Tag Archives: Dresden Files

Moon Called by Patricia Briggs : Review

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Mercedes “Mercy” Thompson is a talented Volkswagen mechanic living in the Tri-Cities area of Washington. She also happens to be a walker, a magical being with the power to shift into a coyote at will. Mercy’s next-door neighbor is a werewolf. Her former boss is a gremlin. And she’s fixing a bus for a vampire. This is the world of Mercy Thompson, one that looks a lot like ours but is populated by those things that go bump in the night. And Mercy’s connection to those things is about to get her into some serious hot water…

I remember picking this book up for the first time at the used book store near my house back when I was in the middle of an urban fantasy kick — as I am right now, mainly because it was just sitting near the Dresden Files book shelf. It then proceeded to sit on my book shelf at home for two long years before I finally remembered I had it and decided to give it a try. I have been kicking myself since that day for waiting so long to read this book, Patricia Briggs has turned into one of my favorite urban fantasy authors, second only to Jim Butcher and his Dresden Files.

In a genre full of wizards, werewolves and vampires it’s always nice to see a main character who stands out from the pack, and Mercedes Thompson does just that. Mercy isn’t just the best Volkswagen mechanic in the entire state of Washington, she’s also a Native American being known as a walker — a shape shifter with the ability to turn into a coyote at will. When her werewolf neighbor Adam is attacked and his daughter Jesse is abducted it is up to Mercy to everything at her disposal to help Adam save his daughter before it is too late.

There are just so many things that I love about this book that I have trouble even talking about it sometimes without spewing my fanboy all over people. For a protagonist Mercy is pretty bad-ass, in a world of werewolves, vampires, powerful Fae creatures and a government determined to control them all you wouldn’t think one little coyote would be able to hold her ground, but she does. It’s also always fun to read some urban fantasy where all the preternatural elements aren’t hidden from the world, but out there for everyone to see, it adds a really interesting element to the story.

With the Mercy Thompson books Patricia Briggs has managed to take all of my favorite tropes from the genre and twist them into something completely her own. A feat that is not easy to do considering just how many books that are out there nowadays, it gets more impressive the more I think about it.

I can’t count the number of times I have read and reread Moon Called, it is from one of those series that I always seem to be in the middle of a reread of. I would definetly give this book 6 out of 5 stars and would suggest anyone looking for some great urban fantasy with a kick-ass heroine pick up this book.


Libriomancer (Magic Ex Libris #1) by Jim C. Hines : Review

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Isaac Vainio is a Libriomancer, a member of the secret organization founded five centuries ago by Johannes Gutenberg. Libriomancers are gifted with the ability to magically reach into books and draw forth objects. When Isaac is attacked by vampires that leaked from the pages of books into our world, he barely manages to escape. To his horror he discovers that vampires have been attacking other magic-users as well, and Gutenberg has been kidnapped.

Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines was a really fun book to read, it is another book series that I wish I had discovered much sooner than I did. As I mentioned in my last review is really easy to find urban fantasy to read these days as it seems to be everywhere I look, it’s difficult to find good urban fantasy. So when I find books like Libriomancer I tend to read through them ridiculously fast. This book was so good I ended up reading the entire series in under a week and am already desperately waiting for the next book to release. It probably has the greatest magic system I have ever read about in any book, I can’t say how much I wish Libriomancy really existed in our world.

Founded by Johannes Gutenber over 500 years ago the Libriomancers are a secretive group of men and women with a very unique gift — they are able to reach into almost any book that exists and pull out an item from within to use. Need to sneak through a building undetected? Why not just pull an invisibility cloak from Harry Potter, or a shrink ray from pretty much any sci-fi book in existence. Isaac Vainio is one of these Libriomancer, but unlike the rest of his brothers and sisters in magic, Isaac has been stuck with a desk job in the middle of nowhere Michigan, about as far away from the rest of the world and Libriomancer politics as it is possible to get. However, when a group of Sanguinarius Meyerii — sparkling vampires who have been accidentally released between the pages of a book attack him in an attempt to learn Libriomancer secrets Isaac soon finds himself on the run. It will take his magical fire spider Smudge, a beautiful Dryad and his vast collection of science fiction noels to help Isaac find out just what the hell is going on, and keep himself alive long enough to do something about it.

