Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Nicki Rapp: The Road to Psychonauts 2

Nicki Rapp: The Road to Psychonauts 2
A Look Inside the Mind, of the Voice, of Lili Zanotto

Written by: Mitchell Walter Maknis

Image courtesy of Nikki Rapp

At the tail-end of gaming’s sixth console generation, Tim Schafer pushed the envelope of conventional game design by injecting players into a bizarre world filled with psychedelic puzzles, zany acrobatics, and bacon. The resulting cult phenomenon Psychonauts (2005) has since become a timeless classic. After almost two decades and a VR spinoff (Rhombus of Ruin (2017)) later, the long-awaited sequel Psychonauts 2 (2021) has remained a fixture within the minds of gamers. So, the question remains; what has kept this IP relevant within the psyche of the gaming community sixteen years later?

Perhaps, it’s iconic verbatims such as “Oh my god! Let’s make out!” that quickly harken fans back to that hypnotic moment shared between gifted psychics Lili Zanotto (Nicki Rapp) and Razputin (Richard Horvitz). These performances are nostalgic, for both the fans and the actors who created them. “I love [Lili’s] intelligence and sassiness; she doesn’t take any shit, she’s just awesome” affectionately confessed Nicki Rapp. “I have met so many fans who connected with [the game]. I love the message that Double Fine so tenderly, yet brilliantly produced about mental health, helping people feel less alone.” Rapp, who portrayed Lili in the original game, lights up any room or convention hall she enters. In truth, she just needs to take her vocal pitch a little bit higher, and gamers would be awestruck to realize they are talking to the real-life Lili Zanotto. Nicki Rapp takes fans for a walk through her cognitive landscape to hear her thoughts about her career in a changing industry, and her journey to Psychonauts 2.

Rapp's foray into the arts began in in the sixth grade when she was signed up for choir class by her mother. Her interests began to peak in Junior High when she became involved with the school’s theater program. “I was shy about my experience at first, but I really enjoyed singing” cited the actor on the wire from her L.A. home. “[Later,] I realized I loved acting; it helped bring me out of myself and it was something I was good at.” Rapp was indeed a bona fide theater nerd, performing in show after show, in musicals and stage plays alike. “Acting wasn’t anything I thought I was going to choose as a career. But it felt cool to escape from myself and be someone else for a while, so I just kept going.”

Subsequently, by a friend’s suggestion she did keep going, and after a lengthy road trip, Rapp successfully matriculated into the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. “When I got in, I was shocked” she exclaimed “It was the first time I was able focus on something I loved completely.” Nearing the end of her second year, Rapp was pulled aside by the director of the school and was told that because of the way her voice sounded, she was not going to get any work as an actor after she graduated. “I didn’t understand.” She confessed “They cast me in all these crazy roles. I even got to play my dream part of Anne Frank (“The Diary of Anne Frank”) and I pulled that one off even when the professors teased me saying I was too old to play her.”

Rapp had devoted her life to acting since she was twelve, and at that point a career in voice-work never crossed her mind. “Many voice actors start out knowing that that’s what they want to do. I didn’t” She stated, “I just never thought I was as good as anyone else.” She was directionless. “People always made fun of the sound of my voice.” She admits “I honestly thought [my voice] was going to be the thing that would hold me back from everything.” However, everything changed when she was introduced to a voice-over school near San Francisco by her father. “My dad told me the woman who ran the place had a voice just like mine, he wanted to help me get in.”

After graduating from drama school at age 23, she shifted gears to voice-acting and that’s when things started to click. “It was beautiful.” She reminisced “I was just in there by myself, and the solitude gave me the ability to create without restrictions. When I’m inside the recording booth I don’t have to think about stage blocking or editing my body language. That’s why I love voice acting, it’s like acting for introverts.” Although Rapp admits there were some dream roles she would have loved to have had the chance to play on stage, she is happiest now when she is creating characters.

“I booked the part [of Lili Zanotto] in early 2000 and after I was done recording, it took five years for the game to come out.” Incidentally, “that’s how [the development] of Psychonauts 2 has gone.” The role of Lili Zanotto garnered a loyal fanbase that opened the door to other creative opportunities. “I have a lot of gratitude for [casting director] Khris Brown. She’s the one who auditioned me for Psychonauts and Broken Age (2014). It’s because of her I’ve had some of the greatest parts of my life.” Beckoning the question, what was it like for Rapp developing the character of Lili Zonatto in such a unique world? “When I was cast, I was so fresh and new to voice-acting” declared Rapp “I remember being in awe of [Lili’s] dialogue and, there is a depth to be discovered beyond the vivid colors and snappy dialogue in the story of Psychonauts.”

MWM: Could you elaborate your exact mind-frame when started recording for the character?

NR: When recording my role, I had to keep a fine line between her sarcasm and sweetness. Lili is a very intelligent girl, [with] a lotta powers. She isn't mean, but she definitely keeps it real, especially when it involves Raz. She may be wise beyond her years, but she is still a little girl in a crazy reality. It was a roller coaster of "what's next?" in the best way. I love the imagination involved in this game and how much it opens my mind as well.

