Monthly Archives: March 2014

Vectors: Favorite Fantasy Trope

This week we tackle the question:

“What’s your favorite fantasy trope?”

J. Kathleen CheneyJ. Kathleen Cheney

Ah, my favorite fantasy trope….the human/horse shapeshifter.

I’ve always liked horses. I was the only one in my city-raised family who wanted to ride. As a kid, I drew horses, I read all the horse books, I wanted to be a horse sometimes. I took horsemanship in college, and rode when I could drum up the cash. GreyHorse

So when it comes to Fantasy, I love reading the horses. Well, not so much the horses but creatures who are sometimes horses, sometimes human. My favorite book by Judith Tarr is A Wind in Cairo, wherein the heroine finds herself atop a particularly intelligent horse. He is actually a human transformed into a horse as recompense for his crimes (not a spoiler, I promise) and the story follows their time together. Another I particularly adored is R.A. MacAvoy’s The Grey Horse which does a lovely job of showing us a pooka’s life and loves.

And yes, I’ve even written this trope, just so you know. (My novella “Iron Shoes” and its sequels cover this ground, heavily inspired by the two above novels, I confess.)

BethCato-steampunk-headshotBeth Cato

I have a number of favorites–magical horses (high five to J. Kathleen!), selkies–but my very favorite trope is one that’s usually relegated to side characters in books and games: healers.

From the age of 12, I fixated on white wizards, clerics, priests, and most any occupation that involved healing the injured. This all started with my greatest, deepest love of the fantasy genre, Final Fantasy II for Super Nintendo (now best known by its true Japanese number, Final Fantasy IV). The game came out soon after my grandpa died after prolonged terminal illness, so the idea of curative magic resonated strongly with me. In FF2, I always changed Rosa’s name to “Beth.” I was the queen of Mary Sues before the term Mary Sue existed in that context. Within months, I fell into the fantasy book genre–Prydain Chronicles, Dragonlance, and so on. It always frustrated me that healers were never the heroes–just like in Final Fantasy II, they were relegated to the back row in battles.

My obsession never went away. When I resurrected my writing dreams in my late 20s, I still gravitated to that kind of magic. I wrote a superhero urban fantasy novel about a healer; that connected me with my literary agent. Then I wrote my steampunk fantasy novel about a healer–The Clockwork Dagger. My heroine is a medician, but she’s not relegated to the back row in battle.

In all honesty, I feel like I wrote the book I would have absolutely adored at age thirteen.

final-fantasy-iv-snes-us

Fran2014Fran Wilde

I’m torn. Surprising absolutely no one, I love fantasy food tropes – the banquet, rivers of chocolate, elevenses. My touchstone for much of Cooking the Books is going beyond STEW (as described by Diana Wynne Jones in The Tough Guide to Fantasyland. But my other favorite trope is The Unexpected Swordswoman. From Eowyn to River Tam. Yup.

toughguidetofantasyland

Lawrence SchoenLawrence M. Schoen

My favorite trope — which I tend to see more in SF than F, because I read much more SF than F — is the classic bit of coming to understand humanity through the eyes of the other. It sparks that same awe that I felt that day in some introductory course in college when I was introduced to the bizarre habits of the “Nacirema” (and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, by all means Google the word and prepare to be amazed and feel foolish at the same time).

What makes this trope work for me is the way it plays on the unconscious assumptions we all have about our culture, our society, our every day behaviors. All the things we take for granted that other people (whether they be elves or aliens) have to dissect with meticulous care when they meet up with us. It’s like being an infant, thrust into a world that overloads the senses, and trying to determine what is important and what is not, what is signal and what is noise.

The other side of this is of course that the POV group has its own set of rules and rituals that it is often as not equally oblivious of as well (because they’re as commonplace and automatic as breathing) and the author has to not only paint humanity’s behaviors in tones of confusion, bemusement, and/or disgust from this POV, but also let the reader in on what passes as ordinary for these folk, when in fact the reader would be horrified, delighted, bewildered to encounter them firsthand without the insiders’ perspective.

This trope runs rampant throughout genre, but if you’re looking for a few authors to start with, let me suggest Ursula K. Le Guin as well as C. J. Cherryh, both who have written many books that might be construed as having an “anthopological” bent.

I normally like my fiction — both the stuff I read and the stuff I write — to end on an optimistic note. This trope gets in the way because at its core is the notion that any kind of First Contact situation is going to be doomed unless both sides are very very patient, open-minded, and forgiving. Oh look, just that easily, we have plot conflict from the beginning.

MK HutchinsM.K. Hutchins

I never get tired of self-sacrificing characters who give up what they want for what they — or their world — needs. This has to be one of the most ubiquitous and oldest tropes in fiction, seen in lowly hobbits and lonely Spidermans. It made me cheer for Katniss Everdeen, who loved her sister more than her own life. It tore my heart in two at the end of Lloyd Alexander’s The Black Cauldron, the second book of the classic Prydain Chronicles. It’s probably fair to say that most books on my shelf have some aspect of self-sacrificing heroism, but I never get tired of it. There are so many different kinds of heroes and so many different costs they pay for being heroes.faith

This is one of the things that sucked me into historical k-dramas. The stories often pit the character’s larger goals against their personal desires. Achievements and victories always come with a price. If you haven’t watched any k-dramas and want to jump in, I highly recommend Faith.

tina_connolly-300x450Tina Connolly

I’m sure if I kept thinking I would come up with my favorite fantasy trope, but my favorite SF trope IMMEDIATELY leaps to mind, and that’s time travel. I LOVE time travel stories, and I probably wouldn’t even notice that I love time travel stories so much, except that everyone’s always complaining about how much they hate them.