I really can’t say enough how much I loved the magic system contained within this book, it is just awesome. There is just something about reading a book and have it mention another book or series I enjoy reading. This not only happens all the time in Libriomancer, but when it does it is usually when someone is reaching into the book references and pulling an item out of it to use. These references aren’t just used as gimmicks either, some of the items pulled from the books act as maor plot points for the story. Just trying to catch all the different books referenced and trying to figure out what item the Libriomancer is going to pull from the books is really fun. It makes the book and series really rereadable — at least to me it does.

I think anyone who enjoys reading urban fantasy will really enjoy the Magic Ex Libris series as a whole, I think about every book I’ve ever loved is mentioned in some way in the series. Just writing this review makes me realize I have to start rereading it again, which is not a good thing when I have to be up for work in less than 5 hours.


Must Read Urban Fantasy

I was sitting at my laptop the other day browsing through books to read, deciding what I wanted to reread when I realized that more and more these days I find myself leaning more towards urban fantasy over any other genre. I don’t know what it is about the genre that makes me love it so much, it can be difficult to find a decent book or series to read, and most seem to be erotica posing as fantasy. That got me wondering just what urban fantasy series there are out there that are fun to read, without being overly full of gratuitous sex and violence.

These are the top three or four authors and series I could think of who do an amazing job with the genre, and as I’m always looking for something else to read I would appreciate any other suggestions people may have for me.

The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher:

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Harry Dresden — Wizard Lost items found. Paranormal Investigations. Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates. No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or Other Entertainment.”

His name is Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden–conjure by it at your own risk. Harry is not just the only publicly practicing wizard in Chicago (look him up, he’s in the yellow pages), he’s also a licensed private eye, and an occasional consultant with the CPD. When the monsters decide it’s time to come out and play, it’s Harry Dresden who stands between them and the people of the city.

While I have heard people claim its rough getting through the first few books in the series, I can honestly say I never had any such problem. After I stumbled across these books while looking for something else at my local used book store, I burned through all 8 books that were available at the time in a matter of weeks, and was impatiently waiting for the next book in the series soon after. To me the Dresden Files has everything that’s needed for a great urban fantasy series.

First there are the characters. Harry Dresden is the wise-ass wizard who doesn’t know when to shut up or stand down. Time and time again he gets kicked in the teeth, but gets right back up again to face down the big bad monster threatening his beloved Chicago. Murphy is the mandatory tough as nails cop who has stumbled across the secret world that Harry lives in and is smart enough to know she can’t face it all on her own.

There are entire courts of vampires secretly trying to rule or destroy the world, a hidden world of demons and fae who live by morals and laws most mortals would struggle to understand, and a plot that links each book so subtly that you can only see the edges of it in the beginning of the series.

Unfortunately for me the Dresden Files has made it difficult for me to enjoy and other urban fantasy series as much as I probably would have if I had read it first.

The Mercy Thompson Series by Patricia Briggs:

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“I was going to fight vampires, and my name wasn’t Buffy–I was so screwed.”

I struggled for years after finding the Dresden Files to find another book or series in the sub genre that didn’t pale in comparison, or feel like a cheap knock off to me. For me Moon Called by Patricia Briggs was that book and series. While most of the preternatural world can trace its origins back to Europe, shifters are rooted firmly in Native American myths and legends. As such they don’t always follow the same ancient rules and laws that govern the rest of the preternatural world.

Mercy Thompson is a Shifter who can take the form of a coyote at will. This series follows Mercy as she struggles to survive in a world of territorial and powerful werewolves, vampires and fae. All while attempting to keep her maintain her garage and keep her job as a mechanic.

For me the best part of this series is the world and culture that Briggs has built up around the werewolves. It’s so well thought out that it would be easy for me to believe that such a world is hiding in the shadows of society, waiting for the perfect time to come out to the public. Anyone who is a fan of vampire or werewolf fiction would absolutely love these books. Briggs even manages to balance the romance with the rest of the story, which I’ve noticed that not many urban fantasy authors can do.

