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This interview is part of the Book of Apex Blog tour.  Want to win a copy of the book for yourself? Click here for some give aways!

What a great experience to get to interview Tim Susman, author of Erzulie Dantor (read the story here, read my review here).  I knew that Tim was involved with small press publishing, but until now I had no idea it was his press that published Ursula Vernon’s Hugo Award winning Digger!  How cool is that?  You can learn more about Tim at his website, but before you click on that, let’s do the interview, ok?

TimSusman

LRR: Your story “Erzulie Dantor” takes place in a disaster ravaged Haiti. Can you tell us what inspired this story?

T.S.: My sister-in-law organized a relief effort from the hospital in Denver where she worked and went with them to Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake. We followed the pictures and stories she sent back, which painted a vivid picture of the devastation and desperation there. That was in the back of my mind when I was researching werewolves of different cultures and found the Haitian je-rouge. It was a mysterious creature in legend and also on the Internet; I could find very little about it. So it occurred to me that where there is disaster and tragedy, there are also people willing to take advantage of the disorientation of others. From there, a story about jealousy and voodoo took place, and when I found Erzulie Dantor in the pantheon of Haitian gods, I had the last piece of the story.

LRR: What is your favorite type of fiction to write? Are there certain ideas or themes you enjoy writing about?

T.S.: I have in the past couple years written science fiction, fantasy, contemporary fiction, mystery, and horror…but if you pin me down to one, I like writing contemporary fantasy. A lot of my longer fiction is written with anthropomorphic animal characters (“furry” stories, about which more below); no matter what the setting, it’s always the characters that push me to finish stories. My works often involve questions of self-discovery or self-actualization, especially in the areas of sexuality or creative inspiration. I don’t like “message” stories, but I think that the best works do contain something that the reader can take away to make his or her life better, and that’s something I try to include in all my work.
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Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00012]Ok blog tour participants and anyone else who has a  copy of The Book of Apex Vol 4, raise your hand if you have a print copy.  it looks wet, doesn’t it? I left the book on the kitchen table a few times, and even my husband wondered why I’d let water get on a book. The magical cover of this book, my friends, is the work of the unbelievably talented Julie Dillon.

(in fact, all of the artwork you see in this post is by Julie Dillon)

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That names rings a bell, doesn’t it? Oh yeah, she also did the cover art of the very first Subterranean Press special edition I bought for myself, Silently And Very Fast, by Catherynne M. Valente.

silenty and fast

So it goes without saying that I was over the moon when Julie agreed to do an interview for this blog tour.  When you’re just browsing through the bookstore, not looking for anything in particular, what do you gravitate towards? Interesting cover art, of course. Julie Dillon makes that cover art. She’s the reason you touch a book.  She’s the reason I expected my finger to come away wet every time I picked up The Book of Apex: Volume 4 of Apex Magazine.

So let’s get to the interview!

LRR: You’ve won the Chelsea award twice, been nominated for the World Fantasy award and you were nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist in 2013. What was it like to learn you had made the Hugo ballot? And speaking of, we’re right in the middle of nomination season. Are you eligible again this year?

J.D.: It was very validating to make the Hugo ballot. I didn’t think I’d be ready for that kind of recognition for another 5 years or so, and I was blown away that I was nominated. I was very honored and flattered that people saw anything of value in what I do. That said, I try not to let awards or nominations affect me too much, and I try to keep learning and working hard regardless of whether or not I am recognized. The recognition definitely helps, though, and goes a long way for helping me to reaffirm my decision to purse art fulltime. Getting awards and nominations encourages me to keep trying even harder.

I do have several pieces that are eligible for the Hugos this year. Andrea Höst was kind enough to put together a tumblr of various artists’ eligible work. My posts are available here and here.

Cover for Long Hidden Anthology

Cover for Long Hidden Anthology

LRR: Did you always want to be an artist? Can you tell us a little about your journey to becoming a professional artist?