There are lots of things I love about time travel stories. You can easily play with nostalgia and regret. Depending on what sort of time travel you come up with, you can see the butterfly effect from changing little things, or you can have fun with the immutable timeline (time can’t be broken, but we can reveal what REALLY happened twenty years ago…) There’s lots of room for cleverness in time travel.

A middle grade book that immediately springs to mind is Diana Wynne Jones’ A Tale of Time City. Not precisely time travel, as Time City is *outside* time, but it plays with a number of fun time things. And, it has butter pies (which are a little bit like those new Ben & Jerry’s core flavors, if the core managed to be hot at the same time that the ice cream was cold, all the way down.) Mmm…butter pies…I’m sorry, what was the topic again?

A-Tale-of-Time-City

Vectors: Favorite new author from the past year

We’re holding back on the childhood nostalgia this week and looking to the more recent past. Our question: What’s your favorite book from an author you hadn’t read a year ago?

 

Steve BeinSteve Bein:

I finally started Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone. I’ve had this one on my stack for a long time.

Somehow I came to think about it as a cousin to my own work. They share both a birthday and a milestone: it’s Gladstone’s first novel, and it came out the same day my first novel came out. Christian McGrath did the cover art for both books. The covers are even in the same general color spectrum, gold and orange ranging into black. They both feature badass women with blades.threepartsdead

I don’t judge books by their covers. I do judge them by their first sentences, though. (Not exclusively by their first sentences, but it’s a factor.) So how’s this for a first sentence?

When the Hidden Schools threw Tara Abernathy out, she fell a thousand feet through wisps of cloud and woke to find herself alive, broken and bleeding, beside the Crack in the World.

Sold!Daughter of the Sword

On the day Daughter of the Sword came out, when I rushed out to see my very first novel right there on the shelf in an honest-to-god bookstore, Three Parts Dead stared up at me from the next shelf.

Now I have finally delved deep enough into my to-read stack to uncover it again. It was worth the wait; I’m really enjoying it.

 

BethCato-steampunk-headshotBeth Cato:

First of all, I’d like to chime in with agreement for Steve’s choice. Three Parts Dead is a fabulous book. I just read the sequel Two Serpents Rise and enjoyed it immensely, too. Fantastic secondary world urban fantasy/epic fantasy/steampunk/dystopic vibe across that series.

Ahem. To go on with my answer…Fangirl

I read Rainbow Rowell’s book Fangirl last year and was awed and delighted. It’s not a genre book, but it’s absolutely about the love of genre. It’s New Adult with all the angsty experiences of a college freshman, with boy drama, sister drama, roommate drama… but it all feels utterly real. This is totally not my normal kind of book, but the characters are so relatable that it works. The heroine, Cath, is a super-introvert who writes Simon Snow fanfiction. Snow is obviously based on Harry Potter, though Potter exists in this world, too. Cath isn’t just a writer in her fandom–she’s THE writer, with a huge online following for her slash stories about Simon and his very-Draco-like roommate, Bas. I couldn’t help but get a huge kick out of this since my core group of online friends through my college years consisted of women writing anime and game-related slash.

The realism is what really got me about this book. I felt like I knew all these people. It has one of the sweetest romances I’ve read in recent years and it’s not formulaic in the least. Nothing is formulaic here. It’s raw, it’s real, it discusses sex and drinking and college life with real consequences, and through it all is the sustaining love of fandom and how it gives Cath stability. It even delves into the “is fan fiction real writing?” debate and handles it with a deft hand.

I can’t recommend this book enough. I’ve heard that Rowell’s book Eleanor & Park is likewise amazing, and I need to buy it.

 

MK HutchinsM.K. Hutchins:

Yangze Choo’s The Ghost Bride is simply gorgeous. It delivers prose that’s both rich and mesmerizing without being florid. It was easy to lose myself in various settings. Add compelling characters, a world of ghosts and hell banknotes, and plenty of mystery. I couldn’t put it down.cracked

The Ghost Bride

Cracked by Eliza Crewe is also fantastic. I love the voice — the sarcasm, the dark humor. That voice and the tight, YA-pacing, make the book addicting. I got to read it before it came out, and promptly re-read it in hard copy when it launched. It’s a laugh-and-cry-and-cheer kind of story…and I don’t know how to describe it more than that without dropping giant spoilers.

 

tina_connolly-300x450Tina Connolly:

I’ll ditto the Max Gladstone lovefest!

