ConGregate in High Point this weekend!

ConGregate 2: Scoundrels and Rogues is set to open at the Radisson Hotel in High Point tomorrow, with writer guests of honor Timothy Zahn and Michael Stackpole, tons of programming, gaming, parties, and more, including Saturday evening’s presentation of this year’s Manly Wade Wellman Award. I’m looking forward to seeing so many friends old and new, including John Hartness, A.J. Hartley, Laura Haywood-Cory, Emily Lavin Leverett, Paula S. Jordan, Chris Kennedy, Darin Kennedy, Debra Killeen, Steven S. Long, Gail Z. Martin, Misty Massey, James Maxey, Margaret S. McGraw, Jay Posey, Gray Rinehart, Edmund R. Schubert, Rich Sigfrit, Michael G. Willians, Allen and Darcy Wold, and on and on. It’s going to be fantastic!


And while my schedule doesn’t quite permit it, I highly, highly recommend taking the train to the convention if you can. The High Point Amtrak station (HPT) is literally half a block from the hotel, with multiple trains daily from Raleigh, Cary, Durham, Greensboro, Burlington, Charlotte, and beyond. The routes to look far are the Crescent as well as the Carolinian and Piedmont. That’s how I got to StellarCon a couple of times when it was held at the High Point Radisson and it was just a fantastic trip. See you there?

N.C. Amtrak


Read Across Durham Event Seeks Volunteers

UPDATE: This event has been rescheduled for Monday, March 23 from its original March 2 scheduled date.

Karlene Fyffe Phillips, Manager of Family Literacy and Community Services for Durham County Library, writes to ask for help recruiting volunteers for Read Across Durham, a city-wide event taking place in every 3rd grade classroom: “I need your help as we begin recruiting volunteers for our Read Across Durham event scheduled for March 23. Please share the link with as many folks as possible. We need volunteer readers for every third grade classroom. The details are included in the link.”

The details include: “Volunteers are needed on (Monday) March 23, 2015, 9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. to read to third graders. We will meet at 9:00 a.m. at the DPS Staff Development Center for a mini training and presentation. The address is 2107 Hillandale Road, Durham, NC 27705. Breakfast snack items will be available from 9-9:30.”

Interested volunteers can click on “Sign Up” links at the event’s VolunteerSignup page:

Durham County Library

The Hardest Part: Lou Anders on Frostborn

In his ten years and counting tenure at Pyr, award-winning editor and art director Lou Anders has been on the other side of the desk from many fantastic fantasy novels and their authors, from James Enge’s Blood of Ambrose to Clay and Susan Griffith’s Vampire Empire and Allen Steele’s Apollo’s Outcasts, he’s made suggestions and fought for cuts and rewrites. As he writes here, he intended to (and in fact did) approach writing a novel with a willingness to revise to sell, but something happened along the way that turned the editing process into the hardest part of seeing his debut novel, Frostborn, published. Frostborn is the first book in Anders’s “Thrones and Bones” series for young readers, “a thoroughly enjoyable Viking-infused middle grade fantasy for boys and girls and their parents, with a winning combination of board gaming, frost giants, barrow mounds, and (of course!) dragons; fairly equal parts The Hobbit and (yes!) The Lion King with How to Train Your Dragon and The Black Cauldron flavoring atop a foundation of board games.” (Quoting myself, reviewing the audiobook elsewhere.) I’m already indebted to Lou for his kind words about Bull Spec early on, and for giving me the time for an in-depth, at-length interview in Bull Spec #4, and I hope you’re as interested here in what he has to say as I was.

Frostborn with Blurb

By Lou Anders:

When I wrote my first manuscript, the agent I was courting put me through an intense rewrite before he would agree to take me on and another one after he did. I told him I’d do anything to get it where it needed to be, and at one point we were debating having me rewrite the entire book to take it from third person to first person.

When I wrote my second manuscript, having already put it through several rewrites, I rewrote the entire thing to alter it from a young adult to a middle grade novel at the behest of an editor who thought she would be able to pick it up if I did.