J.D.: That’s a tricky question. I was always interested in drawing and creating, but it never really occurred to me that I could pursue art as my profession until my mid twenties. From all I had heard from other people, art was just something you do as a hobby in between your real work and real jobs. I spent much of my college life prepping for other careers, but I was always drawing and painting whenever I had free time. Eventually, thanks to the internet, I started noticing that there were such things as art schools, and professional artists, and people making a living doing a variety of types of art. I started wondering if maybe that was something I could do, too, and slowly I began taking actual art classes and investigating local art schools, and eventually started seeking out more freelance jobs. It took many long years before I got my portfolio up to a level where I was able to have fulltime freelance work, and I probably would have progressed faster if I had believed in myself more earlier on, but all things considered I think I’m doing an okay job of it.

"Breaking Through"

“Breaking Through”

LRR:  What are your thoughts on traditional media (oil, acrylic, etc) vs digital?

J.D.: I think traditional media is vitally important, I think there are a lot of benefits to working in traditional media, and I enjoy doing working with real paint when I get the chance. But I think digital media is a valid tool, one that has it’s own strengths and weaknesses. So often I see people dismissing digital art as somehow cheating or not as valid or important as traditional art, but the computer is just another tool. It doesn’t do the work for you, you still need to have foundational drawing and painting skills to make a good digital piece. I personally prefer working digitally because it allows me to work quickly and cleanly. I don’t have to buy paint or brushes or canvases, I don’t have to wait for paintings to dry before sending them to clients, I don’t have to photograph or scan my final work, and I can make edits immediately and easily. But, I also do not have a physical original painting that I can hang up or sell, and I do miss out on the fun and satisfaction of working with real paint.

"Launch Point"

“Launch Point”

LRR: How long, on average, does it take you to complete a piece of art?

J.D.: It’s hard to tell, since I’m usually working on multiple illustrations that I rotate through, but I’ll usually spend at lease several days or weeks working on something. The actual time spent on any given piece are probably something like 8-20 hours, depending on the complexity.

LRR:  Do you do commissioned pieces as well? How does that creative process differ from when you are creating a piece out of your mind?

J.D.: Most of my work is commissioned, although I don’t post all of it online. The main difference between commissioned work and work I do for myself is that if I’m doing for myself, I don’t have to worry about sticking to an art description or working for a specific audience or project. On the one hand, with commissioned work it’s sometimes nice having an art director to bounce ideas off of, because sometimes it’s difficult narrowing down concepts or compositions. But it’s also nice to be answerable only to myself and to work on projects where I have full control over how the piece progresses.

"Ancient Discovery"

“Ancient Discovery”

LRR: I really enjoyed the Digital Illustration Tutorial you have on your website, it really opened my eyes to all of the behind the scenes work that goes into art creation. do you think you’d do more tutorials like this?

J.D.: Thank you! I’m glad it made at least a little sense; I worry if I’m being coherent or helpful at all when I make those things. I might do more tutorials in the future, although I’m not sure what my focus would be. For the most part, my actual method of painting has remained the same. Any improvements I’ve been making have been because I’ve been going back and trying to work on my art foundation skills more with figure drawing and anatomy studies.

"Nautili"

“Nautili”

Want more of Julie’s artwork? Of course you do! Check out her website, and her deviant art site.

Scattered throughout the month, I’ll be posting reviews of selected stories of The Book of Apex: Volume 4 of Apex Magazine.  If something you read here or on any of the other blogs participating in the blog tour gets your attention, I encourage you seek the story out on the Apex website. And if you like what you see? Consider purchasing a subscription to the magazine, or one of their anthologies.  Consider leaving a comment on their website, or on twitter, or on the blog post. You’ve got an opinion and thoughts? I’d like to hear ‘em.

What I love about the fiction published by Apex is that it’s not straight up scifi, or straight up fantasy, or straight up anything, really. It’s a little bit of this, a little bit of that. It’s true fantastika. Stories that can’t possibly happen in real life, but as you are reading, you so very much *want* it to be happening.  The ultimate in suspension of disbelief. Many of your favorite authors have been published in Apex magazine, along with new authors who are soon to become favorites.  And that’s what Apex does – they take the cream of the crop of the strangest of the strange, scratching that itch you hadn’t known you had until it was relieved.

