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Today’s guest is Sarah from Bookworm Blues, one of my favorite SFF book review blogs! If you haven’t been there since last week, check it out since Sarah just got her own domain and a great new look for her site. Plus she put up a wonderful interview with Robert Jackson Bennett, author of The Troupe, and a rather interesting guest post on disability in fantasy by Elspeth Cooper, author of Songs of the Earth.

The main reason I keep coming back to Bookworm Blues again and again is Sarah herself. She writes very honest reviews and doesn’t shy away from being open about why she thinks the way she does about a certain book. Yet she also tends to be respectful toward the books she reviews and mentions the good along with the bad. Also, she’s very friendly, and if you’re not following her on Twitter, you should be!

Sarah wrote a very touching, personal, and introspective post on the issue of women in science fiction and fantasy that perfectly demonstrates exactly why I keep reading her blog. Please give a warm welcome to her!

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Last August I had my first child, a baby girl. She is the light of my life. She is my everything; my entire world wrapped up in a chubby little seven-month ball of perpetual motion. Since the day Fiona was born I’ve been reading to her. Usually I’ll just read whatever I’m book I’m reading out loud. She doesn’t mind. She sits there and watches me, or falls asleep to the sound of my voice. Sometimes I’ll make funny accents and kind of act out the parts in the book I’m reading for her. She’ll laugh. We have a great time. I act like an idiot, but I don’t mind. She’s worth it.

I’m trying to teach my daughter to love to read. I want one of her first memories to involve books. I want her to be as passionate about the written word as I am. I want her to discover new worlds. I would love to read books with her in bed each night while she falls asleep. I want my daughter to always have a book in her backpack, like I did. I hope she has a list of favorite authors and dreams about worlds that haven’t been created yet, and pretends that magic actually exists. I want her to play “once upon a time” games, and act out those stories that start that very same way.

I want Fiona to know that the world is her oyster, that absolutely anything is possible. She’s my little miracle baby. She fought cancer with me while she was in utero. This child has a fire inside her, and an unparalleled determination to exist. She’s only seven months old, but I can already see her stubborn streak and her enthusiasm, and I want her to put it toward something wonderful. I want her to master a craft, because I know she’ll be able to.

I want to always share books with my daughter, and I want my bookshelves to be full of both female and male authors. The sad fact is, when I look at my shelves, 90% of the authors are male and about 10% are female. I have always attributed my penchant for favoring male authors with the fact that I conveniently find more male written books because there are more of them. However, when I really think about it, I realize that I discriminate against my own gender. You see, I tend to think that since I enjoy my fantasy epic, bloody and political and women generally don’t write bloody enough stories for me. I wonder how many people feel the same way. It’s not a thought many are willing to say out loud.

Speculative Fiction has, for many years, been mostly a man’s game. It hasn’t been until fairly recently that women have been entering the fray and making a dent in the market, and a name for themselves. With the genders evening out in the workplace, they are also evening out with the literary field. Yet, I wonder how many people still think that maybe women authors are a little too “soft” for their taste. The fact is, I didn’t even realize I thought that until I sat down to write this. It became obvious that I favor male authors because I’m afraid a female author will be a bit too romantic, a bit too starry eyed with their plots so I naturally gravitate away from them.

Reviewing books is getting me away from these previously held thoughts of mine. I try to review everything publishers send me. This has really gotten me out of my comfort zone, and I’ve encountered a lot of female authors I didn’t previously know about. There are more female epic fantasy and science fiction writers out there than I believed and I enjoy more of them than I thought I would. It took years for women to gain an even hand at the office, and some would argue that they are still fighting for their equal rights. I believe that women in SF&F are still fighting and uphill battle for the same recognition as the men. Perhaps that is unfair, however, because there are more male authors to notice than female.

That brings up another point. Why are there more male authors than female? Not only authors of books, but when you look seriously at the SF&F blogging community, the blogs outside of urban fantasy, those that seriously review epic fantasy and science fiction are mostly male dominated. In fact, in my blogroll I follow only two other female run fantasy and science fiction reviewing blogs. There aren’t many of us out there, and the women that are there often seem to fight an uphill battle for credit. Even I dismiss many female bloggers until they prove that they review something other than vampire books.