The Kate Daniels Series by Ilona Andrews:

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“What kind of woman greets the Beast Lord with ‘here, kitty, kitty’?”

With the Kate Daniels series Ilona takes all the greatest trope of urban fantasy–the secret hidden world of magic, vampires, and shape shifters and completely throws it out of the window. Instead we get an alternate version of Atlanta where magic and technology come in waves, while one is active and working the other is not. During a magic wave you may see a banshee screaming from a telephone pole out in front of your house or a magical war being fought in downtown Atlanta, but you won’t have use of telephones, television or cars. When the technology is up you may not have access to your magic, but you can you’ll have electricity and and the telephones will work again.

In this bizarre alternate Atlanta most of the world is controlled or protected by various guilds and organizations. Kate Daniels works for the Mercenaries Guild, when the magic suddenly comes up and you have a giant fire-breathing lizard loose in your neighborhood, Kate Daniels is going to be the one who responds (For a reasonable fee!).

This is another series where for me the deciding factor was the amount of thought and detail put into the various preternatural groups that exist in the world. This time its not just werewolves who hide among us, but werebears, wererats, and any other type of lycanthrope you can think of. Vampires are mindless creatures being controlled by the People, a group of power hungry necromancers who mentally control the dead.

The only thing I didn’t really realize until I was through the majority of the first book is that this is mostly paranormal romance. By the time I realized that fact though it was too late to go back, I was already hooked, and I am more than glad for it. To me the Kate Daniels series is that anyone of the genre must read!

Honorable Mention: Mercedes Lackey

I was going to put Mercedes Lackey’s urban fantasy books on this list, but I quickly remembered she has four different series in the genre. The great thing about her four different series to me is that they all exist in a shared universe that spans hundreds if not thousands of years, and there are cameos from the same characters across all the various books set in her world.

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Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files: War Cry : Review

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 A war is raging between the vampire forces of the Red Court and the White Council — a war that the wizards are losing.

So desperate are the Council that they’ve dragooned the experienced and the outcast to reinforce their thinning ranks of Wardens.

One of these draftees is one Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only wizard-for-hire and a guy who’s long been looked upon with suspicion by the supernatural authorities.

Now, he’s one of them, and his first big mission as a Warden is a doozy: take a small team of greenhorns to a frigid town in the middle of nowhere to rescue a handful of mortals who’ve been targeted by the Red Court.

The question is, why exactly are these particular mortals so crucial to the outcome of the war?

The answer will come only if Harry can keep them, and his team, alive for one very long night.

This graphic novel collects the critically acclaimed, five-issue series in one volume, and features a bonus section with Jim Butcher’s original story outline, sketchbook artwork from  Carlos Gomez, cover gallery with roughs from Stjepan Sejic, and more!  

There is no denying my love of the Dresden Files, anyone I know can and will say that I am a fanboy at times. I can’t really pinpoint exactly what it is about the series or author I enjoy so much. I just know that when I pick up any book in the series I’m unable to put it down again until I finish it, not matter how many times I’ve read it before. So add my love of the series to my long time fascination with comic books and it might be possible to get a glimpse of the excitement I felt when I first received this graphic novel.

War Cry by Jim Butcher takes place several months after the events of Dead Beat and covers the events only briefly mentioned in Proven Guilt. In this Dresden Files graphic novel we find Harry Dresden leading a group of rookie Wardens consisting of “Wild Bill”  Meyers, Yoshimo, and Carlos Ramirez on an emergency mission from the White Council. The mission, in typical Dresden fashion, is pretty much a catastrophe from the get-go. When you take a group of power hungry vampires, a Lovecraftian monster, and a group of powerful but inexperienced wizards and mix them all together interesting things are bound to happen.

This story managed to capture my attention as much as any of the books ever has and did a great job of answering some questions that reading Proven Guilty had left me with. If anyone has ever wondered just who the Venatori Umbrorum were, or why the Wardens in the district under Harry’s command respect him so much, they will know by the end of War Cry. We also get a good look at how and why Wardens like Ramirez and Meyers have to mature so fast and take on responsibilities long before they would normally be trusted with them. It is not a good time to be a wizard or a warden of the White Council.

