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July 2011

George R.R. Martin Answers Your Questions


We are so excited to welcome bestselling fantasy writer George R.R. Martin to Amazon’s offices for a video chat! “The American Tolkien” will be visiting us in a few weeks, and we thought we’d share our luck with you, our faithful Omni readers! From now through July 27, email with the subject line "George R.R. Martin" with your burning questions about the Seven Kingdoms, Jon Snow’s mysterious parentage, and his tips for sitting comfortably on a throne fashioned of swords. We can’t guarantee that George will tell you who Jon Snow’s mother is, or even that he’ll have time to answer all of your questions, but here’s your shot!

Navy SEALS and Special Agents: Crime-Fighting Contemporary Romance Heroes


Last week on Omni, we highlighted our #1 pick from our Best of the Year So Far list for Romance, Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart, by Sarah Maclean.

This week, we’re featuring two more of our BOTYSF picks in Romance—this time focusing on the contemporary crime-fighting heroes from Breaking Point, by Pamela Clare, and Face of Danger, by Roxanne St. Claire. Both of these stories were taut and action-packed, and both featured hard-as-nails heroes who were more than just white knights sent to rescue the damsels in distress.

In Breaking Point, Clare crafts a realistic, ripped-from-the headlines story about a journalist, Natalie Benoit, who is captured by a terrifying drug lord. Also imprisoned at the same time is a former Navy SEAL, Zach McBride. Natalie and Zach take turns saving each others’ lives as they escape the cartel and make their way through the scorching-hot (in more ways than one, wink, wink) Sonoran desert and over the U.S. border. But getting Natalie safely home is only half the battle…

In Face of Danger, tomboyish private investigator Vivi Angelino takes on a case to protect a Hollywood starlet by acting as her body double, and by-the-book FBI agent Colton Lang is sent along to protect Vivi. Vivi soon discovers that the starlet is into more than bad movies, and Vivi and Colton join forces to uncover the truth about the actress’s dark past.

The plot and the action in Breaking Point kept me glued to my chair for an entire afternoon—I literally could not put it down. I loved the progression of Zach and Natalie’s relationship, and I loved that Natalie did her fair share of butt-kicking.

What I loved best about Face of Danger was the strongly developed personalities of Vivi and Colton. Our first glimpse of Vivi is at a skate park, and she’s dressed in clothes normal women would wear on the weekend—baggy t-shirt and comfy cargo pants. It was refreshing to read about a heroine who isn’t perfectly polished in stylish, sexy clothes every hour of the day. And Special Agent Colton Lang is kind of a hoot—he struck me as a Mr. Hospital Corners in his Dockers and ironed polo shirts. Vivi and Colton are an odd couple, for sure, but when they finally get together…it all fits.

Did you love Breaking Point and Face of Danger? Let us know what you loved—or didn’t—in the comments!

Jonathan Wood's Smoking-Hot Debut Novel "No Hero"


Sometimes sheer bravado and break-neck pacing can lift up a potential cliché into something more. In the case of Jonathan Wood’s first novel, No Hero, the author has created a riff on supernatural noir that’s rollicking good fun and acknowledges its debts with good humor. It also one-ups its influences with some excellent action scenes. What’s the set up? The main character, a cop, asks himself one question a lot: "What would Kurt Russell do?" It’s not a question he’s had to answer a lot—until a secret government agency recruits him to fight the Progeny, be-tentacled horrors from another dimension. Omni checked in with Wood to find out more… Any mysteries about publishing solved in prepping for the release of your first novel?

Jonathan Wood: Well, I know about the robes and the animal sacrifices now. But I'm still only a novice initiate. Your protagonist asks “What would Kurt Russell do?” First of all, do you think Kurt Russell would like your novel, and secondly what sparked the idea of having your detective reference noir and horror in pop culture?

Wood: I honestly can't speak for Mr. Russell's literary tastes. I get the impression most of his characters wouldn't have time for it. They'd be too busy busting caps and hitting on outrageously blonde women. As for the pop culture references, they're largely there to highlight the disparity between movie heroes and reality. Hopefully it adds a human frailty to Arthur (the protagonist) when you compare what Kurt Russell might do with what he has to do (which is mostly trying to not soil his underwear). What is it about mixing cosmic horror and the detective genre that appealed to you?

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George R.R. Martin's "A Dance with Dragons": Complexity, Strangeness, and Adventure


This morning the blogosphere, the review-o-sphere, and just about all of the major print media outlets exploded with reviews and articles about George R.R. Martin’s A Dance with Dragons, the fifth novel in his Songs of Ice and Fire fantasy saga. It’s perhaps the most anticipated title of the last few years, with the hype reaching the proverbial fever pitch in part because of the recent conclusion of the first season of the intelligent, brilliantly executed HBO series based on the books.

My own review just appeared in the Los Angeles Times and after some context about the series, I asked the question of whether A Dance with Dragons was worth the wait. My answer?