Another couple favorite books from people I read for the first time last year are:seachange

Somekindoffairytale

Graham Joyce, Some Kind of Fairy Tale, and S. M. Wheeler, Sea Change. Some Kind of Fairy Tale is a lovely book that walks the line between fantasy and reality. Twenty years ago a teenager named Tara disappeared. Now she walks back into her family’s life – and she looks exactly the same. It’s almost as if she’s spent the intervening years in fairyland… And Sea Change is a gorgeous fairy tale full of monsters and friendships and beautiful, horrible things, surprising and sharp and lovely.

 

J. Kathleen CheneyJ. Kathleen Cheney:

I must admit that my new fave came from an Amazon recommendation. (Wow…sometimes they do work.) Since I’d read some historical mysteries on my vacation in late 2012, and I have a history of reading Regency, Amazon suggested that I start reading the Regency Mysteries of C. S. Harris. After some consideration, I picked up her first novel in the Sebastian St. Cyr series over Christmas break….and was hooked. I read all 8 books in the series last year; the 9th came out March 4.serpents_200

If I were to pick a favorite of them, I would choose the 4th book, Where Serpents Sleep. It takes our hero in a totally different direction for his life after a terrible discovery in Book 3. I think that makes it the most interesting one, since it’s almost as if he’s learning who he is again. (Only to have another bombshell dropped on him in Book 4, then Book 5…)

But seriously, if you’re going to read these, you need to start at the beginning.



Lawrence SchoenLawrence M. Schoen:
About ten minutes ago I finished reading Max Gladstone’s excellent Three Parts Dead, and I was blown away. I’m tempted to echo Steve Bein and include it as my answer to this week’s question. But, the question was posed before I read it (actually, before I even started it), and so I’m going to go with the answer I’d been intending to type up for days and days.

Allow me to point you at The Lies of Locke Lamora, book one of the Gentleman Bastard series by Scott Lynch. Despite the rather unwieldy title (which at first glance made me think this book was about falsehood told of a Scottish body of water), I was instantly absorbed by the author’s voice, the intricacies and detail work he crafted, and the utter delight he drew out of me as scene after scene raised the stakes to ever dizzying heights only to have the next scene’s reveal/reversal turn everything on its head, remove the previously perceived threat, and ramp things even higher for other reasons. ScottLynch-TLoLL

I’d met Scott several years back, chatted with him at conventions on multiple occasions, but somehow never got around to reading his work until a couple months after our last chance meeting in a hallway at the San Antonio WorldCon. I’m kicking myself for having waited so long, but now I’m glad I delayed because Novelocity is giving me an opportunity to send a shout out about the book and encourage you (yes, dear reader, I’m talking directly to you!) to give it a read if like me, you’ve somehow missed reading this gem.

I should add that a lot of things that Scott Lynch does in this book, Max Gladstone does in his (although with very differently built worlds as backdrop). Perhaps best of all, both authors have already written two sequels to both books. It’s a great time to be a reader!

Cover Reveal: Michael R. Underwood with ATTACK THE GEEK

The cover for Attack The Geek: A Ree Reyes Side-Quest is now out in the world! Attack the Geek drops on April 7th, 2014.

Set after Celebromancy, Attack the Geek is a shorter work (about 1/2 the length of Geekomancy or Celebromancy) that tells the story of one crazy night at Grognard’s Grog and Games.

Attack the Geek

A side quest novella in the bestselling Geekomancy urban fantasy series–when D&D style adventures go from the tabletop to real life, look out!

Ree Reyes, urban fantasy heroine of Geekomancy, is working her regular barista/drink-slinger shift at Grognard’s when it all goes wrong. Everything.

As with Geekomancy (pop culture magic!) and its sequel Celebromancy (celebrity magic!), Attack the Geek is perfect for anyone who wants to visit a world “where all the books and shows and movies and games [that you] love are a source of power, not only in psychological terms, but in practical, villain-pounding ones” (Marie Brennan, award-winning author of A Natural History).

I love the recurring use of the dice in the titling of the series. And I think this has my favorite image of Ree so far – it shows her in a scene, where the previous covers were more ‘here’s the hero, and a sense of the setting’ And as a gamer who has had more than a few instances where the dice were trying to kill my character or my gaming group, the idea of being attacked by dice is quite fitting.

You can preorder Attack the Geek on Amazon. It’s out April 7th!

Vectors: Three Books (or Series) That Define You

J. Kathleen Cheney:
witch-of-blackbird-pond1I was a voracious reader in grade school (as we all were) but it was a truly different sensation to own a book. I don’t remember the name of the service, but there was one that allowed students to order books at a low price. I would save up my money from chores for that special day of the month when we put in orders.

One of my favorites of those books–which I still own, by the way–was The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare. This was the first ‘people’ book that I really remember loving. And it took me a few years to grasp that the reason I loved that book so much more than most of the others we were given at that age was that I loved the romance between Kit and Nat. It was, in retrospect, my first Romance novel.

Weirdly enough, my first real Fantasy novel was The Two Towers. Yes, I read it first. But that one opened a world of interesting new possibilities to me. I devoured the remaining books in that series and found a whole new section in the library.