MWM: After your time on Psychonauts, what do you consider to be your next breakthrough role?

NR: It would have to be Morgan LeFlay from [Telltale/LucasArts] Tales of Monkey Island (2009). She was a new addition to the series and when I auditioned for her, I didn’t have a picture of the character to work with, I only had a description of what they wanted.

MWM: What was the description?

NR: A cross between Rosario Dawson and Cameron Diaz. Honestly though, I did not know how to approach that in a voice-over context. So, what I took from the script was that Morgan LeFlay was definitely a badass, but she also had a crush on [series lead] Guybrush Threepwood and fangirled over him. I leaned towards that aspect more than anything else. After I was cast [the game’s writer and director] Mark Darin told me, ‘We had a totally different idea for this character, but you brought something different that we all loved.’

MWM: Considering you worked with the company again in Sam and Max: The Devil’s Playhouse (2010) after Tales of Monkey Island. It’s safe to say you left an impression on the staff at Telltale Games.

NR: I suppose you can say that. In those days when I was recording for Telltale Games, I used to go record at a dear friend’s studio in the San Francisco Bay area. Unfortunately, he has since passed away. He was my cheerleader and would recommend me for roles. I loved recording at his studio especially since it was an environment working with people I trust. [That studio] was where I first worked with Sean Vanaman and Jake Rodkin (Now of Campo Santo Productions). Those two are Psychonauts fans and after our time working together on Tales of Monkey Island, they wanted me for a game they’d written called The Walking Dead (2012).

MWM: Enter Lilly Caul, she may share a name with your Psychonauts roots. That’s as far as the similarities go. She’s a polar opposite in terms of personality; a drastic change from what your fans would expect.

NR: I’m really proud of that role. Nobody thinks it’s me. It’s crazy to think that I almost didn’t do the audition.

MWM: Is there a reason why?

NR: Yes. That day I was just pissed off and mad at the world. But after I read the script, Lilly matched how I was feeling, and her voice just came out. I am so grateful that I was cast as Lilly. [I thought], I’ll always be cast as kids. Even while I was auditioning for TWD, I was also reading for Clementine, and I came close to being cast in [Melissa Hutcherson’s] role. Finding that voice and that character helped me realize what else I could do. That’s why I like doing video games, you really get to play that character.

MWM: Throughout your twenty-plus years in the voice-acting profession you’ve worked on gaming titles such as Brooktown High (2007), Obscure: The Aftermath (2007), XCOM Enemy Unknown (2012) as well as a few animated programs like Cartoon Network’s Long Live The Royals (2015). Now, looking back at your career what do you consider your longest character journey?

NR: The Sims. [In 2002] I auditioned for The Sims 2 inside this little studio. I had to improvise (Simlish) sounds and match it to this kid’s animation on this tiny TV. One of my favorite exercises from drama school was when I had to perform scenes in complete gibberish. I guess I’m good at making words up on the spot because I was cast two months later. It was good for my brain to speak Simlish and think on the spot. When they were auditioning for The Sims 3, I ended up being the only actor they kept on staff. I was even asked to direct the last three expansion packs [of that particular installment].

MWM: What was it like being on the other side of the booth, in the director’s chair for The Sims 3?

NR: It was a good creative lesson but directing wasn’t anything I had aspired to do. When they asked me to do it, I was like ‘wait really?’ It did make sense having me direct, since I worked on the series for so long and I knew how exhausting it could get improvising Simlish for six-hours. I just love the days when I get to be in the booth so when I was directing, I just kept thinking about how much I wanted to be in the booth with them.

MWM: Out of all the characters you have created. Which ones are you most proud of?

NR: “Definitely my Lilly’s. Lili from Psychonauts is my favorite as far as just being uplifting and happy. But then on the other hand when you go to my other Lilly on the TWD, she’s special because playing her I had to do some of the most challenging acting I’ve ever done.”

MWM: Could you elaborate?

NR: First off, I was shocked when I booked the part. Second, playing Lilly really stressed me out, it was the most challenging acting I’ve ever done. It was difficult to put myself in those grim situations I had no life experience for. I didn’t know how else to approach the emotional depth of the subject matter, so I had to throw myself into it completely. After I finished recording Episode 2 everybody in the studio thought I was losing my mind.

MWM: You’ve mentioned Lili Zanotto and Lilly Caul but there was also a third completely different Lily you played in Firewatch (2016).

NR: Yes! She was completely different. That Lily was a drunk, skinny dipping brat! That was really fun because Sean and Jake sent me an email that basically said, ‘we are doing this game [and] we want you to be in it.’ So, I was like alright. I recorded my role in my souped-up closet studio and the rest is history. That game is just a beautiful thing.

MWM: Was the Lili namesake throughout these multiple properties a coincidence?