This is the stuff you can’t get anywhere else, it’s that flavor that’s part bloody sunset, part crystal constellation, part fever dream. It’s like walking into that weird little bar on the corner (you know, the one with no windows? that one.), and playing it cool. You ask the bartender what they recommend, and they bring you a pint of something dark.  You think you know what it is, but that first sip tells you this is something very different. It starts out gentle, even a little sweet, but then ends with an unexpected bite, so sharp you wonder if you’ve bit your lip because you swear you taste blood in your mouth. This is that unlabeled, brewed in the back, only available for people who ask for it by name type of drink.

The 24 Hour Brother, by Christopher Barzak – The first thing you need to know about this story is that you’re not going to get through it without crying. Lewis is excited to finally be an older brother. After the complications of Lewis’s birth, no one expected his mother to be able to carry another child to term. But a miracle happened, and little Joe was born.  but Joe didn’t stay little for long. He cut his first tooth shortly after being born. Within the hour they were chasing him around the hospital.  He’d nearly grown out of his baby clothes by the time his father caught him for the taxi ride home. Within 12 hours he was fully grown, and leaving his 15 year old older brother behind when he went out drinking.  You can see where this is going, can’t you? Joe’s mother knew, the first time she saw him, that she was going to lose him.  There’s something especially tragic about stories where you know from the opening paragraph that it’s going to end badly.  Like I said, you’re not going to get through this one without crying.

The Leavings of the Wolf, by Elizabeth Bear – Dagmar runs to get away from her divorce. Well, it’s a little more complicated than that.  She runs to lose weight.  If she loses enough weight, she’ll be able to pry that wedding band off her finger, that gleaming golden reminder of everything that went horribly wrong in her life.  And interspersed with her running is a floating story line, a dialog between her and an ex. But the thing is, this extra story line? You don’t know when exactly it’s happening. Was it years ago? a few weeks ago? yesterday?   The weight of these few extra lines here and there are like the mark a wedding band leaves on your finger after years of wear: you don’t know anymore who you are without the mark.  Anyways,  on her morning run, Dagmar often sees the same murder of crows, it’s that group she’s been studying, anklebanding, and researching for the University. The crows know her, she knows the them, and she even makes the occasional Thought and Memory joke.  One day she meets someone who might be a God, it’s not a joke anymore. And he tells her why she’s still running.  We’re all running from something, and sometimes it’s only the fear of losing a mark that tells us who we thought we were supposed to be.  I’ve run hot and cold with Bear’s fiction in the past, and this one hit me hard.  In a good way.

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Hi Everyone,

Seems like January flew by in the blink of an eye, and February is upon us. That said, welcome to The Book of Apex: Volume Four of Apex Magazine Blog Tour! We’ll be journeying through The Book of Apex: Volume Four of Apex Magazine, which includes all the original fiction published in Apex Magazine during it’s fourth year.  All throughout the month of February, authors will be showcased, short stories will be reviewed, parties will be had, minds will be blown, giveaways will be won.  Maybe coldmageddon will even end and your kids will have an entire week of school without a snow day.

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Never read anything from Apex Books? The fiction they publish defies categorization and pushes the boundaries. These stories are edgy, dark, and surreal, sneaking up on you, and demanding to be chewed on for a while. If you’re looking for something a little strange, a little odd, tilted from mainstream and sure to keep you reading, you’re in the right place: you’re in the Book of Apex Blog tour.