One of the weirdest moments as a reader was coming across Susan Dexter’s The Ring of Allaire, a high fantasy. In Dexter’s book, our hapless young hero Tristan must find the famous stallion Valadan to help save his country from eternal winter. And where does he find the steed? Valadan is trapped on a merry-go-round. This was weird for me because in second grade, I’d written a story about zoo animals being trapped on a magical merry-go-round forever. It was strange to realize that real writers might have the same ideas that I had. That meant they were, in effect, just like me!


Michael R. Underwood:
I’m going to take this question and separate it out into three stages of life: Childhood, Adolescence, and Adulthood.

Childhood: A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin
I first read A Wizard of Earthsea somewhere in the first decade of my life, and it opened my eyes to a wider world of fantasy literature. I identified with young Sparrowhawk hard, and the notion of True Names, secrets and magic being intertwined, and with heroes who were more like me but could still do magic, unlike the clever but mundane Bilbo Baggins hit home for me in a big way. I keep circling back to A Wizard of Earthsea in my thinking and writing about fantasy fiction, and it looms large in my mental landscape.

Adolescence: Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis and Tracey Hickman

DragonsofAutumnTwilight_1984original1I’ve been a gamer since I was 8 or 9, when my classmates roped me into a game of Al-Qadim, where I played a Barbarian with a Dune Buggy (that’s honestly all I remember of that game). Through my Middle Grade years, I read a lot of D&D tie-in novels, but the ones that made the biggest impact on me as a young gamer and proto-writer were The Dragonlance Chronicles. They had noble heroes, conflicted anti-heroes, fascinating villains, and gigantic stakes. For a pre-teen Mike, they were marvel and wonder incarnated. Someone had taken the worlds I played in and shown a whole, complete story with recognizable spells and artifacts. The Dragonlance Chronicles were, to a twelve-year-old me, an example of what fantasy storytelling could accomplish. I haven’t gone back to the books as an adult, for fear that nostalgia alone might not let me re-capture that joy. But I would certainly not be the writer I am without that trilogy.

Adulthood: The Bas-Lag series by China Mieville

I first found the Bas-Lag books in college, as I was deciding that writing was something I wanted to do with my life, that being a Storyteller was something that I wanted to be an important part of my life.

Perdido Street Station, The Scar, and Iron Council taught me a variety of lessons and provided exciting examples: Fantasy could mix with science fiction, action could mix with critical theory, settings could be mind-blisteringly imaginative and still enrapture readers. Beautiful language didn’t have to mean a boring book. And moreover, The Bas-Lag books introduced me to what would be retroactively called the New Weird, a literary movement/trend/sub-genre that would inspire me in my own work, leading to Shield and Crocus, which is the novel that took me from amateur to emerging neo-pro, though I eventually had to put it aside to move on, coming back to it later.

It’d be hard for me to over-state the importance of the Bas-Lag books on my maturation as a freshly-minted Adult, who was supposed to start figuring out the world. Mieville’s Bas-Lag books showed that you could be smart, inventive, political, and respected, while still telling an exciting story, and I’ve been making my own Renegopolis ever since, laying down my own track and trying to bring along both exciting Storytelling and critical relevance.


Beth Cato:
I’m thinking of this in layers–like books that are past, present, and future (I hope) me.

From the time I was about nine to twelve, I regularly ventured to my local library to check out the Linda Craig series by Ann Sheldon. I was totally horse obsessed as a kid. The original (and by far the best) Linda Craig books were mystery westerns written in the 1960s, featuring teenaged Linda Craig, her beloved palomino horse Chica d’Oro, and assorted friends. They roamed around the California desert and tried to not get killed by bad guys and flash floods. Linda was flawed but smart. Sure, her brother and other friends helped, but Linda was savvy and often she was the one to do the rescuing. I never wanted to be Linda, but I wanted her horse. To this day, I hold a special adoration for palominos. And anyone who has read my stuff involving horses can see my obsession has never really died.LindaCraig2

CarbonelAmerican1995My next choice is also from that same formative period of my childhood–Carbonel the King of Cats by Barbara Sleigh. Another book from my Hanford Library, too. This British book from the 1950s features young Rosemary and her friend John, who befriend a regal black cat named Carbonel. It turns out Carbonel is trapped as a witch’s familiar and he must be freed so he can take his rightful place as King of Cats. This is pure cozy nostalgia. In hindsight, it’s really urban fantasy for kids. It’s all about magic mixed in with the every day. I was delighted a few years ago when the full series was finally reprinted and made available in the United States (though the first book is by far the best–the other ones are frustrating because the kids forget all the magic they experienced the previous summer).

Now to get serious. My last defining book is The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. This book (and the sequel) broke my heart, opened by mind, and probably did other unspeakable things to my body. It’s science fiction about a disastrous Jesuit mission to another planet; it’s philosophy about the very nature of humankind; it’s religious because it explores God and broken faith; it’s linguistic because it shows how communication is everything. Russell handles everything with a deft hand so that it’s never preachy. I read these books back when I was first committing to be a writer back in 2007-2008 and I was left with this awed feeling of, ‘I want to write like this. I want to make people feel like this.’ I don’t know if I’ll ever reach that level, but it’s a goal.


Steve Bein:
I’ll take a slightly different approach and talk about three books that put me on the path to a published novel.