“Absolutely. Indeed, Martin's decision to release a sizable chunk of his story-in-progress as the fourth installment---the underrated A Feast for Crows (2005)---now seems wise and actually generous to readers. Originally intended for release as one novel, Feast and Dance overlap in terms of the time period covered, but they are vastly different. Feast chronicled aftermath, the dying fall after the great battle that ended the third book, A Storm of Swords. But A Dance With Dragons, which overtakes Feast chronologically after about 600 of its 1,000 pages, functions more as a novel about exploration and quests.”

In addition to noting that Martin is now only two books away from completion of one of the best fantasy series in history, I wrote that “Martin's love for sophisticated, deeply strange fantasy permeates Dance like a phantasmagorical fever dream.” Although there is now plenty of non-escapist heroic fantasy being written, Martin’s work stands a step or two above not just by dint of his scope but also this enduring, wonderful strangeness--something you don’t see much of in NYT bestsellers, if we’re to be honest.

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An Essay from Dana Reinhardt, Author of "The Summer I Learned to Fly"

Dana Reinhardt is the author of four YA novels, including the 2011 Sidney Taylor award-winner, The Things a Brother Knows.  Reinhardt's first middle grade novel, The Summer I Learned to Fly, comes out next week (July 12) and we love it so much we made it the spotlight pick for July's Best of the Month in middle grade books.  In this essay, we get a glimpse of young Dana Reinhardt, and the inspiration behind her book.

My mother, like Drew's, owned a gourmet cheese shop when I was growing  up, and I spent many of my afternoons and weekends working there. It  was a place where I felt at home, where I loved to go and just hang around. And like Drew, at age thirteen I had a much easier time relating to adults than to other kids, so my mother's store offered me a place to be with people I could talk to while escaping the puzzling world of junior high.

Though I did leave the day-old food in the alley, and though it did  always disappear, I never found out who took it. That is to say, I  didn't find my Emmett there. Real friendship came later for me. It  took a while to find the people among whom I could be my true self.

I think of this book as an old-fashioned coming of age story--the  kind I really loved when I was a young reader. The kind that's about the moment when we first begin to discover who we are, what matters to  us, and what we would risk everything for.

This is my fifth book, but it just might be the closest I've gotten to the book I've always wanted to write, so I hope you enjoy it. Thanks, as always, for giving it a chance. --Dana Reinhardt

The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities: Cherie Priest and Mike Mignola Exclusives


Some sequels take awhile to marinate and simmer. Eight years after the publication of The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases, a fiction anthology of fake diseases, my wife and I have published the follow-up: The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities. After the publication of the fake disease guide—which featured an all-star cast including Neil Gaiman and is still found with real medical guides in libraries—we received several offers to do another book in the series. Fake film guides. Fake book guides. A second fake disease guide.

And why not? The original was reprinted in three languages and did extremely well. The readings for that anthology were hilarious—our authors dressing up in lab coats and bringing beakers as props. People just walking by heard terms like “motile snarcoma” and “ballistic organ syndrome” and thought at first they had happened upon a real medical conference. The anthology went on to be a finalist for the Hugo Award and World Fantasy Award, among others.

But none of these sequel ideas really appealed to us. It wasn’t until we were out hiking and talking about eccentric collections that a eureka-type idea came to us: Dr. Lambshead, the supposed creator of the disease guide, had had a cabinet of curiosities in his basement, each artifact with its own secret history and story! Not only did the idea seem fresh, but we could include much more art and photography than in the first volume. Some of the writers could even create stories about the objects around the images, and we’d have the flexibility to include traditional plotted stories along with the more Borgesian material.

The result, published this week by HarperCollins, includes a virtual who’s who of imaginative fantasy creators: Holly Black, Naomi Novik, China Mieville, Carrie Vaughn Alan Moore, Lev Grossman Tad Williams, Helen Oyeyemi, Jeffrey Ford, N.K. Jemisin, Garth Nix, Ted Chiang, Greg Broadmore, Charles Yu, Jake von Slatt, and about 65 more. Famous Czech animator Jan Svankmajer even has a piece of art in the book.

Among the unique features of the Lambshead Cabinet are four original images by Hellboy creator Mike Mignola. When sending them to us, Mignola requested to work with particular writers, including Cherie Priest. In an Omni exclusive, here’s both an excerpt from Priest’s story and the Mignola piece that Priest dubbed “The Clockroach.” (The full text comes complete with hilarious historical footnotes as a counterpoint to the generally serious nature of the story.)

Continue reading "The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities: Cherie Priest and Mike Mignola Exclusives" »

K.W. Jeter on a Steampunk Summer--With Shadows


K.W. Jeter has always been an idiosyncratic writer, so it’s somewhat ironic that he’s become so associated with Steampunk due to his novels Morlock Nights and Infernal Devices. It’s true he did come up with the term “Steampunk,” offered half-humorously in a Locus Magazine letter to the editor in 1987 to describe those novels and the work of Tim Powers and James Blaylock. However, his work before and after Morlock and Infernal has been decidedly darker and more transgressive.