NR: Partially, I mean Psychonauts was first, then in TWD Sean and Jake joked saying ‘we have to cast you as Lilly Caul because you played Lili in Psychonauts.’ But when the two of them asked me to be in Firewatch they named her Lily on purpose. They said’ it was so that the people in the know would know.’ The greatest compliments I get is when people say to me ‘wait you played these characters? You don’t even sound like them!’ Ya that’s because I’m a voice actor. (stated with humor) I’ve learned that every character I play, I bring a part of myself into them and that’s what makes a personality really special.

MWM: That’s quite the accomplishment.

NR: Right? The thing that I find interesting about a lot of the characters that I’ve played is that in their own way they are all badasses, and I like that. I love that I get to play these characters who don’t take shit, who are tough and tell you like it is. I’m not sure how much of a badass I am.

MWM: After everything we’ve discussed. The risks you’ve taken and the roles you’ve personified in your life. It’s safe to say there is a badass in you.

NR: You’re right! There is a badass in me. Especially when I think of the things I have done in my life. The truth is this business is hard. In this industry you have to find your place, but you also have to keep going further than what you think you can do. I’ll tell you what, when I auditioned for XCOM Enemy Unknown (2012) I was living in San Francisco. For that game it was a situation where if I booked the part, I would have to pay my own fare to LA to record. After that session, I literally ruined my voice for three days because it was a lot of screaming. There are some days I really do miss San Francisco. I was working a lot more there in the Bay Area than I have been since I moved to L.A. I just wish that all these characters I played like Morgan LeFlay had a longer life than they did. Even with The Sims. I was a part of that franchise for twelve years, so it was a bummer when they didn’t bring any actors back for The Sims 4. For the longest time I didn’t think any of these characters would come back.

MWM: Well as a fan of these characters I personally was thrilled to see them make their triumphant comebacks. Lilly Caul blew the gaming community away when she returned for TWD’s final season and now Lili Zanotto is back for Psychonauts 2. What was it like playing these characters again after all this time?

NR: When I read the script for [TWD], I was scared to see how fans were going to react to Lilly. I mean, she changed. She became a villain. Don’t get me wrong, it was fun to play someone so unapologetically bad. But I started to panic a little about how it’d be received. Then, when I heard that Psychonauts was back I was so happy. [Lili Zanotto’s] story revolves around her mission to try and rescue her father. She has a different tone now and it felt good to revisit and explore her in that mind-frame. It was also great because for the first time in over a year I got to record in a real studio with a real engineer!

MWM: I believe I speak for our readers when I say how thrilled we are to hear your voice return through Lili Zanotto once again. But before we wrap up this interview, do you have any final thoughts you want to share to the PSI-Cadets who’ve been anticipating Psychonauts 2 for as long as you?

NR: I just have a lot of gratitude for all of this. The fans I meet at conventions have kept these characters and these games alive all these years. I attended the E3 2019 Psychonauts 2 demo showcase. No one knew I was in there sitting with the audience while they watched the demo. I was in the thick of it. I got to hear people enjoying the demo and laugh at my dialogue. It was so special; the joy people bring me makes me feel that I am doing what I’m supposed to be doing.

Photo courtesy of Nikki Rapp

Rapp has proven herself to be artist who defies stereotypes. No matter what life may throw at her, she continues to follow her life’s path, creating inimitable characters and performances along the way. Follow Nicki Rapp on Twitter @itsuhrapp and IG @nickirapp and don’t forget to pick up a copy of Psychonauts 2 in its physical or digital editions.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Covers Revealed - Upcoming Novels by DAC Authors

Here are some of the upcoming novels by formerly featured Debut Author Challenge (DAC) Authors. The year in parentheses is the year the author was featured in the DAC.

Kira Jane Buxton (2019)

Feral Creatures
Grand Central Publishing, August 24, 2021
Hardcover and eBook, 368 pages
In this stunning follow-up to Hollow Kingdom, the animal kingdom's "favorite apocalyptic hero"is back with a renewed sense of hope for humanity, ready to take on a world ravaged by a viral pandemic (Helen Macdonald).

Once upon an apocalypse, there lived an obscenely handsome American crow named S.T. . . .

When the world last checked-in with its favorite Cheeto addict, the planet had been overrun by flesh-hungry beasts, and nature had started re-claiming her territory from humankind. S.T., the intrepid crow, alongside his bloodhound-bestie Dennis, had set about saving pets that had become trapped in their homes after humanity went the way of the dodo.

That is, dear reader, until S.T. stumbled upon something so rare—and so precious—that he vowed to do everything in his power to safeguard what could, quite literally, be humanity's last hope for survival. But in a wild world plagued by prejudiced animals, feather-raising environments, new threats so terrifying they make zombies look like baby bunnies, and a horrendous dearth of cheesy snacks, what's a crow to do?

Why, wing it on another big-hearted, death-defying adventure, that's what! Joined by a fabulous new cast of animal characters, S.T. faces many new challenges plus his biggest one yet: parenthood.
Amazon : Barnes and Noble : Bookshop : Books-A-Million : IndieBound : Powell's
Google Play : iBooks : Kobo

Peter Newman (2015)

The Boundless
The Deathless Trilogy 3
HarperVoyager, August 17, 2021
Trade Paperback, 448 pages
HarperVoyager, August 6, 2020
eBook, 448 pages
The thrilling conclusion to an epic trilogy of dynastic struggles in a world of crystal castles, winged knights, and savage wilderness.