The first is Writers of the Future vol. XVIII. This was the book that convinced me to make my first submission.
wotf18
Okay, actually it was a buddy who did the convincing. I’ve been writing stories pretty much since I learned how to write, but it wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I wrote something I thought was really good. I bounced it off my buddy Alex, and he said I should submit it. The trouble was that it was 15,000 words, three times as long as most editors want to see. Alex said Writers of the Future accepts stories that long. I said, “What’s Writers of the Future?”

As soon as he told me, I balked. An international competition. 50,000 submissions. About a dozen accepted. No way in hell, I thought.

Alex made me read a volume. I thought half of the stories in there were much better than my stuff, and my stuff was better than the other half. I guess the judges agreed, because in the next year’s volume I got second place.

After the novella published, I discovered I’d taken a leaf from Tolkien’s book. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve re-read The Lord of the Rings, but I hadn’t consciously emulated him. After “Beautiful Singer” published, I realized the title character was an object. Like the One Ring, the katana named Beautiful Singer behaved like a character. I felt Tolkien was challenging me: could I write an entire novel in which objects were not just characters, but central characters to the plot? I gave it a rip, and Daughter of the Sword was born.LOTR

Once I had a manuscript, I needed to sell it. For that, no book was more helpful to me than Lori Perkins’s The Insider’s Guide to Getting an Agent. I don’t know what else to say about it except this: if you want an agent, take Perkins’s advice.

Cover Reveal: Beth Cato with THE CLOCKWORK DAGGER

Beth Cato:
From the time I could work scissors, I designed my own books and bound them with staples or tied string. Most often, the subject matter was some fantastic tale involving horses or cats.  I always played with the cover design, using things like contact paper and lace scraps along with my pencil drawings.

Well, I’m past the point of using cardboard and yarn now. My cover for The Clockwork Dagger was out of my direct control and in the hands of a full design team. A good cover can sell a book. It can kill a book. My foremost concern, though, was honesty.

See, my male lead, Alonzo Garret, is described as having nutmeg-toned skin. The Clockwork Dagger isn’t told in his voice, but he’s essential to the story. When I pictured my cover, I wanted to see Alonzo and my heroine, Octavia, together. I didn’t want his skin lightened to make the book “more marketable.”

I was blessed with a publisher and an editor who shared my vision. There was no hesitation, and absolutely no white-washing!

Clockwork Dagger

I’m delighted with my cover. Alonzo looks strong and resolute–he completely has her back. Octavia looks like she’s about to shrug off that coat and jump to heal someone she shouldn’t heal, and likely cause a great deal of mischief.

When I emailed the cover to my mom, she squealed with delight as we spoke on the phone. “It’s so exciting to see your name on the cover like that! It’s real.”

“Well, you’ve seen me designing my book covers like this since I was four.”

“But this cover doesn’t have a horse on it!”

True, Mom. The sequel probably won’t, either. But maybe the book after that…

The Clockwork Dagger is due out this September.

February News

February News:

Steve BeinSteve Bein:
– Sent the Fated Blades to eastern Europe! (I signed Bulgarian language rights to Daughter of the Sword and Year of the Demon.)
– Confirmed return to favorite con, C2E2, aka Chicago Comic Con. Hope to see you there April 25-27!
– Pushing full steam ahead on Disciple of the Wind
– FINALLY got a chance to listen to the audiobook of Only a Shadow! Brian Nishii’s narration is outstanding.

Fran Wilde: Fran2014
– New story out in Asimov’s! http://franwilde.wordpress.com/2014/02/21/like-a-wasp-to-the-tongue-in-asimovs-aprilmay-issue/
– Reading at the International Conference of the Fantastic in the Arts (ICFA) http://iafa.highpoint.edu/ in March, and talking about The Care and Feeding of Friendly Deadlines at Rainforest Writers’ Workshop in late February.
– Just finalized plans to attend LonCon and World Fantasy Con – are you going? Will see you there!
– Trying to finish OtherNovel before it finishes me.

Beth Cato:BethCato-steampunk-headshot
– Goodreads now lists the back cover summary for The Clockwork Dagger
– plans to attend World Fantasy Con in Washington D.C. this November
– wrote the full rough draft for her sequel novel in the 31 days of January and even left the house a few times


Tina Connolly:
– First translation! My short story “On the Eyeball Floor” (originally here in Strange Horizons) is now out in the Argentinian magazine La Idea Fija.tina_connolly-300x450
– And on the heels of that . . . second translation! My short story “Turning the Apples” (originally here in Strange Horizons) is now out in the Finnish magazine Spin.
– In other Strange Horizons-related news, I narrated a great little poem for them, Food Diary of Gark the Troll, by Jessy Randall, for their February poetry issue.
– I’ve been doing a lot of narrating this month, actually – recording things for Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Podcastle, Cast of Wonders, Strange Horizons, my own podcast Toasted Cake, and a couple more I can’t mention yet. Whew! Busy! Love it.