Recently, Angry Robot’s gorgeous reissues of Morlock Nights and Infernal Devices placed Jeter back at the center of the current Steampunk craze, recently documented in books like The Steampunk Bible and 1,001 Steampunk Creations. But Jeter has also published a new novel, The Kingdom of Shadows that shares another side of this hard-to-pin down writer. Omnivoracious caught up with Jeter recently to talk briefly about his current fiendish schemes… What are you working on?

K.W. Jeter: Right now I’m working on the long-delayed sequel to Infernal Devices. Titled Fiendish Schemes it’s contracted to Tor Books. Hopefully, people should be able to read it sometime next year. Of course, there’s an intimidation factor involved in picking up a subgenre that I’ve let lie fallow for nearly a quarter-century; in that time, there have been a lot of really good writers who have been working in that particular Victorian retro-fantasy field, and they’ve produced a lot of entertaining, interesting books. So the competition has definitely upped its game, so to speak. How do you perceive your role in creating the Steampunk subgenre?

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A Q&A with Shaun Morey, Author of "Wahoo Rhapsody"

Shaun Morey is the author of the bestselling Incredible Fishing Stories series and a contributor to Sun magazine. His first novel, Wahoo Rhapsody, goes on sale today. Read on to find out what inspired Shaun to write about drug smugglers, Baja, and, of course, fishing:


Question: Wahoo Rhapsody is one part international mystery, one part drug caper, and one part big fish story. What gave you the idea to mix the three?

Shaun Morey: A combination of a short attention span, a best-selling fishing book (Incredible Fishing Stories), and my discovery of pot floating in the Sea of Cortez. I blame tequila for the short attention span, dumb luck for the best-selling fishing book, and a combination of both for stumbling across kilos of lost dope. And because Baja California is mostly lawless it was ripe for a novel. Or jail. Or worse.

Question: You won the inaugural Abbey-Hill short story contest, and you're a three-time winner of the Los Angeles Times novel writing contest. Did these prizes push you to write Wahoo Rhapsody, or is it a story that's been in the back of your mind for years?

Shaun Morey: The wins were great fun, but a mystery series set in Baja had been marinating for years. Baja is like Florida without laws. A land of expatriates, rapscallions, outlaws, whackos, drunks, drunk whackos... It was easy to fit in.

Question: You've got to be a good storyteller to be a fisherman, don't you? But tell us honestly, what's the biggest fish you've ever caught?

Shaun Morey: Size isn't everything. My most memorable catch--other than the occasional floating kilo--was a Mahi Mahi that beached itself on a remote stretch of Baja coastline. I raced down the sand and bear hugged it. But fish are slimy for a reason. A wave washed over us and the fish slipped free. I came that close to making it into my own fishing book. Which would have been weird, so maybe it worked out best.

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Best of the Month: July 2011


1. Sex on the Moon by Ben Mezrich

In this true story of love and adventure, nothing can stop Thad Roberts from keeping a promise to his girlfriend Rebecca--not even NASA security. When he's in the lab, Roberts is a brilliant NASA co-op intern, but the other interns know him better for devising thrill-seeking activities, like cliff diving and sneaking into the shuttle simulator. When he realizes that scientists consider moon rocks worthless once they’ve been in experiments, Roberts starts to wonder… if they’re worthless, how could stealing them be wrong? Ben Mezrich, author of The Accidental Billionaires (which inspired the movie The Social Network), starts each section with excerpts of Roberts’s love letters to Rebecca from prison, providing a love-drunk context for Roberts’ journey as the moon rock heist balloons from idle fantasy to stark reality. Behind-the-scenes looks at NASA’s Johnson Space Center and thriller-like action that ranges from the U.S. to Belgium make for an enthralling read for anyone who ever dreamed about being an astronaut--or promised to give someone else the moon. --Malissa Kent

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Graphic Novel Friday: Best of the Year So Far

Best-2011-so-far_120._V158824880_Earlier this week, we unveiled our 2011 Best Books of the Year So Far store, and the editors’ picks cover thirteen subject categories and an overall Top 10. If you are a regular reader of our Graphic Novel Friday column (thanks, Mom!), several of our selections in Comics and Graphic Novels should be familiar--but we still kept a few close to the vest. Our favorites span superhero, indie, young adult, literary, and memoir comics, while a couple picks defy classification. A closer look at all the books follows the jump.

  1. Mr. Wonderful: A Love Story by Daniel Clowes
  2. The Cardboard Valise by Ben Katchor
  3. iZombie Vol. 1: Dead to the World by Chris Roberson and Mike Allred
  4. Thor by Walter Simonson Omnibus by Walter Simonson and Sal Buscema
  5. Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol
  6. Strange Tales II by Various
  7. Daytripper by Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon
  8. Life with Mr. Dangerous by Paul Hornschemeier
  9. Vietnamerica: A Family's Journey by GB Tran
  10. Mid-Life by Joe Ollman

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