House Sapphire has a new leader, but High Lord Vasinidra cannot stand still for a moment. The monsters of the Wild are hunting with a new intelligence and purpose, and one Deathless family is already on the brink of extinction.

In the forests of the Wild, Chandni faces a choice that will transform her or destroy her. Far above, her two sons are reunited at last and forced to confront their true origins.

Pari Tanzanite has never stayed within the rules. On a desperate journey to the source of her world’s magic, Pari will discover secrets even she could never have imagined – secrets that will change the rules completely.

Amazon : Barnes and Noble : Books-A-Million : IndieBound : Powell's
Google Play : iBooks : Kobo
Book One
Book Two

Matthew Ward (2020)

Legacy of Light
The Legacy Trilogy 3
Orbit, August 17, 2021
Trade Paperback and eBook, 800 pages
Legacy of Light is the spectacular conclusion to Matthew Ward's acclaimed Legacy trilogy—an unmissable epic fantasy series of war and intrigue perfect for fans of George R. R. Martin, Brent Weeks, and Brandon Sanderson.

For the first time in many years, the Tressian Republic and the Hadari Empire are at peace. But darkness never sleeps.

In Tregard, Empress Melanna Saranal struggles to protect a throne won at great cost.

In Tressia, Lord Protector Viktor Droshna seeks to restore all he's lost through forbidden means.

And as the sins of the past are once more laid bare, every road will lead to war.

The Legacy Trilogy
Legacy of Ash
Legacy of Steel
Legacy of Light
Amazon : Barnes and Noble : Bookshop : Books-A-Million : IndieBound : Powell's
Google Play : iBooks : Kobo
Book One
Book Two

Monday, August 09, 2021

The View From Monday - August 9, 2021

Happy Monday!

There are 4 debuts this week:

She Wouldn't Change a Thing by Sarah Adlakha;

The Manningtree Witches by A. K. Blakemore;

They Met in a Tavern by Elijah Menchaca;


The Shimmering State by Meredith Westgate.
Clicking on a novel's cover will take you to its Amazon page.

From formerly featured DAC Authors:

Spirits Abroad: Stories by Zen Cho;

Paper & Blood (Ink & Sigil 2) by Keven Hearne;

The Maleficent Seven by Cameron Johnston;


Citadel (Palladium Wars 3) by Marko Kloos.
Clicking on a novel's cover will take you to its Amazon page.

Debut novels are highlighted in blue. Novels, etc. by formerly featured DAC Authors are highlighted in green.

August 8, 2021
Seasons Between Us: Tales of Identities and Memories Susan Forest (Ed)
Lucas K. Law (Ed)
SpecFic - Laksa Anthology Series: Speculative Fiction

August 10, 2021
She Wouldn't Change a Thing (D) Sarah Adlakha W/SF/TT
World Engines: Destroyer Stephen Baxter SF/HSF/SO
Afterland (h2tp)
Lauren Beukes Sus/Dys
The Manningtree Witches (D) A. K. Blakemore Occ/Sup/Medieval/Feminist
Spirits Abroad: Stories Zen Cho F/SF/LF/GH - Collection
Quiet Village Eden Darry H
Daughter from the Dark (h2tp)
Marina & Sergey Dyachenko DF
Axiom's End (h2tp)
Lindsay Ellis SF/SC/Th - Noumena 1
The King of Infinite Space Lyndsay Faye LF/MR
Paper & Blood Kevin Hearne CF/P - Ink & Sigil 2
The Rookery Deborah Hewitt CF/P - The Nightjar Duology 2
The Other Me Sarah Zachrich Jeng Sus/W/SF/TT
Trouble the Saints (h2tp)
Alaya Dawn Johnson HistF/LF
The Loop (h2tp)
Jeremy Robert Johnson SupTh
The Maleficent Seven Cameron Johnston F/DF
Citadel Marko Kloos SF/SO - Palladium Wars 3
Madame Cruller's Couch and Other Dark and Bizarre Tales Elizabeth Massie Occ - Collection
War of the Maps Paul McAuley SF
They Met in a Tavern (D)
Elijah Menchaca F
The Ankh-Morpork Archives: Volume One Terry Pratchett F
Jenny Villiers J. B. Priestley GH
From the Caves Thea Prieto Dys/CoA/SF/AP/PA
Plan for the Worst Jodi Taylor SF/TT/HistF/Hist/SF - Chronicles of St. Mary's 11
The Echoed Realm A. J. Vrana DF
The Shimmering State (D) Meredith Westgate LF
Sword & Citadel: The Second Half of The Book of the New Sun Gene Wolfe Science Fantasy - The Book of the New Sun 2