I found the art from the graphic novel to be simply fantastic, the illustrators did such a good job in capturing that almost gritty feeling of the Dresden Files. While I enjoy comics and graphic novels, I don’t usually like them when they are based off of books I enjoy. I usually have a well defined picture in my head of what the characters all look like, and I usually judge someone else’s depictions of them harshly, but they were almost identical to how I pictured them here. Not to mention the biggest thing this graphic novel has going for it: Harry isn’t wearing a hat on the cover! I can’t describe the sense of joy I felt at something so simple as seeing Harry on a cover without that stupid hat.

While I think everyone would benefit from reading the books in the series before they tackle any of the comics or graphic novels, I don’t think it’s strictly necessary for War Cry. You get enough of a background story to figure out just what is going on, why it’s happening, and the laws that govern the magical world in general.  I know for a fact I will be picking up the physical copy of this book to add to my collection the day it releases.

Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files: War Cry will be release by Dynamite Entertainment on November 11th.

I received a free copy of this publication for an honest review.


My Interview with Jim Butcher

Last weekend at Ad Astra, a convention here in Toronto, I had the opportunity to meet and interview Jim Butcher, bestselling author of The Dresden Files and Codex AleraWe talked about all manner of things from talking cats, epically epic epic fantasy epics, and zombie t-rex’s.

Now, I’ve done something slightly different with this interview. Attached below is the audio recording for this interview (with some minor edits to it, but it’s largely untouched). I encourage you to take a listen (and ignore how awkward I sound). There are a couple off-topic moments on there which didn’t make it into the transcript, but I think it’ll be much more fun to have a listen than to read. Let me know your thoughts!

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Anyways, as per usual: J = Jim Butcher and = Myself (Rebecca).

R: I’m here with Jim Butcher, bestselling author of The Dresden Files. Jim, can you tell us something about yourself that we might not know?

J: Hm.. That you might not know.. The people at both of the Burger Kings near my house know who I am by sight and will say “Hey Jim, how’s it going?” and “How’s the next book coming along?” whenever I go there. That’s how often I’m at Burger King.

R: Alright, that’s certainly interesting. Now, you have The Dresden Files which was adapted into a TV series, which you weren’t a huge fan of, or there were some issues there… How would you have envisioned it if HBO or someone else had the rights for it, or if you had made it into an anime?

J: As an anime I think it’d be great; in my head it’s an animated thing anyways. But if HBO was going to do it? I don’t know, I wonder what would happen if HBO did it. I would probably just sit back and smile regardless of what happened.

It would be really neat for something with a bit more production value to take over on something like that. That would be completely awesome. That was one of the big problems with the SyFy series was the budget was low enough that it was difficult to get enough actual magic magic into the show.

R: Yeah, I noticed that… And this next question is one that another fan asked me to ask you, but will we ever see Faith from the Restoration of Faith short story in a mainstream Dresden Files book?

J: Yes, we will, but not until the big ending. Faith was the first character and more or less the first client of Dresden’s that I ever wrote in that first little short story. So she will show up again to kick off the big apocalyptic trilogy at the end.

R: Alright, and can you tell us a bit about this next novel?

J: The next novel is called Skin Game. In it, we find out that Mab has various debts which she has incurred over the years and Mab is very keen on getting her debts paid, and when one of the people she owes shows up and asks for a favour, she loans him Harry Dresden in order to help him. So Harry is going to find himself, by command of Queen Mab, assisting Nicodemus Archleon in a heist. They’re going on a bank job, and they’re going to knock over the vault of Hades — the Lord of the Underworld.

Harry is going to be very far out of his element because he’s going to be working with this crew of nasties that Nicodemus has recruited and having to survive that situation, and it’s going to make him look so good to the White Council and everyone else that he’s running around with this crew.

R: Of course!

J: Yeah, cause that’s his life… So that’s going to be our general plot, we’ll have to see what happens from there. I have a general idea of the mayhem that’s going to work out, but I’ll have to get to the nuts and bolts of it as I write, and I haven’t opened it up yet.

