Guest Post: “On Worldbuilding” by Rhonda Mason

masonr-authorpicIn the beginning, there was the protagonist, and the author saw that it was good.

My worldbuilding process starts after the creation of the protagonist, never before. I write novels to tell the story of a person, not the story of a world, and all of my novels have sprung from a first impression of the main character. For The Empress Game trilogy it was an image of Kayla holding a kris dagger in each hand, fighting another woman in a pit while criminals cheered her on.

Once I have that first impression of a character, the worldbuilding begins. Who is she? (The exiled princess from a rival planet) Where is she? (Hidden on the slum side of her hated enemy’s border planet) Why is she there? (Trying to raise credits to buy passage back to her homeworld) And, most importantly, why is she special? Why are we telling her story, and not someone else’s? Continue reading

New Books (July #2)


[My home is a little bit like this, now…]

Featuring: Mitch Albom, David V. Barrett, D. Randall Blythe, Aliette de Bodard, Charles Bukowski, Umberto Eco, Carolyn Ives Gilman, Victor Gischler, Mark Hodder, Mitchell Hogan, Howard Andrew Jones, Stephen P. Kiernan, Ted Kosmatka, Stina Leicht, Shanna Mahin, George Mann, Ari Marmell, Rhonda Mason, Brian Panowich, Adam Rakunas, Andy Remic, Karin Slaughter, Paul Theroux, Simon Toyne, Tony Tulathimutte Continue reading

Upcoming Books from Titan that Caught My Eye…

I was on Titan Books’ website yesterday, and I saw that some more upcoming titles have been added. Here are a handful of the titles that caught my eye…

BrockwayR-TheUnnoticablesUKsmRobert Brockway, THE UNNOTICEABLES (July 7th)

There are angels, and they are not beneficent or loving. But they do watch over us. They watch our lives unfold, analyzing us for repeating patterns and redundancies. When they find them, the angels simplify those patterns, they remove the redundancies, and the problem that is you gets solved.

Carey doesn’t much like that idea. As a punk living in New York City, 1977, Carey is sick and tired of watching the strange kids with the unnoticeable faces abduct his friends. He doesn’t care about the rumors of tarmonsters in the sewers, or unkillable psychopaths invading the punk scene — all he wants is drink cheap beer and dispense ass-kickings.

Kaitlyn isn’t sure what she’s doing with her life. She came to Hollywood in 2013 to be a stunt woman, but last night a former teen heartthrob tried to eat her, her best friend has just gone missing, and there’s an angel outside her apartment.

Whatever she plans on doing with her life, it should probably happen in the few remaining minutes she has left of it.

There are angels. There are demons. They are the same thing. It’s up to Carey and Kaitlyn to stop them. The survival of the human race is in their hands.

We are, all of us, well and truly screwed.

Given the cover, I imagine it’ll be difficult to miss this one… Brockway is an editor for, and The Unnoticeables is an interesting-looking novel. I’ve already read some of it, and it was… different. I certainly enjoyed one of two protagonists’ voices more than other. Looks like it will appeal to fans of dark-and-gritty urban fantasy, like Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim. The novel is published in North America by Tor Books.


GoldbergT-GangsterlandUKTod Goldberg, GANGSTERLAND (Out Now)

Sal Cupertine is a legendary hit man for the Chicago Mafia, known for his ability to get in and out of a crime without a trace. Until now, that is. His first-ever mistake forces Sal to botch an assassination, killing three undercover FBI agents in the process. This puts too much heat on Sal, and he knows this botched job will be his death sentence to the Mafia. So he agrees to their radical idea to save his own skin.

A few surgeries and some intensive training later, and Sal Cupertine is gone, disappeared into the identity of Rabbi David Cohen. Leading his growing congregation in Las Vegas, overseeing the population and the temple and the new cemetery, Rabbi Cohen feels his wicked past slipping away from him, surprising even himself as he spouts quotes from the Torah or the Old Testament. Yet, as it turns out, the Mafia isn’t quite done with him yet. Soon the new cemetery is being used as both a money and body-laundering scheme for the Chicago family. And that rogue FBI agent on his trail, seeking vengeance for the murder of his three fellow agents, isn’t going to let Sal fade so easily into the desert.

I first learned about Gangsterland from Goldberg’s North American publisher, Counterpoint. It looks interesting.


KurlandM-ABM1-TooSoonDeadUKMichael Kurland, TOO SOON DEAD (November 27th)

A witty and atmospheric 1930s New York mystery series, following the adventures of Morgan DeWitt and his mentor, columnist extraordinaire, Alexander Brass.

Nefarious doings among movers and shakers in Depression-era New York City animate a lively chase for a story-and a murderer-for newspaper nightclub columnist Alexander Brass. It all begins when a furtive tipster promises an explosive story and gives Brass an envelope filled with photographs of several powerful people caught in compromising sexual positions. Intrigued, Brass sends a newspaper stringer to follow the mystery man. When the stringer is murdered, Brass and his team resolve to find the killer, running the gauntlet of blackmailing Nazis, accommodating nymphomaniacs and US senators on the way.