Lawrence SchoenLawrence M. Schoen:
– is quite happy to tell you his novella, “Trial of the Century,” has just been nominated for a Nebula Award. Can a Hugo nomination be far behind? Let’s hope not! 😀 You can get a free copy by going here
– has all but finished the final edits on the third volume of Alembical, the novella anthology series from his small press, Paper Golem
– continues asking authors about their most memorable meal, every Monday morning on his blog at Eating Authors

M.K. Hutchins:
– The cover and back summary of Drift is now up on Goodreads!MK Hutchins
– My editor did a cool blog post discussing the process of how the cover for Drift was made.
– I had a great time at LTUE! Thanks to everyone who stopped by a panel or class or chatted with me afterwords. It was great to meet so many writers!

Vectors: Comfort Reads

Tina Connolly
I love re-reading so very much that at some point I realized I was going to have to make a concerted effort not to indulge . . . quite so often. I’ve been keeping a book log for the last ten years (because I am the kind of obsessive data geek who thinks this is totally fun). I like to see how many years a certain book can go before it’s time to dip back into it.Legends_II-BeyondBetween

I had a baby last October, and being 9 months pregnant is definitely a time when you’re allowed to have all the comfort reading you want. I read through the whole Pern series (last time I did this, my spreadsheet says, was 2007.) Although, this time I read EVERYTHING–I went to Wikipedia and tracked down everything Pern I’d never read–all the short stories, all the books written or co-written with Todd–everything. Never gonna be a better time. (As a result of this, I uncovered an odd short story called “Beyond Between” that actually posits a sort of dragon afterlife–who knew?)

Post-baby, I read all my Noel Streatfeild books–I try to ration these, so the last time I read a few of them was 2009, and before that I see a different few in 04 and 05 and 06. This time I read all of them.
MagicCasementI’m looking forward to re-reading Dave Duncan’s Magic Casement series
again – the last time I read this was 07 (what was I doing in 07? Oh
yeah, face painting at a festival with lots of slow days) – anyway, I
think it needs a few more years of steeping. And then Sharon Shinn’s
Archangel series – that was 09, so a ways to go yet.

I’m guessing it’s about an 8 or 10 year cycle. Just means you need to
have a lot of comfort reads, to have something ready when you want it.
I think this probably explains my 2000 books.


Guest Caroline M. Yoachim
I love comfort books. I know there are people who don’t like to re-read books because there are so many good books out there, but when I’m stressed or sick or even just feeling a little nostalgic, there’s nothing I like better than to immerse myself in a world I already know, full of characters who are already friends. There are two qualities I seek out in my comfort reading: (1) a world I can lose myself in, and (2) lots and lots of words. Preferably several books worth of words. I burn through comfort books relatively quickly, and so a single book generally doesn’t cut it.
RiddleMaster
MajestysDragonFor a long time, my comfort books were mostly books I first encountered when I was relatively young — L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time quintet, Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber, the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. More recently, I find myself turning to Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series, and Patricia McKillip’s Riddle-Master books.

Caroline M. Yoachim is the author of over two dozen short stories, including her Nebula-nominated novelette “Stone Wall Truth.” She is a graduate of the Clarion West Writers Workshop, and her fiction has appeared in Lightspeed, Asimov’s, Interzone, and Daily Science Fiction, among other places. For more about Caroline, check out her website.

Beth Cato
As a kid and teenager, I re-read my favorites to the point of memorization. In particular, I adored Laura Ingalls Wilder; I’m pretty sure my favorite of the series, The Long Winter, was the first symptom of my love for post-apocalyptic fiction. It also hooked me on historical fiction and led to an addiction with books by Patricia Beatty and Rosemary Sutcliff. One of the things I love about writing steampunk is that I can bring in those historical details that I absorbed as a kid.KingoftheWind

I was also completely horse-obsessed from age four onward. I read everything in my hometown library and bought hundreds of books on top of that, especially library discards. Out of all of those, the genuine cozy reads for me were C. W. Anderson’s books–I adored his illustrations–and Marguerite Henry. King of the Wind still evokes happy, happy thoughts. Godolphin Arabian FTW.The_Sweetness_at_the_Bottom_of_the_Pie

These days, though, I don’t have time to re-read books unless I’m skimming something for the sake of research. I have hundreds of physical books in my to-read pile and I don’t even know how many ebooks. I do have a total comfort read series I’m in love with right now–the Flavia de Luce Mystery series by Alan Bradley. They are quaint, cozy, and perfect, taking place in 1951 rural Britain with the heroine as an 11-year-old girl genius with an obsession for chemistry, poison, and murder. I’ve gotten my mom hooked on the books as well. The series is still ongoing, which drives me bonkers since I have to wait another year for my next fix.


Steve Bein
I used to be an armchair Tolkien scholar. Every January, the first book I’d pick up for the year was The Lord of the Rings. I’d follow that with something else by Tolkien, or else a book about Tolkien. I just read him and re-read him until I felt I understood what he’d accomplished. I mean, the guy redefined an entire genre. He’s worth the work.LOTR

Since then, I can’t say I have a book I come back to time and time again. The only exception is when I read a new series, I start from the beginning. So I’ve read A Game of Thrones five times, and A Dance with Dragons once — and man, am I looking forward to the sixth book in that series!