R: Yeah, though you’re expected to have the first two chapters in a few weeks, I think?

J: I have to have the first two chapters done by the end of April so that they can go into the back of the paperback of Cold Days.

R: Good luck with that! Now, this is going to be the 15th book, how has your outline process changed since the first one? And how do you keep readers interested, and keep coming up with ideas for these books?

J: When I first outlined the series, I outlined 20 books and I said: “Here’s the kind of plots that I want to have … here are the kind of bad guys that are going to be showing up … the kind of big events that are going to be happening…” And I’ve still got the outline at home which is something I wrote as a class project long ago, and now, as we’ve gone on the books have done very well. I see no reason to fix it if it isn’t broken, so I’m still using those outlines. Which is just stuff I came up with a while back, and basically it’s just fun, like: “I want to have Dresden in prison in this story!” or “I want him in an insane asylum with no magic”. You know, and these are things that I’m hoping to have happen as the series goes on.

R: It is certainly interesting, because they’re each all unique while they have the same feel.

J: Yeah, and that’s kind of the point. It’s one of those things you have to do as a writer; if I just wrote the same thing over and over and over again, I’d shortly grow sick of Harry and throw him over Reichenbach Falls. Instead I try to throw these slightly different stories and try and give it a bit of a twist every time.

R: And is there a main source of inspiration you got for all of these ideas?

J: I give Harry the beatings of Indiana Jones… as far as the main source of the ideas, it was pretty much just ‘Monster of the Week’: what kind of monster do I want to deal with this week? Book 1: Evil wizards; we have good wizards, and so we’ll have evil ones and that’ll be the first bad guy. The next bad guy? Werewolves, and the next one ghosts, then I want to do fairies, then I want to get into demonic evil guys, cause I’ve come up with these Knights of the Coin and so on, and then more vampires in Book 6, and I want zombies in book seven, and that was kind of how far as the outlines went for a long time. Then, the challenge was to take those outlines and these fun things I wanted to have the character do, and work those into the story in such a way that they’d be a good time for the reader as well.

R: Definitely, and it’s interesting… It’s always just like “Okay, he’s already dealt with so much, what’s going to be thrown at him next?”

J: Yeah, and there’s no upper limit to how much crap I can dump on Harry Dresden, the poor guy. I mean, generally anything that can make his day more miserable needs to get written in and then I get to think of a way to make it even worse, or at least even more insulting as it happens.

R: Delightful… Challenge your rage at him much?

J: Oh it’s not my rage! I love the character, if I didn’t I wouldn’t be doing this.

R: Now, what’s your opinion on the transformation of books into the digital age where e-piracy is becoming of a thing, and people can just download a book, and upload it elsewhere for free?

J: Well, I actually tracked three different sites which were major torrent sites, to see how many people grabbed the torrent for The Dresden Files. As it turns out, about ten times as many people steal the book as buy the book, and after asking around the industry, they’re like “Yeah, that’s pretty normal”.

For a long time that bugged me, but at the point I’m kind of at now is that a lot of people who steal the book wouldn’t have paid for it anyways. And if some of those people read the books and are like “Oh, hey man, these are really good; I need to go get some more of these.” or “I need to actually pay for these.” then I’ve picked up customers I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

I like to think of it as involuntary promotional copies that are going out over the internet, and try not to let it stress me out too much. It’s not something that I want to do, or want to encourage, or that I think is good, but I can’t do anything about it anyway so I might as well not give myself ulcers worrying about it.

R: Alright, cause I know some authors who actively go “Oh yes, here’s a free copy of my book.”

J: Right, well, that’s something I’ve never had a problem doing. I’ve occasionally gotten a fan letter from someone who’s serving over seas – especially if they’re actually in service, and I’d say “Hey, dude, here’s the next book. It’s already finished, it won’t be out for eight months but here you go.” and I have no problem doing stuff like that.

R: Yeah, it’s always nice when authors actually do that, you know?

J: Yeah, or sometimes I’ll get word that people are sick, and maybe too sick to be able to be around when the next book comes around, and I’ll be like “No, I will give you this book, here you go.” It’s not a big deal, and doing stuff like that… I mean, when you’re just trying to be kind to people, that doesn’t cost you; that pays in the long run.