This is why I’m exceedingly glad that Kristen is doing a month featuring female authors. Women have a battle to fight and recent events have proved it. For example, with the Hugo Award discussion, not one female run review blog got even a passing mention. That tells me something incredible, that in the vast male dominated SFF blogosphere, female run blogs are a nonissue. We are fewer, so we have to fight harder to be heard above the crowd, but we shouldn’t have to. It’s the same with female authors. They are fewer, so they have to fight harder to be noticed, but they shouldn’t have to. People, like myself, shouldn’t shy away from reading a book written by a woman for whatever reason.

That’s the lesson I am learning, and the lesson I want to teach my daughter. The world is her oyster, but how can I possibly teach her how incredible literature is if I hold some of these beliefs about authors, bloggers and the like? How can I possibly teach her that she can do anything she sets her mind to, if none of my favorite authors are female. You may think I’m overreacting, and perhaps I am drawing some dramatic conclusions here, but then you must see the email I got tonight. It said,

Dear Bookworm Blues,

I recently found your blog and I’m surprised by how much I enjoy your reviews. You are a woman who reads books like a guy. That’s kind of incredible.

You can’t read that and not think there’s a problem.

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Today Lisa Shearin, author of the Raine Benares series, is talking about the importance of perseverance in writing! Earlier, I mentioned that I wanted to invite some authors I hadn’t talked about here before so my regular readers might discover some new authors. Lisa Shearin is one of those authors, although I’ve had my eye on her books since they’ve been recommended by The Book Smugglers, Tia from Debuts & Reviews, Angie from Angieville, and Felicia Day. With recommendations like that, I can’t imagine not enjoying this series!

Lisa Shearin

If you want to be published, you’ve got to want it bad.

Anyone who’s ever sat down to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard already knows that writing is hard work, it’s lonely work, and a lot of the time it’s unappreciated and misunderstood work.

Some authors are literal overnight successes — they hit pay dirt and even the “big time” with the first book they’ve ever written. We’ve seen their stories — six-figure advances, press coverage out the wazoo; heck, sometimes even Oprah.

Then there’s me — and 99.99% of writers. The first book we have published isn’t our first or second. Mine was my third. For me, it took over 20 years of hard work to get to where I am. I’m grateful for everything I have now.

For the vast majority of writers, success (i.e., reaching the goal of being published), takes a couple of manuscripts that are more than likely stuffed in a closet, before we write something publishable. I’m grateful for the “no, thank yous” I got early in my career. At one writers’ conference, I even thanked one agent for turning me down. From the expression on his face, I’ll bet he hadn’t heard that very often.

After producing something worth publishing, there’s the struggle, the waiting, and the waiting some more to finally land an agent, and then waiting for your agent to sell your precious to a publisher—if you choose to go with the traditional publishing route. But regardless of your choice, you have to do a lot of hard work. There is no easy way. You have to want it so badly that you’re willing to write every day, even when you don’t want to, even when you don’t feel inspired, or even when you’re just too danged tired. You have to write regardless of everything. That’s not to say you shouldn’t take the occasional day off. It’s a good idea, for you and for those who have to live with you.

Writing for publication is kind of like training as a professional athlete. They have to work out every day, training and honing their skills if they want to improve. As a writer, your challenge is to find the time to write, which very often means sacrificing something else you want to do. The writing comes first. Also, when you write, you write alone. Some writers have critique groups; I don’t. It’s just not something that works for me.

Then there’s the biggest problem that most writers encounter: family and friends not taking them or their work seriously. They think that if you haven’t been published, that you’re not a real writer. That’s a load of bullpucky. If you write and work hard at it, you are a real writer regardless of whether you’ve ever signed your name to a publishing contract or not. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise; and if they do, don’t believe them. I always told people that it wasn’t a matter of if I got published, but when.

Keep telling yourselves the same thing. And like me, if you tell yourself often enough, you will believe it. Believing in yourself is half the battle.

Lisa Shearin is the author of the national bestselling fantasy adventure series featuring Raine Benares, a finder of things lost and people missing.  The sixth Raine Benares adventure, All Spell Breaks Loose, will hit bookstore shelves (and cyber eBook shelves) on May 29. To read sample chapters from any of Lisa’s books, visit www.lisashearin.com. And you can follow Lisa on Twitter—@LisaShearin.

 All Spell Breaks Loose  Magic Lost, Trouble Found  Armed & Magical

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It’s been another great week for Women in SF&F Month! Today I’m going to round up links to last week’s posts, link to a couple of related sites, and announce next week’s guests. Also, since I just gave away a fantasy book, I’m going to give away a science fiction book this week! (If you did sign up to win Dragon Sword and Wind Child, check your email since I notified the winner earlier today.)

