defeat the spell preventing the US from expanding westward.  That’s got the medicine man Hook Nose all in a tizzy.  He cuts a deal with the Clantons to eliminate Edison to their mutual benefit.

The first attempt on Edison’s life cost Edison his arm, which he and Buntline replace with a mechanical arm.  Upping the stakes, Hook Nose resurrects the recently killed gunslinger, Johnny Ringo (who is very much alive in the Tombstone of our timeline).  In an effort keep Edison breathing, Virgil, Wyatt, and Morgan Earp send for Doc Holliday and Bat Masterson.

And thus the stage is set for one of the wildest showdowns in the Old West in any timeline.

There are two things Resnick excels at, and those are dialogue and attention to detail through painstaking research.  (Well, actually, he excels at more than two, but those are the two things I want to focus on.)  First, the dialogue.  If you’ve read Resnick, you know how he makes conversation seem natural.  The result is a story that flows, sounding as though real people are having real conversations.

The second is the detail.  Resnick either knows his history, does his research, or as I suspect, both.  He includes an extensive bibliography along with an appendix telling what really happened to the major players in our timeline.  One of the most fun things about The Buntline Special was seeing what things Resnick kept the same and what things he changed in the telling of his tale.  The result was staying up long after I should have been in bed one night researching some of the major players online.  (That’s not a complaint, BTW.)  I’d read quite a bit about Tombstone and the Earps, but that was over a decade ago, and memory, like radioactive substances, has a half-life.  And in my case, not a very long half-life.

This was a highly enjoyable book.  We’re seeing a resurgence in the weird western.  Here’s one by a master. 

There are two more books in this series so far, and the next one has Billy the Kid in it.  I’m looking forward to what Resnick does with him.

Titles in Mike Resnick’s Weird Western series are currently featured books at the Adventures Fantastic Bookstore.  The Buntline Special is on sale for $12.36 plus shipping.

We’re not Divorced Yet, but We’re Definitely Separating

It began like many relationships do.  At first there was the allure, the excitement, the promise of adventure and romance and suspense, of new experiences and unique horizons opening up.  As time went on, the relationship deepened and became one of the central focuses of my life.  There were many good years together.

But as often happens, one party began to take the other for granted, with give and take becoming less give and more take.  I was expected to take what was offered, with little or no input.  And what was offered weren’t the things that drew me to the relationship in the first place.  The relationship became stale, predictable, dull.  Furthermore, my wants and needs meant less and less to the other party, with decisions about the things central to the relationship being made with the apparent expectation I should be thankful the other party was there at all.  Everything became the same, and I began to be unfulfilled.

I began to seek fulfillment elsewhere, with new partners.  And I found it.  All the adventure and excitement that first attracted me so many years ago were there, all the-

What’s that?  My marriage?  It’s just fine, thank you.  Why do you ask?

Anyway, we were talking about books and publishing, not my marriage.  Over this last year I’ve turned begun to read more and more indie published books, in a variety of formats.  I’ve reached the point where I’m really not interested in reading many books published by the big New York houses.  It’s all the same stuff, and frankly, most of it doesn’t appeal to me.  I mean how many sex-with-dead-things novels can you read without puking?  In my case, not many.

And yes, I’m speaking in the most general of terms here.  There are exceptions to the above statement; for example I will continue to read Jack McDevitt in hardcover as long as someone publishes him in that format.  And I’ll continue to read other a few other authors and books published by the big houses (especially if Barnes and Noble sends me a coupon), but for the most part, I’m going to stick with small to mid-sized presses and independently published authors or authors who are publishing their own backlists.  And I’m going to read as many as possible in ebook format.

Ebooks I most definitely will not be buying from major publishing houses unless they’re on sale.  Because in addition to publishing the same old same old, the major publishers are gouging on ebook prices.  Don’t think so?  Then read this post by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, in which she shows that publishers aren’t hurting from ebooks sales as much as they would have us believe.  In fact they’re making a profit, and they’re doing it on the backs of their authors, as Kris ably demonstrates.  More on that in a minute.  My point is that ebook prices are overinflated, and they’re only going to go up, which isn’t sitting well with some people

I had a chat about ebook prices with Lou Anders at Fencon a few months ago.  It was a brief conversation, taking place in the hall at the end of the convention with both of us having to go do other things.  Now I like and respect Lou a lot, but he and I aren’t on the same page with ebook pricing.  However, to be fair, the conversation was rushed, and I would like to discuss it further with him.  Also, he talked about doing ebooks right.  Something many of the major houses aren’t doing.