Lawrence M. Schoen
I don’t tend to reread much — not with so many new books to get to — so the idea of going back to a book again and again is something that got left behind after college. But, if you’ll pardon me, I’ll spin the question a bit and instead talk about a book that gave me great comfort.

JohnScalzi-TADA few years back I was under intense stress at the DayJob, had just gotten over a nasty flu bug, and apparently had an all around weak immune system. This set the stage for a bout of Bell’s palsy. This particular malady isn’t life-threatening, in fact in my case it was mostly just an pain in the ass. Every day I would discover a new inconvenience, some routine activity that was suddenly difficult if not impossible (e.g., gargling). Recovery rates for Bell’s are pretty good, but there was no way of knowing how long half of my face was going to remain in a lax paralysis, and I was more than a bit depressed about the whole thing.

And then I read John Scalzi’s The Android’s Dream. This book was jus so much fun, so utterly preposterous, that it caused all negativity to simply evaporate. It was exactly what I needed at the time, and I will always look back on it as a great comfort. I was even prompted to write Scalzi a fan letter and to thank him for helping me through a dark patch.

M.K. Hutchins
FrogPrincessWhen I was four, my aunt sent me The Frog Princess and Other Tales for Christmas. The titular story isn’t the one most Americans know. It’s a Russian fairy tale where Ivan Tsarevich messes up the life of Vassilissa the Wise and has to face down Koshtchev the Immortal to fix it. One of the highlights of my past year was sharing this story with my own four-year-old and watching his wonder and delight. Ivan marrying a frog is still funny.

When I was younger and had whole Sundays to myself, I not infrequently picked up a favorite series and read it beginning to end in a single day: The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Prydain Chronicles, and The Enchanted Forest Chronicles. Lots of chronicles. There was something delightfully decadent about reading them in a single go. Redwall is also a well-worn favorite, but I can’t claim I’ve read all of those in a single day. I wish I’d found Shannon Hale’s Book of a Thousand Days earlier in life; I think I would have re-read that over and over, too.

Fran Wilde
I’m an inveterate bathtub reader, so you can tell my comfort reads by what has a spine and pages that looks like its been dunked a few times in hot water. Dune is probably the soggiest. Ditto with year’s best anthologies. But the number-one most worn book in my collection (and I keep multiple copies of it, for gifting) is The Phantom Tollbooth.

Comfort reading has changed a lot with technology. The where and the how of it especially. Audiobooks and podcasts – like Kate Baker’s readings of short stories at Clarkesworld, and Welcome to Nightvale– are new favorites. And they don’t get soggy.

stephanie-burgis-2-small-colorGuest Stephanie Burgis
As someone who’s had to spend much too much of my adult life laid up in bed, comfort books are incredibly important to me. My favorite comfort books span different age ranges and genres, but they all make me feel like I’ve drunk a big cup of dark hot chocolate with cinnamon – sweet, satisfying and with a lovely, smart edge.

Lois McMaster Bujold’s Paladin of Souls is a high fantasy novel about a forty-year-old woman, considered to be long past her prime, who sets off on an adventure of her own (and even, unexpectedly, finds romance along the way). Noel Streatfeild’s Ballet Shoes puts three orphaned girls to work on the stage, helping all of them to find their own dreams – and is one of my very favorite novels about family, with a surprisingly bittersweet (but perfect) ending. Loretta Chase’s Regency romance novel Miss Wonderful sets a practical-minded, land-managing heroine in her thirties at loggerheads against a younger dandy of a hero – and the results are just so witty and charming, I can never resist re-reading the book whenever I spot it on my shelf.Lois-McMaster-Bujold-Paladin-cover

One of my biggest fantasies as a writer is to see my own books on some reader’s list of comfort novels one day. I can’t imagine any happier result.

Stephanie Burgis’s trilogy of Regency fantasy novels for kids began with Kat, Incorrigible (a.k.a. A Most Improper Magick, in the U.K.), which won the Waverton Good Read Children’s Award in 2011 for Best Début Children’s Novel by a British writer. It was followed by Renegade Magic and Stolen Magic. To find out more, please check out her website.

Tina Connolly, on the release of COPPERHEAD in the UK

tina_connolly-300x450So I’m very excited to say that my novel Copperhead is having its UK release this week! Copperhead is the second in the Ironskin trilogy (the third book, Silverblind, releases this fall in both the US and UK.)

I say trilogy, but the Ironskin trilogy is not a conventional, one-story, each-book-ends-on-a-cliffhanger trilogy. (Not that there’s anything wrong with those! It’s just not . . .that.) Each book is a linked standalone with a different heroine. And while in some ways challenging, that has also been terribly fun to write.

Ironskin was pitched as “Jane Eyre with fairies”. It’s set five years after a Great War between the humans and the fey. Jane Eliot goes to work as a governess for a strange, fey-cursed child named Dorie. But Jane is fey-cursed herself—she was cursed with rage in the war, and she has to wear a half-mask of iron to protect herself and others. She meets her enigmatic employer, an artist named Edward Rochart, and she’s plunged into the strange and frightening world of the fey.