R: Yeah.

J: And it’s much more Machiavellian to do it that way. “I’m going to be nice, and then they will owe me!”

R: Indeed! And it’s good, you’re harbouring good will with the readers, and you seem like the kind of guy who, enjoys spending time with fans.

J: Exactly, they’re real people. At the end of the day, my readers are my patrons. Artists have always had to have patrons to be able to do what they do, and it used to be that you had one particular lord that you had to please, and then you’d be alright. Instead, I’ve got a couple hundred thousand patrons that I make sure I try to take care of. As long as I do that, I’ve got the support of all of these readers which is a fantastic thing.

That’s why I try to pay attention to them, and sometimes ask: “What would you like to see more of in the books?” and put that in there, on account of: I want to keep eating.

R: Yeah, eating, paying rent, bills… Kinda important… Burger King.

J: Yes.. Shakespeare’s gotta eat.

R: They’d miss you if you weren’t there!

J: They’ probably would, “We haven’t seen you in a while, Jim, what happened? We were worried that you’d decided to start eating healthy!”

R: Oh dear, the thought!

J: Yeah.

R: So… Epic epic fantasy epic? Anything you’re willing to say or share about that?

J: I’ve always wanted to write an epic epic fantasy epic. When I started off I wanted to be an epic fantasy writer; that’s what I wanted to do. So, I’ve got this in mind – this epic epic fantasy epic that I want to write one day. It’s humans, elves, hobbits and dwarves, although it might not look like that, really, it’s a Tolkienesque kind of epic, or at least, it starts off that shape.

I want to write that when I’m good enough; it’s not something that I’m ready to do yet, so instead I’ve just been running roleplaying campaigns in it for the past many years. Which is great, because I’ll pick another part of the world and I’ll have some vague idea of what it looks like. Then I’ll start running the campaign there, and of course if you’ve got player characters they never do what you expect them to do – they never do the smart thing. They do the thing that seems appropriate to them based on what they know. So then I feel like I’m frantically running ahead of them with a load of lumber, canvas and paint, building these sets six feet in front of them just before they open the door. It’s a good creative exercise which has helped me get this world established in my brain.

But yeah, I do want to write a big ol’ Martinesque huge fantasy one of these days. I don’t know when, but I’m going to do it. My epic epic fantasy epic.

R: Yeah, I wasn’t sure I got all the “epics” in there.

J: I thought about calling it an epic epic epic fantasy epic, but that seemed a bit over the top.

R: An epically epic epic fantasy epic?

J: Epically epic? Well I don’t know if I could be epically epic, I mean, I’ll be happy to just be moderate epic… but you can’t call it a moderate epic fantasy epic, it doesn’t work.

R: No, and you’ve always got to exaggerate.

J: It’s one of the first laws of writing.

R: Exactly!

Now, you did recently sign an agreement for a steampunk trilogy… Is there anything you can say about The Cinder Spires?

J: The Cinder Spires has gotten a better response from my readers than anything that I’ve done recently, just in terms of them thinking it’s something cool. These are my beta readers, from the beta asylum, which I call the asylum because you have to be a bit crazy to be there, because I’m just a bear for cliffhanging chapters, and sometimes they’ll have to wait a couple of weeks between them. So, there’s something wrong with those people, but there they are.

They think it’s pretty great, it’s kind of “Hornblower” meets “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”, it’s very focused on the characters, with very strong influence from Firefly I think.

R: Awesome.

J: Yeah, if you’re going to steal from somewhere, you know, pick a good spot. But yeah, we start off with a disaffected ship captain who used to be part of the navy buy got drummed out of it for being an up-right honourable guy, who’s now running his own ship. We’ve got some other characters who are scattered around who are being drawn together by the lord of the spire.

Everyone lives in these enormous spires that spire for miles above the ground below; the surface is this deadly place you don’t want to go. The lord of Spire Albion, which is where the story begins, is assembling what is essentially a team for critical missions. That’s what this first story is, it’s him drawing this team together, and dispatching them as this war is beginning with a neighbouring spire of jerks.