D - Debut
e - eBook
Ed - Editor
h2mm - Hardcover to Mass Market Paperback
h2tp - Hardcover to Trade Paperback
Illus - Illustrator
Ke - Kindle eBook
ri - reissue or reprint
tp2mm - Trade Paperback to Mass Market Paperback
Tr - Translator

AB - Absurdist
AC - Alien Contact
AH - Alternative History
AP - Apocalyptic
BHU - Black Humor
CF - Contemporary Fantasy
CM - Crime & Mystery
CoA - Coming of Age
CrM - Crime and Mystery
CW - Contemporary Women
CyP - CyberPunk
DF - Dark Fantasy
Dys - Dystopian
F - Fantasy
FairyT - Fairy Tales
FL - Family Life
FolkT - Folk Tales
FR - Fantasy Romance
GenEng - Genetic Engineering
GH - Ghost(s)
GothicR - Gothic Romance
GW&CC - Global Warming and Climate Change
H - Horror
HC - History and Criticism
Hist - Historical
HistF - Historical Fantasy
HistM - Historical Mystery
HistR - Historical Romance
HistTh - Historical Thriller
HSF - Hard Science Fiction
HU - Humorous
LC - Literary Criticism
LF - Literary Fiction
LM - Legend and Mythology
M - Mystery
Med - Medical
MR - Magical Realism
MTI - Media Tie-In
MU - Mash-Up
NF - Near Future
Occ - Occult
P - Paranormal
PA - Post Apocalyptic
PCM - Paranormal Cozy Mystery
PF - Paranormal Fantasy
PNR - Paranormal Romance
Pol - Political
PolTh - Political Thriller
PopCul - Popular Culture
PP - Police Porcedural
Psy - Psychological
R - Romance
RF - Romantic Fantasy
ScF - Science Fantasy
SE - Space Exploration
SF - Science Fiction
SFR - Science Fiction Romance
SFTh - Science Fiction Thriller
SH - Superheroes
SO - Space Opera
SP - Steampunk
SpecFic - Speculative Fiction
SS - Short Stories
STR - Small Town and Rural
Sup - Supernatural
SupM - Supernatural Mystery
SupTh - Supernatural Thriller
Sus - Suspense
TechTh - Technological Thriller
Th - Thriller
TT - Time Travel
TTR - Time Travel Romance
UF - Urban Fantasy
VM - Visionary and Metaphysical
WS - Women Sleuths

Note: Not all genres and formats are found in the books, etc. listed above.

Sunday, August 08, 2021

Covers Revealed: Upcoming Works by DAC Authors

Here are some of the upcoming works by formerly featured Debut Author Challenge (DAC) Authors. The year in parentheses is the year the author was featured in the DAC.

Charlie Jane Anders (2016)

Never Say You Can't Survive
Tordotcom, August 17, 2021
Hardcover and eBook, 240 pages
From Charlie Jane Anders, the award-winning author of novels such as All the Birds in the Sky and The City in the Middle of the Night, this is one of the most practical guides to storytelling that you will ever read.

The world is on fire.
So tell your story.

Things are scary right now. We’re all being swept along by a tidal wave of history, and it’s easy to feel helpless. But we’re not helpless: we have minds, and imaginations, and the ability to visualize other worlds and valiant struggles. And writing can be an act of resistance that reminds us that other futures and other ways of living are possible.

Full of memoir, personal anecdote, and insight about how to flourish during the present emergency, Never Say You Can’t Survive is the perfect manual for creativity in unprecedented times.
Amazon : Barnes and Noble : Bookshop : Books-A-Million : IndieBound : Powell's
Google Play : iBooks : Kobo

Cameron Johnston (2018)

The Maleficent Seven
Angry Robot, August 10, 2021
Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages
When you are all out of heroes, all that’s left are the villains…

Black Herran was a dread demonologist, and the most ruthless general in all Essoran. She assembled the six most fearsome warriors to captain her armies: a necromancer, a vampire lord, a demigod, an orcish warleader, a pirate queen, and a twisted alchemist. Together they brought the whole continent to its knees… Until the day she abandoned her army, on the eve of total victory.

40 years later, she must bring her former captains back together for one final stand, in the small town of Tarnbrooke – the last bastion against a fanatical new enemy tearing through the land, intent on finishing the job Black Herran started years before.

Seven bloodthirsty monsters. One town. Their last hope.

File Under: Fantasy [ Heroes or Horrors? | Flames and Faith | Blood and Guts | Hell Demons ]
Amazon : Barnes and Noble : Bookshop : Books-A-Million : IndieBound : Powell's
Google Play : iBooks : Kobo

Marko Kloos (2014)

Palladium Wars 3
47North, August 10, 2021
Hardcover, Trade Paperback, and eBook, 332 pages
An interplanetary battle is renewed in an epic novel of a warring solar system by the author of Ballistic.

The war should have been over. But it’s not for a group of nationalists grabbing for control.

It’s been two weeks since a missile with a nuclear warhead tore through the planetary defenses in the most blistering large-scale attack ever committed in the history of the Gaia system. Commander Dunstan Park of the Rhodian navy has been handpicked to command an experimental cruiser that could dictate the course of the escalating conflict. All he has to do is keep the ship from falling into the wrong hands.