Week In Review

There were some fantastic posts this week! Here’s what happened over the last week in case you missed any of it:

Thanks to all of these week’s guests, who gave us a lot to think about and have added substantially to my already huge wishlist!

There were a couple of sites started recently that I wanted to mention since they’ll be good places to go for finding SFF books written by women:

Week Three Guests

Guests for the third week are:

Lynn Flewelling (Nightrunner series, Tamir trilogy)
N. K. Jemisin (The Inheritance trilogy, the upcoming Dreamblood duology)
Sarah from Bookworm Blues
Shara from Calico Reaction (LiveJournal, WordPress)
Lisa Shearin (Raine Benares series)


Today I am giving away one copy of Parable of the Sower, a post-apocalyptic science fiction book written by Octavia E. Butler. I enjoyed this one very much for both its thoughtfulness and the main character, a young woman who refuses to live in ignorance of the state of the world around her and shows strength in her struggle to survive in it.

About Parable of the Sower:

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler

When unattended environmental and economic crises lead to social chaos, not even gated communities are safe. In a night of fire and death Lauren Olamina, a minister’s young daughter, loses her family and home and ventures out into the unprotected American landscape. But what begins as a flight for survival soon leads to something much more: a startling vision of human destiny… and the birth of a new faith.

Read an Excerpt from Parable of the Sower

Giveaway Rules: To be entered in the giveaway, fill out the form below. One entry per person and a winner will be randomly selected. This giveaway is open internationally, but to be eligible to win, you must live in a country that qualifies for free shipping from The Book Depository. The giveaway will be open until the end of the day on Saturday, April 21. The winner has 24 hours to respond once contacted via email, and if I don’t hear from them by then a new winner will be chosen (who will also have 24 hours to respond until someone gets back to me with a place to send the book).

Please note email addresses will only be used for the purpose of contacting the winner. Once the giveaway is over all the emails will be deleted.

Good luck!

Note: Form has been removed now that the giveaway is over.

Thanks to a gift card I got for my birthday, I bought some new books that came out this month that were being recommended around the Internet. I want to read them all right now, but between the day job and this month’s event I’ve barely had time to read lately. So I’m not sure when I’ll get to them since I have a few review copies I’ll be reading next, but they’ll be waiting for me when I do have the time!

Banner of the Damned by Sherwood Smith

Banner of the Damned by Sherwood Smith

This is part of the Sartoran History comprised of the four Inda books, but it’s a stand alone that takes place four centuries after the Inda books (Inda, The Fox, King’s Shield, and Treason’s Shore). It’s available in hardcover and ebook formats, and there is an excerpt available on Amazon.

I couldn’t resist this when Kate Elliott was talking about how wonderful it is on Twitter. First, I’ve been hearing good things about books by Sherwood Smith so I’ve been wanting to read one of her books for a while now. Second, it came with a very high recommendation from Kate Elliott who wrote Cold Fire, which is an incredibly awesome book I loved.

Now – to find some time to read this massive 700 page long hardcover book!

Princess Lasva is about to be named heir to her childless sister, the queen. But, when the queen finally bears an heir, Lasva’s future is shattered. Grief-stricken, she leaves her country of Colend and falls into the arms of Prince Ivandred of Marloven Hesea. His people are utterly different-with their expertise in riding, weaponry, and magic- and the two soon marry.

When the sensational news makes its way to Lasva’s sister, the queen worries for Lasva at the hands of the Marlovens, whose king’s mage is in league with the magical land of Norsunder-considered by Colendi to be their enemy. The queen orders Emras, a scribe, to guard Lasva.

But it may be too late-Lasva is already deeply involved with the Marlovens and their magic. War wages on, and all are forced to redefine love, loyalty, and power…

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielson

The False Prince (The Ascendance Trilogy #1) by Jennifer A. Nielson

The False Prince is available in hardcover, ebook, and audio book. The first chapter in this YA fantasy book is available online.

After reading an excellent review of The False Prince by Thea of The Book Smugglers, I had to read this. She compared it to Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen Thief series – but said she liked both the main character and the story better. This is now something I have to check out for myself.

THE FALSE PRINCE is the thrilling first book in a brand-new trilogy filled with danger and deceit and hidden identities that will have readers rushing breathlessly to the end.