So that’s kind of where we get going. One of the team members is the daughter of one of the young noble houses, and one of them is her cousin who is warriorborn. They don’t know quite how it happened but a certain percentage of the popular seems to be born with what seems like genetic modification to be faster and stronger and better and cooler. As well, there are cats in the Spires who talk and who are just the most arrogant, annoying little bullies.

R: Well, yes… They’re cats.

J: They’re cats, exactly, but these cats can talk, and they have opposable thumbs and matches. So, these are cats who are along the lines of: “I see that you enjoy having no rodents in your warehouse. Perhaps you would continue to enjoy having no rodents in your warehouse. Perhaps there will be a bowl of cream sitting out for me… or it might all catch on fire.” You never know what’s going to happen, but one of the characters actually has a close relationship with a cat and can speak cat. The cats speak their own language, they probably could speak the human language, but why would they? They’re cats. Why would they stoop to that? They understand humans, perfectly, except for when they don’t… and that can all happen within the same morning. They can choose who to ignore and who not to. The cats are horrible.

Then we’ve got these wizard figures. All the technology is based around these crystals that can channel various forms of energy, steampower and a kind of Frankensteinian electricity. They’re engineers who can do all kinds of cool stuff, but they’re also these figures called etherealists who work with the crystals. The etherealists are all completely nuts, I mean, over-the-top hair on fire nuts. Except for the ones that aren’t, and those are the ones you really have to worry about, because there’s something really wrong with them.

You know, the guy who’s sort of dribbling and walking in circles in the corner, who’s an etherealist? Okay, he’s probably not a threat. The one who’s inviting you to high tea? Forget it, you don’t even want to go near that one.

R: Here be danger.

J: Exactly; you know they’re crazy, the question is: how? And if you can see they’re crazy, they’re less dangerous.

But yeah, that’s sort of them getting this team together and figuring out how they’re going to get things done. I’m having a great deal of fun with the book, it’s been a tremendous good time for me, so my beta readers have been tortured extra. Which I think is good for readers.

R: Of course, especially beta readers, they deserve it. This sounds like it’s going to have quite a bit of a different feel compared to Dresden.

J: Very much so. It’s going to be closer to Alera than anything else… Multiple character viewpoints, so it’ll have much more of that feel.

R: Alright, sounds interesting!

J: I hope so!

R: Now, how has your writing process changed? You said you already had the outline done for The Dresden Files, but over the years have you found that your writing process has since that first one compared to your latest novel?

J: I use outlines a lot more — when I’m being smart — to get things laid out ahead of time, and avoid those long stretches of “Why isn’t this chapter working?”. It’s really handy if you have an outline, it helps avoid that.

I don’t drink coke so much anymore; the caffeine and sugar were doing bad things to me and eventually started catching up. So, there’s less coke. Other than that, it hasn’t really changed.

There’s TV, I work at night, I don’t know why that’s when the magic happens, sometime between 11PM and dawn. There’s always a bad movie on in the background that I keep track of. So that I don’t have to look up except for the parts that I really like, and otherwise I can be focused on the work. For this particular book in The Cinder Spires, it’s been Star Trek 2 because it’s as Napoleonic as I could get in terms of ship-to-ship combat stuff.

R: I approve.

J: Yeah, I only have to look up for “I don’t like to lose” and “KHAANNNNNN!”

R: Yeah, best parts really… Only reasons to actually watch it.

J: That and Spock’s death scene, which is one of the better character death scenes ever done. If you’re going to kill a character, that’s a good way to go; that was very well executed.

R: Now, out of all your stories from The Dresden Files, Codex Alera, or anything else, which one was your favourite to write?

J: Specific favourite book is going to be a toss-up between Dead Beat and Cursor‘s Fury. Cursor’s Fury was a lot of fun for me to write, and it was where the Alera books finally took off for me, in terms of “Oh! This is all happening easily in my imagination.”

Dead Beat: Zombie T-Rex. I’d been writing like five years to write the zombie t-rex scene, and when I finally got to it, it was like “Finally, yes! I’ve been putting this off for so long!”