On Gretia, the powder keg is beyond control. A terrorist attack against civilians draws Idina Chaudhary into a costly battle. It also forces a cautious Aden Jansen back into the fray. Now dedicated to a just cause, he’s still keeping his past hidden. The risk of exposing his former alliance could twist not only his fate but also that of his sister, Solveig, heir to the family empire.

With no time to waste, Dunstan hits the ground running. But as insurgents threaten the unstable peace, what’s ahead for both sides could change the destiny of the Gaia system forever.
Amazon : Barnes and Noble : Bookshop : Books-A-Million : IndieBound : Powell's
Book One
Book Two

2021 Mythopoeic Awards Finalists

The Mythopoeic Society has announced the finalists for the 2021 Mythopoeic Awards. "Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mythcon was not held in the summer of 2020, and the awards committees needed extra time to obtain and evaluate nominated books, thus necessitating a delay in the awards processes for both 2020 and 2021."

Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature

  • Alice Hoffman, Magic Lessons (Simon Schuster)
  • Jordan Ifuekov, Raybearer (Amulet)
  • TJ Klune, The House in the Cerulean Sea (Tor)
  • Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Mexican Gothic (Del Rey)
  • Garth Nix, The Left-Handed Booksellers of London (Katherine Tegen Books)

Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature

  • Lev Grossman, The Silver Arrow (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
  • Kat Leyh, Snapdragon (First Second)
  • T. Kingfisher, A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking (Argyll)
  • Tae Keller, When You Trap a Tiger (Random House Books for Young Readers)
  • Carlos Hernandez, the Sal and Gabi duology: Sal and Gabi Break the Universe and Sal and Gabi Fix the Universe (Rick Riordan Presents)
  • Jenn Reese, A Game of Fox and Squirrels ((Henry Holt)

Mythopoeic Scholarship Award for Inklings Studies

  • John M. Bowers, Tolkien’s Lost Chaucer (Oxford University Press, 2019)
  • Oronzo Cilli, Tolkien’s Library: An Annotated Checklist (Luna Press, 2019)
  • John Garth, The Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien: The Places That Inspired Middle-earth (Princeton University Press, 2020)
  • Catherine McIlwaine, ed, Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth (Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, 2018)
  • John Rateliff, ed, A Wilderness of Dragons: Essays in Honor of Verlyn Flieger (Gabbro Head, 2018)

Mythopoeic Scholarship Award for Myth and Fantasy Studies

  • Kathryn Hume, The Metamorphoses of Myth in Fiction since 1960 (Bloomsbury Academic, 2020)
  • Adrienne Mayor, Gods and Robots: Myths, Machines, and Ancient Dreams of Technology (Princeton University Press, 2018)
  • C. Palmer-Patel, The Shape of Fantasy: Investigating the Structure of American Heroic Epic Fantasy (Routledge, 2019)
  • Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, The Dark Fantastic: Race and the Imagination from Harry Potter to The Hunger Games (New York University Press, 2019)
  • Anna Vaninskaya, Fantasies of Time and Death: Dunsany, Eddison, Tolkien (Palgrave, 2020)

For more information please visit the Mythopoeic Society website.  The winners of this year’s awards will be announced online in fall 2021.

Saturday, August 07, 2021

2021 British Fantasy Awards Shortlist

The British Fantasy Society has announced the shortlist for the 2021 British Fantasy Awards. The winners will be announced at FantasyCon in September 2021.

Best Newcomer (The Sydney J. Bounds Award)

  • Tiffani Angus, for Threading the Labyrinth (Unsung Stories)
  • Dan Coxon, for Green Fingers & Only the Broken Remain (Black Shuck Books)
  • Sean Hogan, for England’s Screaming (PS Publishing) & Three Mothers, One Father (Black Shuck Books)
  • Kathleen Jennings, for Flyaway (Tordotcom)
  • Simon Jimenez, for The Vanished Birds (Titan)
  • Rym Kechacha, for Dark River (Unsung Stories)

Best Film / Television Production

  • Birds of Prey
  • The Boys: What I Know (Season 2, episode 8)
  • The Haunting of Bly Manor: The Romance of Certain Old Clothes (Season 1, episode 8)
  • The Invisible Man
  • The Lighthouse
  • Saint Maud

Best Non-Fiction

  • The Full Lid, Alasdair Stuart, ed. Marguerite Kenner
  • It’s the End of the World: But What Are We Really Afraid Of?, Adam Roberts (Elliot & Thompson)
  • Notes from the Borderland, Lynda E. Rucker (in “Black Static”, TTA Press)
  • Ties that Bind: Love in Fantasy and Science Fiction, ed. Francesca T Barbini (Luna Press Publishing)
  • The Unstable Realities of Christopher Priest, Paul Kincaid (Gylphi Limited)
  • Women Make Horror: Filmmaking, Feminism, Genre, ed. Alison Peirse (Rutgers University Press)