Here’s the tentative schedule, and as you can see, there is a ton of bloggers and authors (and an artist and a publisher!!) involved:

Feb 2 Review at Little Red Reviewer, My Bookish Ways interviews Jason Sizemore

Feb 3 Little Red Reviewer interviews cover artist Julie Dillon

Feb 4 Review at Dab of Darkness, Cecil Castilucci guest posts at Just Book Reading

Feb 5 Review at Rinn Reads, Little Red Reviewer interviews Michael Pevzner, A.C. Wise guest posts over at My Bookish Ways

Feb 6 Review at Lynn’s Book Blog, Rinn Reads interviews Rahul Kanakia

Feb 7 Review at Over The Effing Rainbow

Feb 8 Review at Tethyan Books, Dab of Darkness interviews Kat Howard

Feb 9 Books Without Any Pictures interviews Thoraiya Dyer, Katharine Duckett guest posts at Two Dudes in An Attic

Feb 10 Review at Many A True Nerd, Ian Nichols guest posts at Susan Hated Literature

Feb 11 Review at Two Dudes in an Attic, Rinn Reads interviews Adam Troy-Castro

Feb 12 Review at Books Without Any Pictures, My Bookish Ways interviews A.C. Wise

Feb 13 Little Red Reviewer interviews Ian Nichols, Adam-Troy Castro guest posts at Rinn Reads

Feb 14 Review at The Bastard Title, Alex Bledsoe guest posts at Lynn’s Book Blog

Feb 15 Review at Just Book Reading, Alec Austin guest posts at Many A True Nerd

Feb 16 Books Without Any Pictures interviews Marie Brennan, David Schwartz guest posts at The Bastard Title

Feb 17 Review at This is How She Fight Start, Lettie Prell guest posts at Worlds in Ink

Feb 18 The Bastard Title interviews David Schwartz, Sarah Dalton guest posts at Dab of Darkness

Feb 19 Review at Worlds in Ink, Little Red Reviewer interviews Alethea Kontis, Rahul Kanakia guest posts at My Bookish Ways

Feb 20 Review at Nashville Bookworm, Marie Brennan guest posts at Books Without Any Pictures

Feb 21 Review at My Shelf Confessions, Little Red Reviewer interviews Cecil Castellucci

Feb 22 Many a True Nerd interviews Alec Austin, Thoraiya Dyer guest posts at Tethyan Books

Feb 23 Review at Confessions of a Bibliomaniac, Little Red Reviewer interviews Tim Susman, Alethea Kontis guest posts at Over the Effing Rainbow

Feb 24 Review at Worlds in Ink, Michael Pezvner guest posts at My Shelf Confessions

Feb 25 Review at Susan Hated Literature, Lynn’s Book Blog interviews Alex Bledsoe

Feb 26 Dab of Darkness interviews Sarah Dalton, Tim Susman guest posts at Nashville Bookworm

Feb 27 Review at Fantasy Review Barn, Two Dudes in an Attic interviews Katharine Duckett

Feb 28 Worlds in Ink interviews Lettie Prell and Jason Sizemore guest posts at Confessions of a Bibliomaniac

Wow! Makes me wish there were more days in the month!

A while ago I reviewed Guy Hasson’s latest short story collection, THE EMOTICON GENERATION. Everything from an even quicker than twitter language to seeing the last moments of a loved one’s life, to how to deal with immature artificial intelligences that become too smart for their own good, the technologies Hasson plays with in these stories are right around the corner, making some of them too close for comfort. Curious? go read my review.

emoticon

And Mr. Hasson doesn’t just do science fiction. He’s also currently serializing his fairy tale novel, TICKLING BUTTERFLIES, with new entries posting three times a week on his blog. Every time I think I’m caught up, he goes and posts more.  If you enjoyed Catherynne Valente’s The Orphan’s Tales, or enjoy fables and mythology of any kind, you will get a kick out of TICKLING BUTTERFLIES.  Click the title to get to the index of entries.

Now that your appetite is whetted, I’m thrilled to announce the THE EMOTICON GENERATION blog tour, with stops all over the blogosphere! Kicking off right here, on April 2nd, there will be reviews, interviews, guest posts and giveaways. Here’s the current list of participating bloggers:

Over the Effing Rainbow
Dab of Darkness
Attack of the Books
Postcards from La La Land
My Bookish Ways
Lynn’s Book Blog
Two Dudes in an Attic
A Fantastical Librarian

and it’s not too late to get involved! If you would like to be part of this blog tour, comment below, and I’ll be in touch.


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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.