Case in point:  A few weeks ago, I was browsing in B&N and came across The Spy Who Came for Christmas by David Morrell.  There was an ebook version reasonably priced ($3.99 IIRC) which I bought and downloaded, thinking it would be a nice seasonal read that wouldn’t be too sappy,  something not related to either of my blogs that I would simply read for my own pleasure.  I’ve not read a great deal of Morrell’s work, but I’ve liked everything I’ve read.  The book was 240 pages, according to my Nook.  As I got further into the book more formatting errors crept in, words without spaces between them, new paragraphs starting in midsentence, that sort of thing.  As I got into the 130s page range, the story seemed to be winding down.  I expected a plot twist, something to keep the tale going.  Nope, it ended at page 140.  I thought maybe there was a second story included.  Wrong again.  The last 100 pages of the ebook were the last 100 pages of the story, simply reprinted to fill space and make the book appear to be longer than it was.

Yes, you read that correctly.  The publisher included the last 100 pages of story twice, and since the story was only 140 pages, including an afterward by the author, that almost doubled the length of the ebook.   Either the publisher tried to make the book look longer than it was, or the person responsible converting the book to ebook format didn’t have a clue what they were doing (or both).  Regardless of the reason, that’s just completely unacceptable.  As I’ve pointed out previously, none of the indie published ebooks I’ve read this year were anywhere near that sloppy.

Traditional big publishers are scared (and they should be), which is why they’re handing authors increasingly draconian contracts.  They’re also behind in the game; they should have had ebooks ready to go a long time before now.  There’s no excuse for pushing shoddy, poorly formatted product and charging the same amount as a paper copy.  Lou Anders talked about Pyr including some interactive formatting that would do things like resize maps when the font size was changed, something I haven’t seen yet in other ebooks.  That would be worth paying more for, although not as much as a paper copy.  But then Pyr, while priced higher than I would prefer, doesn’t charge as much for their ebooks as they do their print versions.

Understand, I’m not asking for ebooks to be free or only a dollar or two.  Much of the cost of the book is in the editing, proofing, copy editing, etc., which is the excuse the major publishers use to justify their ebooks prices.

Yeah.  I get that and don’t have a problem with it.

I also get that you’ve got to pay rent on your Manhattan offices.  And keep happy your corporate overlords who expect growth every quarter.

Not my problem.  There are more quality books published than I could possibly read in two lifetimes, never mind however many years I have left in this one.  There’s no reason I should pay those prices for that quality when there is a growing selection of ebooks with more variety (see Emily Casey’s Venn diagram) that are just as good and better formatted being published by small presses and indie authors. 

So, not that you’re likely to care, but I’m putting you on notice Tor, Ace, DAW, Del Rey, Harper Collins, Spectra, and all other publishers who think I should pay premium prices for shoddy ebooks, or who charge just as much for a paper copy.  I’m not buying from you anymore.  In print or electronic formats.  At least not unless there’s a coupon or a second hand shop involved.

I can hear the outrage from some of you, saying that by doing this I’m hurting authors.  Oh, really?  Let’s look at that statement a little more closely, shall we, because by that logic I hurt authors every time I walk into a bookstore.  What I’m doing is deciding where I’m going to spend my money based on perceived value of the product.  When I go to a bookstore to buy a book, I consider several things, such as author, genre, subgenre, and price.  And I buy what I consider to be the best value.  I leave all the other volumes on the shelves.  Am I hurting some authors because I decide their books aren’t a good value for me and don’t buy them?  No more than anyone else does who chooses one book over another.

And by saying I’m not buying anything from certain publishers (other than a few exceptions for favorite authors and bloody few of those), I’m not hurting those publishers’ authors for the reasons explained in the previous paragraph.  Instead I’m helping other authors who are publishing their own stuff, who get more money from the sale (even at a lower price) than they would with a large publisher.  As I understand the math, if I spend the same amount of money I have been, only I buy more books at lower prices, more authors will make more money per sale than they would through a traditional publisher.  In my economy that’s a good thing.