In a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king’s long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner’s motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword’s point — he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage’s rivals have their own agendas as well.

As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner’s sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that, in the end, may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together.

An extraordinary adventure filled with danger and action, lies and deadly truths that will have readers clinging to the edge of their seats.

Summoning by Carol Wolf

Summoning is a debut novel that is available in trade paperback and ebook. An excerpt can be read on Amazon.

This is another one I picked up because of the sheer power of Kate Elliott’s recommendation. Plus I just like discovering novels by new or new-to-me authors.

The World Snake is coming, devourer of Thrace and Atlantis… and the only one standing in its way is Amber, a sixteen-year-old runaway, recently arrived in Los Angeles. Amber is more than just a girl with a stolen ID and an attitude; she is a daughter of the wolf-kind, a shapeshifter able to change forms at will. One night, as Amber prowls the Hollywood Hills in wolf form, she stumbles onto an occult ceremony, interrupting the ritual. As a result, Amber finds herself the unwilling mistress of a handsome demonic servant, Richard. Appearing as a fair youth of eighteen years, Richard is a demon accidentally summoned, then captured, by Dr. John Dee, court magician to Queen Elizabeth I. Richard has been trying for four centuries to free himself from a succession of masters and mistresses, but finds himself bound to Amber, the only one who can protect him from his greatest fear, the herald of the World Snake, the Eater of Souls. But all hell is about to break loose, and Amber and Richard are going to need some allies to stop the Eater of Souls and avert the World Snake, and the battle has only begun. From Carol Wolf comes the urban fantasy debut Summoning, a novel of a wolf girl, a demon boy, and a city on the edge of disaster.

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Today’s guest is Lisa from Starmetal Oak Reviews! Lisa mostly reads and reviews fantasy and science fiction, but she also covers some historical fiction and young adult books. I enjoy Lisa’s blog for her honest and heartfelt reviews, and I also appreciate the fact that she frequently reviews books that I am not seeing talked about on almost every blog I follow.  She also has some giveaways and author guests, and she often posts about upcoming books that look interesting.

Lisa also reviews quite a few SFF books written by women, and she’s going to tell us about a few of her favorites today!

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First, let me say I’m super excited to be guest posting for Kristen’s Women in SF&F Month, just as excited I am to follow the event. This subject is particularly important to me. I love reading speculative fiction written by women. I find that the novels being put out by some female authors these days are getting more awesome by the second. It’s also important to me that we support these authors by buying their books and spreading the word about them.

Thus, today, I’m going to give you a list of books written by authors I don’t think get quite enough attention. While making this list of some of my favorite books, I picked them based on how much I feel they are talked about. They may be award winning or nominated, and maybe even popular in different parts of the world. But I can only go from my perspective, so here it is! I encourage everyone to give them a try if you haven’t already.

Veil of Gold by Kim Wilkins

Veil of Gold by Kim Wilkins

I read this book last year and I absolutely loved it. It’s an urban fantasy set in Russia mixing Russia folklore and magic in a way I never quite experienced. Wilkins is an Australian writer, and the only way I found her was through a book club. Promptly after finishing Veil of Gold, I went out and bought two other novels, The Autumn Castle and Giants of the Frost.

Zoo City by Lauren Beukes

Zoo City by Lauren Beukes

Another urban fantasy novel unlike any I’ve read before. It’s set in South Africa and follows a great heroine, Zinzi. What I loved is that this novel incorporates magic and animals in a unique way and provides an intriguing, if not a little frightening, take on society and magic. I’m betting people have heard of Beukes’ books, especially Zoo City or Moxyland, but I wanted to encourage everyone to go read them anyways.

The Highest Frontier by Joan Slonczewski

The Highest Frontier by Joan Slonczewski

Slonczewski is known for writing hard science fiction and if you read that then you’d know her books. I read The Highest Frontier and enjoyed it a lot, it’s about a school in an orbital space station. The novel contains some of the most fascinating ideas on biology that I’ve read. I really think speculative fiction readers should try to read more hard science fiction from female authors and this is a good place to start.

Broken by Susan Jane Bigelow

Broken by Susan Jane Bigelow

Broken, part of the Extrahumans series, is a dystopian super hero story. There’s definitely a slew of super hero fiction out there, but this one really stood out for me. The word-building is solid and the main character, Broken, is strong female protagonist. This book put Bigelow on my radar and is definitely an author to check out.