My motto was “do what it takes to sell” and don’t be precious about anything. Read the rest of this entry »

The Exploding Spaceship Recommends Some Good UK Books for US Holiday-goers


This column features some good reads for all ages which are not currently available in the US.  Many US fans are traveling to the UK for conventions and holidays during the summer months so Your Humble Reviewers thought to provide some suggestions for book souvenirs and gifts.

For the middle grades, we highly recommend The Book of Beasts (paperback from Head of Zeus) by John and Carole Barrowman which is the third volume in their Hollow Earth trilogy. The first two books are available in the US, but volume three has not reached the American side of the Atlantic yet.  These books are very fast-paced fantasy adventures featuring twins who magically animate through their art. They are set on an island off the coast of Scotland (it doesn’t really exist but features of it come from real Scottish places).  The third volume sees the twins separated for most of the book, and so makes the characters change quite a bit and grow in unexpected ways. This is our favorite currently ongoing middle grades series.  The pacing and excitement make this a good choice for reluctant readers and since the twins are Emily and Matt, it is a good choice for either sex. Plotting is good enough that older teens and adults will enjoy it too. And yes, if you Doctor Who and Torchwood fans thought the name was familiar, that is the actor who plays Captain Jack Harkness and his older sister who write the series.

Book of Beasts UK cover 21570450

For all ages over about ten years, we recommend the War-Fighting Manuals (small hardbacks from Gollancz), an interesting series of little handbooks set in a fantasy world where Orcs, Elves and Dwarves are constantly at war and the humans are sort of bystanders. Den Patrick has written 3 very engrossing little books called, Elves War-Fighting Manual, Dwarves War-Fighting Manual, and Orcs War-Fighting Manual. The manuals are from the viewpoint of a human named Sebastian Venghaus, who has extensively researched the three cultures by living with them for an extended period of time.  Each book talks about the weapons, armor, and culture of the race plus you get an idea of how the human is treated when he is a guest. The setting is very interesting, the writing humorous but clean and the books written in such a way that you can open the book to almost any section an enjoy reading from there. As pencil and paper roleplaying gamers since the 1970s, we immediately thought these looked like excellent reference material to run a fantasy adventure campaign, as well as providing some much needed fun reading as an escape from the difficult reading in many of today’s fantasy volumes. Read the rest of this entry »

July Newsletter: Wilton Barnhardt, Jay Posey, Jeff VanderMeer, ConGregate, David B. Coe, Serenity, and more

Vol 4. No 7. July 7, 2014: We are in for an absolutely fantastic July, with readings from Wilton Barnhardt, Jay Posey, Jeff VanderMeer, Lydia Netzer, Deborah Harkness, David B. Coe, and Mur Lafferty, new convention ConGregate in Winston-Salem with guests of honor Larry Correia and Toni Weisskopf and the presentation of the Manly Wade Wellman Award, and! even more, including comics events and the annual charity screening of Serenity at the Raleighwood Cinema Grill.

Let’s start with NC State professor Wilton Barnhardt, who has two readings early this week in support of the new paperback release of his NY Times bestselling Southern novel Lookaway, Lookaway, optioned earlier this year by HBO for a comedy series. He’s my guest on Carolina Book Beat this morning (Monday) at 10 on WCOM-FM, then reads at Flyleaf Books at 7 pm on Monday night, and at McIntyre’s Books on Tuesday at 6:30 pm.


Speaking of Tuesday, Durham author and game writer Jay Posey will be at the Cary B&N at 7 pm for a reading of Morningside Fall, book two after his debut novel Three in his “The Legends of the Duskwalker” post-apocalyptic series.

Then starting mid-week it’s the Jeff VanderMeer show, with 4 readings in the Carolinas in just over a week, starting and ending with Wednesday events (9th and 16th) at Hub City in Spartanburg, SC around readings on Thursday (July 10th) at Raleigh’s Quail Ridge Books at 7:30 pm and Saturday (July 12th) at Asheville’s Malaprop’s. And! He will be my guest via phone this week on Carolina Book Beat at 11 AM. (Do check out his conversation with Frank Stasio on WUNC’s The State of Things which aired last week.)