The cover caught my eye. I like the vintage art style. Too Soon Dead sounds interesting. A long wait, though…


MarmellA-MO2-HallowPointAri Marmell, HALLOW POINT (May 22nd)

The Spear of Lugh, one of the four Kingly Hallows of Ireland is in Chicago. And everyone, everyone wants it, for it is said that he who carries the spear into battle cannot be defeated. Among those who seek it are an agent of the infamous Wild Hunt; a mobster who knows far more about these things than he should; and of course both the Seelie and Unseelie Courts – the last people PI Mick Oberon would want getting hold of the spear…

I enjoyed the first Mick Oberon novel, Hot Lead, Cold Iron, so I’m rather looking forward to Hallow Point. If you haven’t tried Marmell’s fantasy novels, I’d definitely recommend those, too — start with The Conqueror’s Shadow (Gollancz UK/Spectra US) and Thief’s Covenant (Pyr).


MasonR-EmpressGameRhonda Mason, EMPRESS GAME (July 10th)

One seat on the intergalactic Sakien Empire’s supreme ruling body, the Council of Seven, remains unfilled, that of the Empress Apparent. The seat isn’t won by votes or marriage. It’s won in a tournament of ritualized combat in the ancient tradition. Now that tournament, the Empress Game, has been called and the women of the empire will stop at nothing to secure political domination for their homeworlds. Kayla Reunimon, a supreme fighter, is called to battle it out in the arena.

The battle for political power isn’t contained by the tournament’s ring, however. The empire’s elite gather to forge, strengthen or betray alliances in a dance that will determine the fate of the empire for a generation. With the empire wracked by a rising nanovirus plague and stretched thin by an ill-advised planet-wide occupation of Ordoch in enemy territory, everything rests on the woman who rises to the top.

Another cover that caught my eye. It has a bit of a comic-book feel to it. Synopsis makes it sound interesting, too – the cover made me think Empress Game would be fantasy, but it’s clearly SF. Also – look at those cold, dead eyes! Scary business. Perhaps something for fans of Kameron Hurley’s God’s War?


NewmanK-SecretsOfDrearcliffGrangeSchoolKim Newman, SECRETS OF DREARCLIFF GRANGE SCHOOL (October 9th)

A week after Mother found her sleeping on the ceiling, Amy Thomsett is delivered to her new school, Drearcliff Grange in Somerset. Although it looks like a regular boarding school, Amy learns that Drearcliff girls are special, the daughters of criminal masterminds, outlaw scientists and master magicians. Several of the pupils also have special gifts like Amy’s, and when one of the girls in her dormitory is abducted by a mysterious group in black hoods, Amy forms a secret, superpowered society called the Moth Club to rescue their friend. They soon discover that the Hooded Conspiracy runs through the School, and it’s up to the Moth Club to get to the heart of it.

I haven’t read anything by Newman in years. I really don’t know why – all of his novels sound fantastic. And the covers have been really spectacular, recently. The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School sounds delightfully twisted and intriguing. Rather looking forward to giving this a try.


RosenLAC-DepthUKLev AC Rosen, DEPTH (June 5th)

Depth combines hardboiled mystery and dystopian science fiction in a future where the rising ocean levels have left New York twenty-one stories under water and cut off from the rest of the United States. But the city survives, and Simone Pierce is one of its best private investigators. Her latest case, running surveillance on a potentially unfaithful husband, was supposed to be easy. Then her target is murdered, and the search for his killer points Simone towards a secret from the past that can’t possibly be real—but that won’t stop the city’s most powerful men and women from trying to acquire it for themselves, with Simone caught in the middle.

I already spotted this mentioned by Rosen’s North American publisher, Regan Arts. I think Depth sounds really interesting. Looking forward to reading it. I know it’s probably cliche, but I really like stories set in New York, and especially quirky and/or dystopian ones. (Hence my love for Brian Wood’s DMZ Vertigo Comics series — read it you must!)


SnodgrassM-E3-EdgeOfDawnUKMelinda Snodgrass, EDGE OF DAWN (August 21st)

The final battle approaches for a band of modern paladins, fighting for the light of science and reason, and against an ancient supernatural army poised to destroy the world.

What do you do when the Earth is under assault from monstrous creatures by alternate dimensions and you’re the only person who can wield the weapon that can destroy them? That’s the situation facing Richard Oort, hero of the Edge novels. 

Lonely and overwhelmed after a series of terrifying, catastrophic global and personal events, Richard is still determined to save the world from the horrific Old Ones. He goes undercover in a Christian fundamentalist compound, playing house with an attractive FBI agent. At first, this only serves to increase his loneliness, missing his real family, but against all odds discovers another unique human who can use the paladin’s weapon, one who might be able to join him and lighten the burden of responsibility. There’s only one problem — Mosi is a nine-year-old Navajo girl.

Their enemies are trying to kill both Richard and Mosi — and have already killed Mosi’s family. To keep her safe Richard becomes her guardian, but an error in judgement leads to disaster and betrayal, and now the odd pair will need to summon all their strength to survive the coming battle. From the American southwest to a secret society in Turkey, the paladin and his ward try to stay in front of their enemies, but the world is at stake — and time is running short.

Melinda Snodgrass is part of George R.R. Martin’s writing group — she has worked on the Wild Cards series, for example. That’s how I first heard of her work, and since then I’ve learned about the Edge Series, which sounds rather interesting. The first two novels – The Edge of Reason and The Edge of Ruin – have been available in the US for some time, but they only recently came to the UK. The Edge of Dawn is the anticipated final volume. Tor Books, who publish in the US, have re-jacketed the series.