Best Artist

  • Warwick Fraser-Coombe
  • David Rix
  • Vincent Sammy
  • Daniele Serra

Best Comic / Graphic Novel

  • The Daughters of Ys, Jo Rioux & M.T. Andersen (First Second)
  • DIE Vol. 2: Split the Party, Kieron Gillen & Stephanie Hans (Image Comics)
  • John Constantine: Hellblazer, Vol. 1: Marks of Woe, Simon Spurrier & Aaron Campbell (DC Comics)
  • The Magic Fish, Trung Le Nguyen (Random House Graphic)
  • Rivers of London: The Fey and the Furious, Ben Aaronovitch & Andrew Cartmell (Titan)
  • Venus in the Blind Spot, Junji Ito (VIZ Media LLC)

Best Magazine / Periodical

  • Black Static
  • The Dark
  • Ginger Nuts of Horror
  • Shoreline of Infinity
  • Strange Horizons

Best Independent Press

  • Black Shuck Books
  • Flame Tree Press
  • Luna Press Publishing
  • Unsung Stories

Best Audio

  • Breaking the Glass Slipper, Megan Leigh, Lucy Hounson & Charlotte Bond
  • The Magnus Archives, Rusty Quill
  • PodCastle, Escape Artists
  • PseudoPod, Escape Artists
  • The Sandman, Dirk Maggs & Neil Gaiman (Audible Originals)
  • Stellar Firma, Rusty Quill

Best Anthology

  • After Sundown, ed. Mark Morris (Flame Tree Press)
  • Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women, ed. Lee Murray & Geneve Flynn (Omnium Gatherum Media)
  • Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora, ed. Zelda Knight & Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki (Aurelia Leo)
  • Shadows & Tall Trees, Vol. 8, ed. Michael Kelly (Undertow Publications)

Best Short Fiction

  • 8-Bit Free Will, John Wiswell (in PodCastle 654, Escape Artists)
  • Daylight Robbery, Anna Taborska (in “Bloody Britain”, Shadow Publishing)
  • Infinite Tea in the Demara Café, Ida Keogh (in “London Centric: Tales of Future London, Newcon Press)
  • We Do Like to be Beside, Pete Sutton (in “Alchemy Press Book of Horrors 2”, Alchemy Press)

Best Collection

  • Bloody Britain, Anna Taborska (Shadow Publishing)
  • Only the Broken Remain, Dan Coxon (Black Shuck Books)
  • The Watcher in the Woods, Charlotte Bond (Black Shuck Books)
  • We All Hear Stories in the Dark, Robert Shearman (PS Publishing)

Best Novella

  • The Flame and the Flood, Shona Kinsella (Fox Spirit)
  • Honeybones, Georgina Bruce (TTA Press)
  • The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water, Zen Cho (Tordotcom)
  • Ring Shout, P. Djèlí Clark (Tordotcom)
  • A Song for the End, Kit Power (Horrific Tales Publishing)
  • Triggernometry, Stark Holborn (Rattleback Books)

Best Horror Novel (The August Derleth Award)

  • Beneath the Rising, Premee Mohamed (Rebellion)
  • The Hollow Places, T. Kingfisher (Titan)
  • Mexican Gothic, Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Jo Fletcher Books)
  • The Only Good Indians, Stephen Graham Jones (Titan)
  • Plain Bad Heroines, Emily Danforth (The Borough Press)
  • Survivor Song, Paul Tremblay (Titan)

Best Fantasy Novel (The Robert Holdstock Award)

  • The Bone Shard Daughter, Andrea Stewart (Orbit)
  • By Force Alone, Lavie Tidhar (Head of Zeus)
  • The City We Became, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)
  • Dark River, Rym Kechacha (Unsung Stories)
  • The Once and Future Witches, Alix E. Harrow (Orbit)
  • Threading the Labyrinth, Tiffani Angus (Unsung Stories)

  For more information, see the British Fantasy Society website.

Covers Revealed: Recent and Upcoming Works by DAC Authors

Here are some of the recent and upcoming works by formerly featured Debut Author Challenge (DAC) Authors. The year in parentheses is the year the author was featured in the DAC.

Zen Cho (2015)

Spirits Abroad: Stories
Small Beer Press, August 10, 2021
Trade Paperback and eBook, 288 pages
A new expanded edition of Zen Cho’s award-winning debut collection.

Nineteen sparkling stories that weave between the lands of the living and the lands of the dead. Spirits Abroad is an expanded edition of Zen Cho’s Crawford Award winning debut collection with nine added stories including Hugo Award winner “If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again.” A Datin recalls her romance with an orang bunian. A teenage pontianak struggles to balance homework, bossy aunties, first love, and eating people. An earth spirit gets entangled in protracted negotiations with an annoying landlord, and Chang E spins off into outer space, the ultimate metaphor for the Chinese diaspora.
Amazon : Barnes and Noble : Bookshop : Books-A-Million : IndieBound : Powell's
Google Play : iBooks : Kobo

Kevin Hearne (2011)

Paper & Blood
Ink & Sigil 2
Del Rey, August 10, 2021
Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Iron Druid Chronicles comes book two of an “action-packed, enchantingly fun” (Booklist) spin-off series, as an eccentric master of rare magic solves a supernatural mystery Down Under!