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Today’s guest is Jessica, who runs the extensive and informative blog Sci-Fi Fan Letter!  Jessica has reviews of a lot of science fiction and fantasy books, as well as quite a few others (mostly horror and graphic novels). In addition, she has an impressive number of interviews with authors, including Joe Abercrombie, Carol Berg, Guy Gavriel Kay, and N.K. Jemisin. Other features include new author spotlights, fantasy artist spotlights, movie reviews, and reading lists. I’m particularly fond of the large number of reading lists which range from general categories like space opera and steampunk to more specific lists like books about fantasy on the high seas and superheroes. Her newest one is science fiction written by women. There is so much to read on Sci-Fi Fan Letter I could spend hours browsing it. It is like SFF heaven!

So I was delighted when Jessica said she would write a guest post for today, particularly when she told me her choice of topic!

On Expanding Your Reading Experience

Everyone knows the phrase, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”, but what about judging a book by another author’s work?  I work at a bookstore and part of my job is to fit books to each reader’s taste.  But it’s hard to do when so many people have limits on what they’re willing to read.  I’ve had people tell me they don’t like: teen fiction, books by women, hard sf, urban fantasy, books with romance, books with dragons, etc., etc., etc.

When I first started at the store, a manager suggested skimming the backs of books to learn what’s in each section.  Because of this practice I’ve read subjects and genres I would never have considered reading otherwise (business, self-help, cultural studies, thrillers, romance – and I used to be a HUGE anti-romance snob).

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

In fact, during my life I’ve been a snob regarding quite a lot of books.  When I was in grade 9 I got to pick a book to review for English class.  I chose Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights.  I hated it.  Not only that, I somehow got the idea that I therefore hated ALL regency and Victorian books, even though that was the only one I’d read.  It took 8 years for me to try another book from that period, Pride and Prejudice.  I loved it.  I’ve now read numerous books by authors from this period.  It turns out that I do like regency and Victorian literature, I just don’t like Wuthering Heights, Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, David Copperfield…  In other words, there are certain books within that body of literature I don’t like and others that I love.

I’ve had a few instances where men have told me they don’t like books written by women.  I’m just using this as an example since the topic of men not reading books by women is big on the internet right now.  I could also use the reaction of horror I’ve had by some adult women when I tell them the book club book they’re after is in the YA section, as if YA somehow equaled childish writing.  Or any number of other examples.  I can understand men not liking most urban fantasy written by women due to the prevalence of romantic elements (though if that’s the case try Rob Thurman’s Nightlife), or not liking a particular book or author, but to say you don’t like any and all books written by women just shows an ignorance to the wide variety of different fiction written by women.  For example, if you like hard SF have you tried Joan Slonzcewski (Brain Plague), Syne Mitchell (Changeling Plague) or M. J. Locke (Up Against It)?

Brain Plague by Joan Slonczewski Up Against It by M. J. Locke Changeling Plague by Syne Mitchell

If you don’t like particular elements in a genre (romance, mystery, stupid adults, brilliant kids, difficult SF concepts, lack of character development, elves) then find people whose taste you agree with and ask them for suggestions that are a bit outside the genre, or that use those elements in creative ways.  For example, Chris Evans modernized elves by giving them guns in his Iron Elves trilogy.

Indeed, finding someone whose taste you agree with is a good step in broadening your reading.  And you’ll probably be surprised by how many great books are out there that you’ve been missing.

And don’t limit yourself to novel length fiction either.  I’ve always believed that, with a few exceptions, I don’t like short stories.  Well, the last few months have proven me wrong there too.  I’ve been combing Manybooks.net for out of copyright classic SF stories and, again, while I haven’t liked everything, I have enjoyed the majority of the stories.  Not sure where to start?  Try “This World Must Die” by Horace Brown Fyfe (1951), “Time and Time Again” by Henry Beam Piper (1947) or “Keep Out” by Fredric Brown (1954).

So I challenge you to take a subgenre/format you’ve avoided, find some good recommendations, and try reading something outside your comfort zone.  Even if you don’t end up liking the book, you’ll still broaden your horizons and perhaps gain a deeper understanding of why others do like it.  And don’t let one bad story or novel turn you off an entire genre, author, or gender forever.

Jessica Strider works once a week in the SF/F section of a major bookstore in Toronto.  She posts author interviews, themed reading lists, book reviews and more on her blog.  She also posts three times a month on SF Signal.