I’m still going to buy from traditional publishers, just not most of the big boys.  I’ll have a list of publishers I’ll be buying a lot from in 2012 in an upcoming post.

In the meantime, I’ve got indie/small press published books by the following authors to read (in no particular order; links are to author pages rather than books):  Ty Johnston, Charles Gramlich, David J. West, Barry Nugent, Stephen D. Sullivan, Ken St. Andre, Chris Northern, Katherine Eliska Kiimbriel, Todd Shryock, James Hutchings, Moses Siregar III and Charles R. Saunders.  Just to name a few.  If you’re name is in this list, and I choose to review one of your books, I’ll send you an email.  Please be patient; that’s a lot to read, and those are only the indie/small press items in the TBR stack.

For those you who are gluttons for punishment interested, here are links to all the reviews of indie/small press books I’ve done in the last year in reverse chronological order:  The Paths of Righteousness by James Reasoner, Strange Worlds edited by Jeff Doten, Stones by Gerald So, Dark Heroes edited by Jessy Marie Roberts, Age of Giants Awakenings by Rob Reasor, Tisarian’s Treasure by J. M. Martin, Dreams in the Fire edited by Mark Finn and Chris Gruber, Gods of Justice edited by Kevin Hosey and K. Stoddard Hayes, The Ladies of Trade Town edited by Lee Martindale.

I also published a review of The Roads to Baldairn Motte by Craig Comer, Ahimsa Kerp, and Garrett Calcaterra at Rogue Blades Entertainment.

Report on Fencon

Fencon VII/Deep South Con 49 was held in Dallas (well really, Addison), TX on September 23-25.  While I can’t say that a good time was had by all, a good time was certainly had by me.  Everything had a steampunk theme, with many of the guests being steampunk authors.

As usual, there was much more on the programming than I had time to attend.  I didn’t make it to either slide show by the artist guests, Vincent DiFate or Stephan Martiniere. Not because I don’t like those artists.  I do.  It was just that there were other things conflicting with their slideshows.

Rather than try to sum up the whole convention, I’ll hit some of the high points of the events I attended, then post some pictures.

My favorite panel was the one Saturday afternoon devoted to Phineas and Ferb.  Yes, yes it was.  It was the most fun I’ve had at a panel in years.  I hadn’t had a chance to check the schedule in detail before I left, so it was only coincidence when I put on my Perry the Platypus T-shirt that morning.  Really.

I met Phillipa Ballantine (see my review of Geist) and Tee Morris.  They were a lot of fun.  I hope the convention brings them back.  In addition to being two of the nicest people, they were also funny, high energy, and more approachable than many professionals I’ve encountered.

Other good panels include remembrances of the Shuttle, discussions of near space exploration (more than I was able to attend), and a panel on publishing scams that could have been twice as long and still not exhausted the subject.

I got a chance to visit a little with Lou Anders, editor of Pyr books.

There were plenty of room parties, although I found it offensive that the hotel posted a uniformed security guard in the hall near where the parties were being held.

Finally, one of the things I like most about Fencon is there is an entire track of programming devoted to music.  This, I’ve discovered, is a great way to keep me financially solvent  out of the dealer’s room occupied when there’s not a panel or reading I want to attend.  I just read and listen to the music.

I had a good time and came back much more relaxed than when I went.  (I really, really, really needed the break)

Phineas and Ferb Panel

Toastmaster Brad Denton signs for a fan.
Tee Morris and Phillipa Ballantine
Lou Antonelli channels Harlan Ellison by writing in public.

Attendees came from the North, South, East, and West

Publishing scams panel

Who’s Who in the pictures, if not identified in the captions:

1.  l. to r. :  Gloria Oliver, Shanna Swendson, Perry the Platypus, Cathy Clamp, Todd Caldwell, Rhonda Eudaly
2.  Brad Denton and Steven Silver
5.  unidentified
6.  L. to r.:  A. Lee Martinez, Rachel Caine, Tee Morris, Cathy Clamp, Selina Rosen, Amy Sisson
7.  unidentified