There’s only one Al MacBharrais: Though other Scotsmen may have dramatic mustaches and a taste for fancy cocktails, Al also has a unique talent. He’s a master of ink and sigil magic. In his gifted hands, paper and pen can work wondrous spells.

But Al isn’t quite alone: He is part of a global network of sigil agents who use their powers to protect the world from mischievous gods and strange monsters. So when a fellow agent disappears under sinister circumstances in Australia, Al leaves behind the cozy pubs and cafes of Glasgow and travels to the Dandenong Ranges in Victoria to solve the mystery.

The trail to his colleague begins to pile up with bodies at alarming speed, so Al is grateful his friends have come to help—especially Nadia, his accountant who moonlights as a pit fighter. Together with a whisky-loving hobgoblin known as Buck Foi and the ancient Druid Atticus O’Sullivan, along with his dogs, Oberon and Starbuck, Al and Nadia will face down the wildest wonders Australia—and the supernatural world—can throw at them, and confront a legendary monster not seen in centuries.
Amazon : Barnes and Noble : Bookshop : Books-A-Million : IndieBound : Powell's
Google Play : iBooks : Kobo
Book One

Devin Madson (2020)

We Cry For Blood
The Reborn Empire 3
Orbit, August 3, 2021
Trade Paperback and eBook, 624 pages
"A complex tale of war, politics, and lust for power." —The Guardian

Alliances fracture and hope wanes in a ravaged empire caught between three factions in the heart-pounding continuation of Devin Madson's bold epic fantasy series, The Reborn Empire.

Ambition and schemes have left the Kisian Empire in ashes. Empress Miko Ts’ai will have to move fast if she hopes to secure a foothold in its ruins. However, the line between enemies and allies may not be as clear-cut as it first appeared.

After failing to win back his Swords, former Captain Rah e’Torin finds shelter among the Levanti deserters. But his presence in the camp threatens to fracture the group, putting him on a collision course with their enigmatic leader.

Assassin Cassandra Marius knows Leo Villius’s secret—one that could thwart his ambitions to conquer Kisia. But her time in Empress Hana’s body is running out and each attempt they make to exploit Leo’s weakness may be playing into his plans.

And, as Leo’s control over the Levanti emperor grows, Dishiva e’Jaroven is caught in his web. She’ll have to decide how many of her people are worth sacrificing in order to win.
Amazon : Barnes and Noble : Bookshop : Books-A-Million : IndieBound : Powell's
Google Play : iBooks : Kobo
Book One
Book Two

Friday, August 06, 2021

Fire Power #15 Coming in September


Fire Power blends audacious action sequences with heartfelt character moments” -AIPT 

PORTLAND, Ore. 08/05/2021 — Today Image/Skybound revealed a first look at Fire Power by Kirkman & Samnee #15, continuing the exciting second year of the hit series from superstars Robert Kirkman, Chris Samnee and Matthew Wilson.

After the stunning events of the last issue, the Serpent’s Omen takes hold! Now, Owen has no choice but to fight back—and the Fire Power might not be enough. But first Ling Zan, Kellie and Owen will have to sort out, well, a lot.

Fire Power by Kirkman & Samnee #15 (Diamond Code JUL210227) will be available at  comic book shops and digital platforms including Amazon Kindle, Apple Books, comiXology, and Google Play on Wednesday, September 1.

For more info and updates, visit

[click to embiggen]
Image Comics is a comic book and graphic novel publisher founded in 1992 by a collective of bestselling artists. Image has since gone on to become one of the largest comics publishers in the United States. Image currently has six individuals on the Board of Directors: Robert Kirkman, Erik Larsen, Todd McFarlane, Marc Silvestri, Jim Valentino, and Eric Stephenson. It consists of five major houses: Todd McFarlane Productions, Top Cow Productions, Shadowline Comics, Skybound Entertainment, and Image Central. Image publishes comics and graphic novels in nearly every genre, sub-genre, and style imaginable. It offers science fiction, fantasy, romance, horror, crime fiction, historical fiction, humor and more by the finest artists and writers working in the medium today. For more information, visit
Founded in 2010, Skybound Entertainment is a multiplatform content company that works closely with creators and their intellectual properties, extending their stories to further platforms including comics, television, film, tabletop and video games, books, digital content, events, and beyond. The company is the home of notable properties including The Walking Dead, Invincible, and Super Dinosaur.

Skybound holds strategic partnerships across the entertainment industry, and has the in-house capabilities to serve as publisher, producer, and global distributor for tabletop and video games. On screen, Skybound holds a first-look television deal with Amazon Studios and a first-look movie deal with Universal. Additional partnerships include comic book publishing with Image Comics, book publishing with Simon & Schuster, and a first-look narrative audio deal with Audible. Skybound also houses a variety of unique creators and their IP, including Kristian Harloff and his pop-culture movie trivi