R: Every book needs a bit more zombie t-rex. There’s a disturbing lack of them.

J: Yeah, there is, and I don’t see why it isn’t happening more often.

R: We’ll have to change that.

Now, which was your least favourite to write?

J: My least favourite book to write? Ghost Story was really hard because it was so different from the other Dresden books. Not that it wasn’t fun, but it didn’t feel as natural as the other books. The Spider-Man book was really difficult to write because the time constraints were so strict. I think I had about thirty days to write that thing. That was a pretty serious challenge.

But that was the year that I wrote three novels and a comic book, the comic book wound up being like 124 pages which was ridiculous.

R: You wrote that in thirty days?

J: Well, not all of that, just the Spider-Man book had to be done in thirty days, and it was over Christmas too, so that made me so popular with my family.

R: Oh yes, of course.

So, you’re a bit of a geek

J: Yeah, a little bit.

R: I’m not sure if you attended conventions before you were an author, but how has your experience changed so far, now that you’re on the “other side”?

J: The only place that’s really different is when I come to a con. If I go out gaming, it’s still the same. If I go out LARPing, LARPing is still pretty much the same stuff. I’m not really famous anywhere except for conventions and sometimes at bookstores. I think I’ve been recognized in public once, ever.

So really, the only place that’s different is conventions… Coming to cons is cool, because everyone laughs at my jokes, which is a nice change of pace. Other than that, it’s pretty much the same experience.

Sometimes people are nervous to meet me, which seems strange because I know I’m just as big of a nerd as I always was. It’s like these guys don’t know; they never saw me sword fighting with boffer weapons up and down the hallways of conventions when I was eighteen. So that’s sometimes sort of strange. I’m the last person in the world you need to be nervous around; I’ve done far more embarrassing things around you. But you just try to be nice around folks, smile and nod a lot, and they’ll offer to buy you dinner. Sometimes it’s dinner number three, but I’ll get some fries or something like that.

As far as the actual experience being different? Not too much, really.

R: Just more of a sore wrist?

J: Yeah, after about three hours I had to go back to the hotel room and pack it in ice or it’d be swollen up tomorrow and I wouldn’t be able to sign. But really, what a great problem to have.

R: Ah yeah.. Like “Oh.. Too popular”

J: Yes, it’s awful! But I mean, I feel like I’m just as awkward as I always was. I guess I can kind of go into “Author Mode” a little bit easier where I’m doing the talk in front of people, doing the jokes and the one-liners, and that’s fun. That’s not really something I do because it’s fun for me, I like making people laugh, and that’s a good thing; to be able to put a smile on somebody’s face… That’s worth doing.

R: And do you have any advice for anyone who wants to get into writing?

J: Yeah, go by my Livejournal at http://jimbutcher.livejournal.com/. There are all kinds of articles that are geared towards beginning writers which is the stuff that my teacher taught me when I was bound and determined to prove to her how wrong she was about writing, and as a result, wrote the first book of The Dresden Files. There’s a lot of interesting stuff there.

The main thing though, is that you just have to write and ignore when people walk up to you at your family holiday gatherings and say, “When are you going to get a real job?” Oh man. I had a cousin and that was his favourite thing to say for like twelve years. Finally when I got my second series sold, and started being able to support the family on the writing, you know, I decided not to get a ‘real’ job. I’m just going to keep this job.

R: I think you’ve made a good choice.

J: Yeah, I was pleased with it, and man… It took so long for that pay-off, but it was so worth it when I finally got it. I think that’s the thing I would tell beginning writers: Everything you go through to become a writer – it all seems horribly hard when it’s happening to you, and when you can’t get somebody to read your book, and you’re getting nothing but rejection letters and it just seems awful… Once you’ve finally gotten in though – and getting in is just a matter of time and practice, you look back at it, and it’s like “Oh, that was more than worth it.”

The rejection process is one of those you kind of transcend and look back at it and go, “Why did I make such a big deal out of that?” But anyways… Write, write, write. That’s my first advice to newbie writers. Keep writing; don’t stop.

R: Alright, thank you, and I think that’s it… Thank you!

J: No problem!


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