Copperhead is set six months later and features Jane’s sister, Helen. Without too many spoilers, Jane is left with a task at the end of Ironskin—to make a group of women in the city safe from the fey. Now Helen is caught up in this struggle, and she gets a chance to grow and change and come into her own story.

Each book is a standalone, but additionally the first two wrap up a two-book arc. The final book is Silverblind, and it’s set eighteen years later—and features Dorie, the small child from Ironskin.

I loved using the three separate heroines to write about—not only different personalities, of course—but completely different aspects of the world. Ironskin is set largely in the war-torn country. Copperhead is set in the city, which is more quickly returning to life, and gaiety. And Copperhead has theatre people! I loved getting to write about them—the parties, musicals, gin . . . . Helen criss-crosses the city in her quest and we get to meet all sorts of women from all walks of life. Silverblind ended up being in both the city and country, but it’s eighteen years later, so I had the fun of exploring how the world would advance.

Additionally, it’s been neat to see the two sets of book covers as the books come out in the US and UK. I love them both—I’ve been very lucky with covers, and it’s been fascinating to watch the different marketing from the two places. Which mysterious girl with a mask do you like best?

Copperheadcopperhead-uk

Initial Acceleration: Upcoming Books for March

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The Novelociraptors always keep an eye out for new publications, and here we offer a sampling of books launching this March.

The Nightmare Dilemma  by Mindee Arnett

Dawn’s Early Light: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novelby Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris

Murder of Crows: A Novel of the Others by Anne Bishop

Last God Standing by Michael Boatman

The Midnight Witch by Paula Brackston

The Tropic of Serpents: A Memoir by Lady Trent  by Marie Brennan

Night Broken  by Patricia Briggs 

The Fifty-Seven Lives of Alex Wayfare by MG Buehrlen

Piercing the Veil by Mason Ian Bundschuh

The Weirdness: A Novel by Jeremy Bushnell

The Fell Sword  by Miles Cameron

Black Moon: A Novel by Kenneth Calhoun

The Burning Dark by Adam Christopher

Death’s Daughter by Kathleen Collins

Nearly Gone by Elle Cosimano

Liberty 1784: The Second War for Independence by Robert Conroy

Broken by Marianne Curley

Nightcrawlers by Tim Curran

Wrath of Lions  by David Dalglish and Robert Duperre

Marrow’s Pit by Keith Deininger

Flesh and Blood by Daniel Dersch

Into the Dark Book #1: The Shadow Prince by Bree Despain

Long Shadows  by Cecilia Dominic

The Pilgrims  by Will Elliott

Gilded  by Christina Farley

Wolf’s Cut by WD Gagliani

Dangerous Angel by Stacy Gail

Notes from the Internet Apocalypse by Wayne Gladstone 

Half Bad  by Sally Green

At Star’s End by Anna Hackett

Dangerous by Shannon Hale

Kindred of Darkness  by Barbara Hambly

The Wicked We Have Done: A Chaos Theory Novel by Sarah Harian

Truth and Fear  by Peter Higgins

Alpha Goddess by Amalie Howard

Downbeat  by Mary Hughes

Promise of Shadows by Justina Ireland

The Shibboleth  by John Hornor Jacobs

Dark Vengeance by Russell James

Wanderers  by Susan Kim and Lawrence Klaven 

Ghost Train to New Orleans by Mur Lafferty

Full-Blood Half-Breed by Cleve Lamison

A Clockwork Army  by Quinn Langston

The Lascar’s Dagger: The Forsaken Lands by Glenda Larke

Immortal Muse by Stephen Leigh

The Detainee by Peter Liney

Get Katja by Simon Logan

The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas

Code Zero: A Joe Ledger Novel by Jonathan Maberry

Storm: The SYLO Chronicles #2 by DJ MacHale

Nil by Lynne Matson

Half-Off Ragnarok: An Incryptid Novel by Seanan McGuire

The Wicked: A Novel by Douglas Nicholas

Panic by Lauren Oliver

ACID by Emma Pass 

Dead Americans and Other Stories by Ben Peek

Raising Steam  by Terry Pratchett

The Memory of Sky: A Great Ship Trilogy by Robert Reed

Vicious by Olivia Rivard

Sunstone  by Freya Robertson

The Blood Guard by Carter Roy

Strange Sweet Song by Adi Rule

The Winner’s Curse  by Marie Rutkoski 

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson

Lockstep by Karl Schroeder

The Barrow by Mark Smylie

Blood and Iron by Jon Sprunk

The Hunger and the Howling of Killian Lone by Will Storr

I Have a Bad Feeling About This by Jeff Strand

Shadowbound by Dianne Sylvan

Liv, Forever by Amy Talkington 

Red Cells by Jeffrey Thomas

The Last Wild by Piers Torday

The Time Traveler’s Almanac by Ann Vandermeer and Jeff Vandermeer

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton 

Where the Rock Splits the Sky by Philip Webb

Emilie and the Sky World by Martha Wells

The Savages by Matt Whyman

Cured by Bethany Wiggins

The Haven: A Novel by Carol Lynch Williams

The Iron Jackal by Chris Wooding

 

*This is not, of course, a complete list. We simply can’t catch every launch!