New convention ConGregate will be held July 11-13 in downtown Winston-Salem, with guests of honor Larry Correia, Mark Poole, and Toni Weisskopf, and the presentation of the 2014 Manly Wade Wellman Award for North Carolina Science Fiction and Fantasy to one of the six excellent nominees:

Read the rest of this entry »

ConTemporal 2014: Day One

ConTemporal 2014 is underway, and there’s even more mood-setting decorations throughout the hotel, music playing, costumes everywhere. Here’s a few photos, including of the massively expanded high tea room:

It wouldn't be a NC sf convention without Allen Wold, here looking quite dapper. Be warned: he's carrying a badge.

It wouldn’t be a NC sf convention without Allen Wold, here looking quite dapper. Be warned: he’s carrying a badge.

I admit it. I jumped just a little bit when this little trike's animatronic motors kicked into life.

I admit it. I jumped just a little bit when this little trike’s animatronic motors kicked into life.

Luckily for all concerned, this guy doesn't move.

Luckily for all concerned, this guy doesn’t move.

Read the rest of this entry »

Friday Quick Updates: ConCarolinas, The Manly Wade Wellman Award, Carolina Book Beat, MakerFaire, and more

Friday, May 30, 2014: Whew! A sold-out ConCarolinas is upon us, and quite a few folks are heading to Charlotte to see George R.R. Martin, Tommy Lee Edwards, Faith Hunter, David B. Coe, A.J. Hartley, Misty Massey, and too many others to list. I’ll see people bright and early on Saturday at the 9 AM Breakfast and Books panel — do bring some “show and tell” for the new books you’d like to recommend!

Meanwhile, nominating ballots have finally started going out (and coming back in) for the 2014 Manly Wade Wellman Award. Due to delays getting this first year set up, the nomination period has been extended through Friday, June 13, so there’s still time to register and make your voice heard.

In other news, I’ve finally made it easier (i.e. not “in person”) to sign-up to the monthly Bull Spec Newsletter. There’s still some bits to take care of (putting the form on the site, Facebook, etc.) but hopefully this lets people discover and sign-up (and unsubscribe etc.) more painlessly going forward.

Lastly, if I survive ConCarolinas (please, nobody invite George R.R. Martin to officiate any weddings of any kind) this weekend, on Monday morning at 10 AM I’ll be hosting  Carolina Book Beat with guest Monica Byrne for an on-air/Internet radio interview on WCOM-FM. Later on in June? Plenty, from Maker Faire NC next weekend through ConTemporal to close out the month. See you out and about!


PS: Here’s the latest event flyer and the next week of upcoming events:



JUNE 2014

2 (Monday) 6:30 pm — James Maxey and Nathan Kotecki’s “First Monday Classics” series at the Orange County Public Library in Hillsborough continues with Edgar Allen Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination, with guest panelist Edmund Schubert. More info:

4 (Wednesday) 7 pm — Asheville’s Malaprop’s Bookstore hosts Durham author Monica Byrne for her debut post-apocalyptic novel The Girl in the Road. More info:

4 (Wednesday) 7:30 pm — At Raleigh’s Meymandi Concert Hall, the North Carolina Symphony presents “Video Games Live: Bonus Round”, a new show building off the success of last year’s “Video Games Live”. This one features MegaMan, Silent Hill 2, Metroid, Shadow of the Colossus, Journey, God of War, Mass Effect, StarCraft II, Dota 2, Beyond Good & Evil, Destiny, Final Fantasy, and Warcraft. “Call 919.733.2750 and mention the promo code PLAYNOW to buy your tickets for $48 (regularly $65).” More info:

6-22 — Raleigh Little Theatre presents Noël Coward’s “Blithe Spirit” at Cantey V. Sutton Theatre. “ A novelist invites an eccentric medium and clairvoyant to his house to conduct a séance for research for his next book. The scheme backfires when he is haunted by the ghost of his temperamental first wife.” More info:

7 (Saturday) — Maker Faire North Carolina at the NC Fairgrounds Exhibition Center. More info: