Monthly Archives: July 2014

Vectors: What book character do you most strongly identify with?

Our question for the Novelociraptors this week? What book character do you most strongly identify with?

Steve Bein

imagenI’ve got to go with Hank Devereaux.

Devereaux is an English professor, and the protagonist of Richard Russo’s Straight Man. Russo was a professor himself, so he knows whereof he speaks. I’m a professor too, so I can testify first-hand to the fun house mirror universe that is academia. Don’t get me wrong: the fun house really is fun. But to any reader who thinks Russo is being unrealistic when he has Devereaux threaten to execute a goose on television, I’ll say this: Dante himself could not envision a world so outlandish as the modern American university.

I haven’t carried out any public goose executions myself, and neither have any of my colleagues—at least not that I know of—but I have seen some equally wacky things in my time. Some day I’ll write a book about them, but in the meantime, I can sympathize with Devereaux.

He’s at his most sympathetic when he is mired in departmental politics. His colleagues are lunatics. Many of mine have been lunatics too, though in fairness, they’re the first ones to identify themselves this way.

Here’s the thing: if you’re a professor, you’re a weirdo. This isn’t an insult; it’s a necessary precondition. You need to be nerdy enough to attempt to walk the path, introverted enough to bury yourself in your research, extroverted enough to speak in front of hundreds of strangers, bullheaded enough to finish a dissertation, opinionated enough to try to publish it, and charismatic enough to keep students interested in your subject. That means the average department meeting is an attempt to reach agreement between obstinate, opinionated nerds who are gregarious and withdrawn in equal measure. Good luck with that.

It’s a strange world we academics live in. Russo gets it, and that’s why I feel for Hank Devereaux.

J. Kathleen Cheney

images (1)I’ve always liked Fred Cassidy from Zelazny’s Doorways in the Sand. Like Fred, I was a bit of an eternal college student although I didn’t reach 13 years like he did (7.5 years the first time, then an additional 2 years later). I even had a professor accuse me of being a dilettante at one point. And also like Fred, I often found myself in the middle of things and didn’t know how I got there.Seriously, out of all the college students I knew, I was by far the most likely to accidentally absorb an alien sentience. Charv and Ragma would be exactly the sort of helpers I got.

I think that was why I most related to Fred. He wasn’t a Big Hero. He’s just trying to get through the whole thing alive, which I think a lot of us are doing in college.

Beth Cato

Farthest-AwayMountainI’m going to harken back to a book I’ve loved since age 11. The Farthest-Away Mountain by Lynne Reid Banks (yes, the author of the much more famous Indian in the Cupboard series) is an epic quest novel for the middle grade set. Fourteen-year-old Dakin lives in her quiet village until one day a distant mountain calls to her. She ends up dealing with monsters, an ogre, a colorful witch, a frog, and a host of other vibrant characters on her journey.

One of the most memorable things about the book is a comment she makes early on in regards to decorative gargoyles, that they aren’t really scary, but sad. She’s scorned for that opinion. Later on, she meets gargoyles. They are deeply touched by her compassion. It was such a simple subplot, but it had an impact on me–that this wonderful heroine is surviving by her wits, but her compassion is also one of her greatest assets. I wanted to be like her at age 11. I still do.

Lawrence M. Schoen

downloadI don’t know that I “strongly identify” with any particular character in fiction but I can relate to the character of Miles Vorkosigan in his role as Imperial Auditor, which begins near the end of Lois MaMaster Bujold’s novel Memory and continues on for several more books. The job requires a combination of skills and disciplines, and really draws home the point that one can achieve remarkable insight by looking at a problem using multiple sets of vastly different tools at the same time. I’ve always thought that some of our best discoveries have come about from someone outside a field looking at it with different perspectives, different metaphors. That’s only a very small part of what these books are about, but it always pleases me to see a protagonist who wins the day (and the girl!) by being smart in clever ways.

Tina Connolly

Matilda1Well, Sorrel from Streatfeild’s Theatre Shoes for your obscure reference of the day. Otherwise I’ll have to go with Roald Dahl’s Matilda (especially as drawn by the incomparable Quentin Blake!) A little pointy-chinned girl with brown hair amid toppling piles of books? All I needed was her superpower and I was ready to take on any Trunchbulls that might come around.

Michael R. Underwood

RedwallFor many years, I ate up traditional fantasy rags-to-riches narratives like they were candy. And of those narratives, the one that was probably most powerful for me was Matthias, the humble hero of Redwall, the first of Brian Jacques’ series. Matthias is clever, loyal, and seems to succeed as much for his diligence as his Chosen Hero cred.

When I read those books, I’d been recently bullied, and started learning martial arts. And like many kids who’d learned a little about martial arts, I wanted a chance to use them righteously, to stand up for people the way I was learning to stand up for myself. And I saw all of that and more in Matthias, hoping that I could see it in myself


What book character do you most strongly identify with?


Arianne “Tex” Thomspon’s debut novel, One Night in Sixes, is out today!

One Night in Sixes

The border town called Sixes is quiet in the heat of the day. Still, Appaloosa Elim has heard the stories about what wakes at sunset: gunslingers and shapeshifters and ancient animal gods whose human faces never outlast the daylight.

And the daylight is running out. Elim’s so-called ‘partner’ – that lily-white lordling Sil Halfwick – has disappeared inside the old adobe walls, hell-bent on making a name for himself among Sixes’ notorious black-market traders. Elim, whose worldly station is written in the bastard browns and whites of his cow-spotted face, doesn’t dare show up home without him.

If he ever wants to go home again, he’d better find his missing partner fast. But if he’s caught out after dark, Elim risks succumbing to the old and sinister truth in his own flesh – and discovering just how far he’ll go to survive the night.


One Night in Sixes available for pre-order here: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Powell’s 

Vectors: What’s your favorite literary food or meal?

Our question for the Novelociraptors this week? What’s your favorite literary food or meal?

Shallee McArthur

ESShallee20Edit_head_large2Our guest todayShallee McArthuroriginally wanted to be a scientist, until she discovered she liked her science best in fictional form. When she’s not writing young adult science fiction and fantasy, she’s attempting to raise her son and daughter as proper geeks. A little part of her heart is devoted to Africa after volunteering twice in Ghana. She has a degree in English from Brigham Young University and lives in Utah with her husband and two children. Her YA sci fi novel, THE UNHAPPENING OF GENESIS LEE, debuts from Sky Pony Press Nov. 4, 2014.


68428Food in literature fascinates me, partially because I took a mythology and culture class in college that focused a lot on the place food has in culture. One of my favorite foods in one of my favorite books are baywraps in the Mistborn books by Brandon Sanderson, because they’re so reflective of the culture. They’re a simple food made by the skaa (read: oppressed peasant/slave class). Basically, baywraps are barley and vegetables wrapped in flatbread.

Skaa are poor. They don’t have access to fancy or expensive food like meat. But barley, veggies, flatbread…these are cheap, easily accessible, and simple to put together. It’s easy to vary what goes in the baywrap based on what you have on hand. It’s something that can be eaten quickly or on the go, since skaa don’t spend an awful lot of time sitting around a table, eating and relaxing. I was so fascinated by how much of skaa culture was evident in a simple food, that it became one of my favorite examples of literary food! And, if you happened to be interested in trying one, there’s a fab recipe right here!

Fran Wilde

ancillary-justiceThis is a really hard question for me to answer because I talk to other authors about food in fiction a lot with Cooking the Books. (Including Novelocity members Mike and Kathleen, and more to come.) — and it’s hard to pick a favorite.

My favorite literary food varies by season and mood — right now, I love the teas in Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice and the savory foods from Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastards series. Other times, fun fictional food is what I want: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Alice and Wonderland, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Lawrence M. Schoen

RoaldDahl-CatCFLike Fran, I’m always asking writers to tell me about their most memorable meals in my weekly blog Eating Authors. That, and for more than a decade I’ve been writing short and long fiction with a protagonist who’s a gourmand, as an excuse to conjure up alien banquets and interstellar food trucks. And it probably doesn’t hurt that my wife used to be a chef.

But because I’m so late to the (dinner) table, I’ll keep it short and simple. I’ll go with the three course meal gum that still needs a bit of work before going to market from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Sure, Dahl’s a bit heavy-handed with the moralism, and poor Violet Beauregarde has to be rolled offstage and be “de-juiced,” none of that dampened the science fictional allure of the gum for me. It was just a step away from the promised food pills of the future. Hmm… and that glass elevator does have some resemblance to a flying car in the end…

Tina Connolly

marypoppinsWell, Butter Pies from Diana Wynne Jones’ A Tale of Time City. But I already raved those simultaneously hot/cold ice creamy treats in another post. Turkish Delight in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (which turned out to be depressingly not that great when I had it in real life.)  Beth’s post reminds me of all the good food in the Little House books, particularly in Farmer Boy, where a good deal of Almanzo’s thoughts center on what he gets to eat (bird’s nest pudding with cream, and stacked pancakes, and fried doughnuts. . . .) There’s a bunch of delightful-sounding things in the Mary Poppins books, too, including Gingerbread Stars (not to mention Mrs. Corry breaking off some barley-sugar fingers for Jane and Michael!) Really, children’s books often have the best food. . . . 

M.K. Hutchins

7996Talking about fiction and food inevitably leads me to the Redwall series, by Brian Jacques. These books are a gateway into epic fantasy. Big, fatty volumes with lots of adventure. And also lots of feasts. Redwall books always make me salivate, whether they’re describing homey bread or deeper ‘n ever pie. There is more than one website dedicated to recreating Redwall food, but the one I know best is The Redwall Kitchen. It’s been around for fifteen years.

I didn’t know it when I picked them up, but these stories were originally written for children attending the Royal Wavertree School of the Blind. Jacques certainly crafted books rich in senses other than sight. I read and reread these books in middle school, especially. I love that someone had created books that didn’t talk down to me — that swept me up into a long, ripping yarn of a tale. Sometimes childhood favorites don’t hold up to the test of time, but I recently reread The Long Patrol and was pleasantly surprised to find Redwall the same magical, delicious-smelling place that I remembered.

Beth Cato

imagesFor me, the most memorable food isn’t from a specific book but from a genre. Starting at about age 8, I discovered Laura Ingalls Wilder and from there I read into historical fiction on the pioneer west, the Oregon Trail, and the Civil War. There are period details across those books that, when I started to write (and never finish) my own epic fantasy efforts at age 12, I consciously utilized. It was kind of a light bulb moment for me, that realization that, “Hey, these historical fiction books I read are totally different, but I this makes perfect sense to use in this medieval world of my own creation.” My characters traveled with dry meat, corn pone, and hard tack, and if they stayed put long enough they could fix some camp beans, They worried about the purity of water in a spring. Even if they were kids, they could set simple snares and cook over a campfire.

It’s funny to think of how that base knowledge has carried over to The Clockwork Dagger. My main character, Octavia, is a farm girl, but she can set snares, tuck away rolls and hard cheese, and use enchantments to make sure the water is safe. Camp beans are still on the menu–plus, now I have a nonfiction book on the Civil War medicine and camp life to provide specific direction on how it was done. The food isn’t gourmet by any means, but when people are trying to kill you and your stomach is near empty, most any meal tastes divine.

What’s your favorite literary food or meal?

Vectors: What are your two favorite non-fiction books?

Our question for the Novelociraptors this week? What are your two favorite non-fiction books?


5967962-MMy favorites tend to shift around based on what I’m researching at the moment, so a little volume called Devils, Drugs and Doctors holds a place close to my heart for inspiring me to write Elisha Barber. However the Oxford English Dictionary remains an eternal fave. An author/librarian friend of mine knew I wanted one and snatched it up when someone donated a compact edition (minus the magnifying glass) to her library’s book sale. I love being able to look up the trail of word origins and roots, not to mention confirming when a word was first written down (give or take a hundred years, for my period). My editor has one, too, and if he gets there first, he points out things like “blackguard” not being used until 1537–even granted earlier spoken use, way outside by timeframe, alas.

And the other one has to be Science and Civilization in China, which was proposed by Joseph Needham (himself an extraordinary character) as a single volume history, and has ballooned into a many-volume work which incorporates virtually all fields of science and technology. If I have to narrow it down, I’ll go for Volume 4, which covers Chinese engineering and is a primary reference work for my current project. For the curious generalist, I highly recommend Simon Winchester’s The Man Who Loved China–a biography of Needham and discussion of the circumstances surrounding his research project. In his exuberant embrace of the research, and going perhaps a little too far, he kinda reminded me of me.

J. Kathleen Cheney

100_2092I love facts–charts, graphs, diagrams–so I’m a huge fan of handbooks. Here are two of my favorites. On bottom, we have a 1901 Baedeker for Spain and Portugal. It has maps of major tourist cities, charts of exchange rates, how much your cab fare should be, the best hotels, eateries and sights. When I was writing The Shores of Spain, this quickly became my favorite because my characters were travelling by train across Iberia, and this told me everything they would have known back then.

The larger book is the 1926 Handbook for the Medical Soldier (U.S.Army). It’s an amazing book that tells a young medic everything he (because it would have been HE) needed to know about his place and duties in the U. S. Army. Not only is there first aid, but mathematical conversions, instructions for packing medicine when getting ready to move out, and–my favorite–how to harness up the horses. (There is also a section on Motor Vehicles. 1926 wasn’t the dark ages.) But I’ve wanted to write a novel with an army medic in it, and this book tells me everything. Favorite quote? AVOID VENEREAL DISEASE. It’s in all caps. Because apparently that needed lots of reinforcement. ::rolls eyes::

Beth Cato

ChildrenofKaliIt’s hard to choose, but my job is made easier because several of my favorites have already been mentioned. Like Steve, I have two of Suzuki’s books on Zen Buddhism. I also share Ken’s appreciation of Mary Roach’s work. I love Stiff and Packing for Mars.

Therefore, I’ll mention two books that have come in very handy in my novel research.

The Poisoner’s Handbook by Deborah Blum is about poison, Prohibition, and the start of forensic medical research in 1920s New York. It’s morbid, gripping, and tragic. After reading about the radium girls, the benign act of licking a paintbrush to a fine point will never again look the same.

A very recent read was Children of Kali by Kevin Rushby. It’s an engrossing book that carries parallel stories: that of the fabled Thuggee cult with its boasted fatalities of upward of a million people, and a modern travelogue of India as Rushby searches for the truth behind the British propaganda on Thuggees. It’s deep stuff, and it changed my entire concept of how I used Thuggees within my new steampunk book.

Tex Thompson

imagesnWell, the first title that comes to mind for me is one that’s never been “practically” useful, in that I have no plans to use it for any kind of writing project. But let me tell you, The Autobiography of Fukuzawa Yukichi blew me away.

Fukuzawa himself was an amazing writer, innovator, and statesman – you might call him the Japanese Ben Franklin – who came of age just as Japan was opening to the West, and who lived to see the feudal society of his birth radically transformed into an industrial empire. The book, though, is something special. For example, he tells the story about striding out onto the schoolhouse roof naked to frighten away the maids lounging up there, so that he and his fellow students can enjoy an open-air carouse. And then there’s the one about the students arranging to translate a rare Portuguese book in shifts, collectively working on it 24 hours a day, so that not a minute with the precious book would be wasted. And I feel like these are the kind of intimate, lovely details that we could never find on Wikipedia or in a historian’s biography, because they’re details that show not only a narrative of important moments and accomplishments, but a whole life, and the special, temporary, incredibly specific time and place in which it bloomed.

This is one of many, MANY reasons why what Ken said about the importance of primary sources is spot-on – not just for book-research, but for, like… Pokevolving your empathy and humanity. (And I’m going to stop here, because I’ve used so many words talking about this one book that I have no space to start in on another one. I am all right with that.)

Fran Wilde

78Annals of the Former World by John McPhee – it’s a book about geologic history, as seen in road-cuts along American highways. I read it when it came out, then took it with me on my next roadtrip and was delighted to see that I could reproduce the experiment, at least in part. The writing is gorgeous. Another recent favorite is Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code, by Margalit Fox – about the people who dedicated their lives to cracking Linear B, a written language from the Bronze Age.

I don’t usually have favorite non-fiction books as much as I do authors, including Richard Preston (First Light, The Wild Trees) and David Quammen (Song of the Dodo, Monster of God).

M.K. Hutchins

9780500285534_p0_v1_s260x420One of the most important nonfiction books in my life has been Reading the Maya Glyphs by Michael D. Coe and Mark Van Stone. I picked this book up in high school and devoured it. The book is designed not for the scholar, but for an everyday reader. The formatting, the writing, and the drawings all made it easy to dig into. I loved how the artistic and linguistic twined together and illuminated tidbits of the historical and cultural. As everyone else has noted, primary sources are amazing. There’s something magical, to me, about reading words carved into stone or painted onto pottery over a thousand years ago. From here, I decided to study archaeology, which in turn has shaped my fiction writing. Michael D. Coe has written several other highly-accessible book, and there are other volumes on the classic Maya that I love, but this one will always be my favorite.

Ken Liu

imageskI don’t have favorite non-fiction books, but I have favorite non-fiction authors. I like almost everything by Mary Roach and Annie Dillard.

Mary Roach’s books deal with topics that at first seem gross or pedestrian, but turn out to be full of fascinating connections with history, science, and complexities of the modern world. Whether it’s cadavers, the alimentary canal, or toilets in space, she manages to make the reader share her enthusiasm for the subject and to construct out of found facts a narrative that is funny and poignant.

Annie Dillard’s non-fiction has had a profound influence on me. Weaving together history, memory, and personal insight, her books are beautiful, searing visions of the world. The associative logic she employs seems to echo the way my mind works, and I’ve always tried to emulate that effect in my own writing. Indeed, I suspect that I owe more of my style to her than to writers of fiction.

What are your favorite non-fiction resources?

Vectors: Who’s your favorite nonhuman character in fiction?

Our question for the Novelociraptors this week? Who’s your favorite nonhuman character in fiction?

Beth Cato

UrbanShamanI can’t help but think of my first and favorite urban fantasy series, The Walker Papers, by C. E. Murphy. The books start with Urban Shaman. The lead character, Jo, is a cop with a big chip on her shoulder. She doesn’t connect with people easily, but she loves cars, and she really loves her car, a ’69 Mustang named Petite.

Despite all the magical mayhem that Jo endures, Petite never evolves to the level of KITT in Knight Rider. Petite is… a car. The normalcy of Petite is a major stabilizing force for Jo and it becomes a running gag through the books about how no one else can touch Petite or drive it.

I really don’t like cars that much. I didn’t even get my license until my late 20s. But I totally get the relationship of Jo and Petite. Petite is her brave white charger. There are brilliant Petite moments throughout the series, including one in Mountain Echoes where I cheered out loud. It’s a car yet so much more.

E. C. Ambrose

ScannersLiveInVainByCordwainerSmith565Anybody else remember this one? Possibly not–but I was thinking of some of the characters in Cordwainer Smith’s lexicon–humanoids who were developed from dogs and cats, and retain some of their characteristics, while seeming, mostly, usually human.I haven’t read them for a long time, but they made an impression with their near-humanity. His most famous work is probably “Scanners Live in Vain”.

If you haven’t heard of him, don’t feel bad–he’s also the guy that the Cordwainer Smith Re-discovery Award is named for. It’s given to honor an author who should not have been forgotten, but is–and includes publication of one or more new editions of the author and panels at Readercon about them. So you can find Smith in new editions from NESFA press, and you can read some excerpts here:

Tex Thompson

puddleglumI couldn’t possibly pick one favorite, but I can easily point to my first. Even with all the other wonderful creatures and talking animals in Narnia, Puddleglum thrilled me right away. I remember being hugely fascinated by the idea of this tall, amphibious scarecrow-looking man – and by the novelty of a character who isn’t any of the things we usually expect of a mentor figure. Gandalf and Obi-Wan and the rest could be stern or scary, but always had that same aura of power and benevolence and wisdom. By contrast, Puddleglum is morose, pessimistic (hilariously so), and often no more knowledgeable than the children he accompanies – but always honest with them, even when the truth is unpleasant. He’s a strange kind of advertisement for adulthood, but one still resonates with me, especially now that I’m on the far side of adolescence myself. (And if the mereaux in my books are half as cool as the marsh-wiggles in Narnia, I will be pleased indeed!)

Fran Wilde

378I’ve been thinking about this answer all week. I very much like the spiders in Vernor Vinge’s A Deepness in the Sky, and the skroderiders and tines from A Fire Upon the Deep. There’s Sam, from Tolkien’s Ring Trilogy. And Maya from Katherine Addison’s Goblin Emperor. I love the Culture from Ian M. Banks’ books. And Wintermute, because Gibson.

But I think when all is said and done, I love Fortinbras, from Madeline L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time series and Tock from Phantom Tollbooth best.

Steve Bein

Tough question, but I’m going with Yoda.

I mean the real Yoda, the puppet from the real Star Wars movies, not Yoda’s weird CGI brother who appears in the prequels. I assume these aren’t the same person at all, but rather two brothers, because the CG evil twin doesn’t share any of the qualities I like best about the real Yoda.

Around the time he created Yoda, George Lucas was speaking with the mythographer Joseph Campbell, who knew something of Asian religions. That was what they talked about, and from that conversation Yoda was born. He’s a bodhisattva and a Taoist master rolled up in one.

It’s all right there in the name, actually. His home planet, Dagobah, is named for a Buddhist reliquary shrine. This is why Yoda doesn’t own a lightsaber: as an enlightened being, he’s beyond the fear of death and he’s the ultimate pacifist. It’s also why his evil CGI brother is such a disappointment. 900 years old and still this jackass needs to resort to violence to solve his problems? Where’s the wisdom in that?

Here’s the fight I’d like to have seen: Bad guy draws lightsaber on Yoda. Yoda waves a hand toward it and crushes it like tinfoil. Bad guy looks down at the crumpled metallic raisin in his hand and understands what Yoda really meant when he said, “the Force is my ally” and, “your weapons, you will not need them.”

Yoda’s most famous quote sounds like it came directly out of the Tao Te Ching: “Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.” They didn’t miss this in China. When The Empire Strikes Back reached Chinese theaters, “Yoda” was transliterated as 有徳, literally “Having Te,” te being the virtuous power in the title of the Tao Te Ching, the founding text of classical Taoism.

This is why Yoda is my favorite: he is simultaneously the ultimate badass and the ultimate pacifist, and he achieves both by doing, not trying.

J. Kathleen Cheney

CherryhExilesGateCoverMorgaine, from any of the Morgaine books by C. J. Cherryh.

That’s a bit of a cheat. She confesses to being half human at one point in the books, but her father came from an ancient race that built a series of gates that allowed travel between worlds now populated by humans and a race known as the qhal. She actually looks like one of the qhal, and they often make the mistake of trusting her on those grounds, not realizing that she’s working to her own ends all the time.

She is never the point-of-view character. Instead we only see her through the eyes of her servant, Nhi Vanye, who starts off reluctant and terrified, but over the course of the four books comes to understand his half-human master and her mission.

News for June and July

Fran2014Fran Wilde
– Finished edits for Tor book #1. Cannot wait for what comes next.
– Interviewed Adam Christopher for Cooking the Books (up next: Novelocity’s own J. Kathleen Cheney, Max Gladstone, and more.)
– Set up a podcast feed for Cooking the Books and acquired a shiny new logo. Look out for ribbons at cons, coming soon!
– Relatedly, has a LonCon Program! Posting more about that soon on the homeblog.
“Nine Dishes on the Cusp of Love,” appeared at Daily Science Fiction.
“Local Delicacies,” debuted as a Drabblecast original. (Also a podcast.)
“The Naturalist Composes His Rebuttal” appeared in Lakeside Circus. Featuring Academia! Megafauna! And Lies, Damned Lies. (Also a podcast.)
– Sold “A Moment of Gravity, Circumscribed,” to the XIII anthology, coming out winter 2015.
– Is working on Tor book #2 and another project to be named later.

BethCato-steampunk-headshotBeth Cato
– received her first Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) of The Clockwork Dagger. Likes to carry them around the house and pet them.
– attended Phoenix Comicon and was not arrested for public nuisance, despite the shenanigans of the Holy Taco Church. Speaking of the Church, she is a High Priestess of Churromancy and invites everyone to sign up for the newsletter and follow along as authors talk food and booze. She has shared churro shortbread cookies thus far.
– will have two stories in the forthcoming Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Did WHAT?
– her poem “What We Carry” has been nominated for the Dwarf Star Award and will be in the annual anthology

J. Kathleen CheneyJ. Kathleen Cheney
– The second book in J. Kathleen Cheney’s Golden City series, The Seat of Magic debuts on July 1.
– will be appearing at ArmadilloCon in Austin, Texas, from July 25-27.

Seat of Magic

E. C. AmbroseE. C. Ambrose
– announces the launch of Elisha Magus, book 2 in the Dark Apostle series, on July 1
– with an official launch party at reading at the Toadstool bookshop, Milford, NH July 10 from 6 to 8 pm
– will attend Readercon in Burlington, MA on July 11 and 12. Attendees who donate blood at the Readercon Heinlein Society Blood Drive will receive a free copy of Elisha Barber in paperback!
– aon July 25 at 7 pm, will participate in a reading and interview with Carol Berg at the Old Firehouse Bookshop in Fort Collins, CO


tina_connolly-300x450Tina Connolly
– also received her ARCs for Silverblind! Pet pet pet.
– had a flash story, “See DANGEROUS EARTH-POSSIBLES!”, in
in the Women Destroy SF issue.
– Recorded Richard Farren Barber’s “Party Games” for

Michael R. Underwood
-Released Shield and Crocus, a weird fantasy superhero novel.
-Read and signed at a launch party for Shield and Crocus, hosted by Atomic Books in Baltimore.
-Wrote a widely-linked post called “25 Secrets of Traditional Publishing: Inside the Bookish Shattedome” at TerribleMinds.
Michael R. Underwood
-Attended Phoenix Comic-Con for Angry Robot Books. Activities included a visit to the Taco Guild, a song-and-dance number during the Angry Robot Preview panel, and metric tons of hand-selling throughout the con.
-Turned in editorial revisions for The Younger Gods.

And in July:
-Heading to CONvergence in Bloomington, MN July 3-6th.
-Attending ReaderCon in Burlington, MA July 10-13th.
-Revising Hexomancy, the third Ree Reyes novel.
Leading a Writecraft workshop at WORD Booksellers in Brooklyn, NY.
-Reading at Noir in the Bar DC on July 27th


Tex ThompsonTex Thompson
– will be a panelist at CONvergence in Minneapolis over the July 4th weekend
– will likewise be a panelist at ArmadilloCon in Austin from July 25th to 27th

in the Women Destroy SF issue.
– will initiate “The Twelve Days of Launchmas” when her first novel, One Night in Sixes, debuts on July 22nd
– may actually die of enthusiasm

One Night in Sixes

MK HutchinsM.K. Hutchins

Drift was released! I’ve been doing lots of guests posts on everything from Maya mythology to cultural ecology to flintknapping. Check out my website for links.
-My novelette, “Golden Chaos,” will be coming out from IGMS.



Drift by M.K. Hutchins

Vectors: What’s your process for doing your research when you’re writing?

Our question for the Novelociraptors this week: What’s your process for doing your research when you’re writing? Any specific tricks or tips

Steve Bein

Steve BeinResearch is a big part of my life. As a philosophy professor, reading a few dozen books in order to write a few dozen pages is par for the course. As a novelist, I write a lot of historical fiction, and good historical fiction demands a ton of research. I intertwine my old-timey samurai stories with modern-day police thrillers, and since I’ve never been a cop, that requires even more research (albeit of a completely different kind: my studies of philosophy and history never prepared me for shooting submachine guns or throwing flash-bang grenades).

Here are the most important research tips I have for writing fiction:

1. Don’t overdo it.

2. Don’t get anything wrong.

I know, I know: they sound contradictory. If you really are committed to getting everything right, you’re overdoing it almost by definition. Plus, as soon as you research one question, you unearth two more, and with each new foray you dig up more amazing facts that just have to find a place in your manuscript. Indulge this instinct and you won’t have a novel, you’ll have a bunch of Trivial Pursuit cards. Research will strangle your book if you let it.

So let me express these two tips a little differently:

1. Choose precisely the right details to immerse the reader completely in the story.

2. Make sure those details are true to life, because if they aren’t, you’ll jar some readers out of the story.

Now #2 is in service to #1. Together, they help to focus your research. If I inundate you with every single detail of samurai life, not only will I bore you but I’ll betray my own characters. An authentic samurai doesn’t notice every single detail of his life. No one does that. We take the minutiae for granted, and we only remark on the subtleties that resonate for us in some important way.

Your great power as a writer is to make the details resonate exactly as you want them to. So choose them for a specific reason—maybe to set the right emotional tone for the scene, or to reveal something telling about a character, or just to make your readers confident that they’re in good hands and they should keep reading.

But as Voltaire said, great power implies great responsibility. Anyone who can get your book can probably get on the web. Some will be more than happy to email you and point out everything you got wrong. So, you know, don’t get anything wrong.

Ken Liu

ken_liuOne thing that has helped me with getting more out of research is to emphasize primary materials.

When I want to work with a scientific idea, I try to read the academic papers rather than relying on accounts in textbooks, news articles, or pop science books. When I want to work with a historical event, I try to read the primary sources behind academic and popular histories. When I want to find out more about a technology, I try to read the patents and design documents.

The secondary sources are helpful in giving context and elucidating concepts, and sometimes you have to rely on them because the primary sources are not accessible for a variety of reasons. But the authors of the secondary sources–reporters, historians, and so on–are always trying to tell a story of their own, which requires imposing a narrative on found facts and re-interpreting existing narratives, filtering, shaping, and any other number of techniques familiar to nonfiction writers. If you’re trying to tell a new story, it’s very important that you try to pierce through the veil of that layer of narrative in secondary sources and get to the underlying facts and primary narratives.

M. K. Hutchins

MK HutchinsWhen you’re creating new worlds, I feel like having a good grasp on how this world works is essential. Economics, politics, food production…I looked at these in college through the lens of archaeology, which has greatly impacted me. Even if it’s not relevant to what I’m currently writing, I try to soak up information and be proactive in continuing to learn new things. Recently I’ve signed up for Coursera, which has been amazing (it’s free and online).

On a more nity-gritty level: forums and Youtube. I’ve shot a bow once, over a decade ago. Most sources don’t have the kind of detail that I’m looking for. But the internet is an amazing thing. I can go lurk on archery forums and learn scads about how to make a self bow, including all the small ways in which things can go wrong. I can watch people on Youtube using the Mongolian draw — with or without a thumb ring. Both of these sources are excellent for the kind of detail that makes fiction come alive.

Beth Cato

BethCato-steampunk-headshotI love research. I love research so much that I can do it for months and months, to the point where I’m in paralysis because I just know I’m omitting some dreadful, embarrassing fact. This became a major issue with the new series I’m working on that’s steampunk set on early 20th-century Earth. The fact that it’s steampunk and alt-history does grant me some flexibility, but it’s still daunting stuff, especially when I’m delving into cultures that are not my own.

Here are some things that have helped me in writing this particular work of historical fiction:

– Google and Wikipedia are good starting points, but you have to take care in what you trust online. On Wikipedia, I search to understand the basics and then I look to the footnotes at the bottom for the source material. As Ken noted, primary sources are the best. It’s amazing how many old books are available for free online through Amazon, Project Gutenberg, or even state libraries.

– Sometimes a book is too recent to be in public domain, or looks so relevant that I know I’m going to need to stab a hundred bookmarks inside. I buy a lot of newer used books through Better World Books, which helps world literacy, offers great prices, and free shipping. If I had a larger public library handy, I’d certainly go that route to save money.

– Nonfiction is very useful, but sometimes it can be dry or so focused on unusual circumstances that it lacks a sense of every day life. Fiction from the time period you’re writing in is excellent for capturing the zeitgeist–it’s a primary source, in make-believe. That doesn’t make it an easy read, though. I trudged through Frank Norris’s McTeague and was appalled at the scope of domestic violence, but at the same time it’s also set in San Francisco at the exact period I need. None of my nonfiction spoke about the popularity of steam beer!

– Know when to ask for help. I’m thankful to be on Codex Writers, where I have asked many a stupid question and received fantastic feedback. In the past, I’ve also turned to Little Details on LiveJournal.

E. C. Ambrose

E. C. AmbroseSeveral of my projects lately have actually begun with research, including The Dark Apostle series. I usually start with general history books or those written for the popular market, to get a handle on the overall subject or period of history. That sparks specific ideas that allow me to narrow down my focus, and often leads me to other, more detailed resources referred to in the text or bibliography–often academic texts. These I usually acquire through my local Interlibrary Loan Librarian, Emily. yep, we’re on a first-name basis. As the books become more obscure, often translations of primary sources, they take a little longer to come in, and I will ask for two or three at a time, knowing I’ll have to wait.

However, as lovely as books and websites are, nothing can be the real thing. I’ve taken a couple of research trips, either to actual settings I’m using, or settings similar to what I need. Can’t afford the $$ to go to England to visit a medieval church? Try your area art museums. The Worcester Art Museum and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts both not only have medieval collections, but also recreations of medieval chapels. See what’s available in your area. When you get there, stand quietly and imagine yourself in your characters’ shoes to fill in the details of sound, scent, emotion that would infuse that space.

I’m a huge fan of material culture, and often spend time visiting (or handling, if they let me!) actual objects made by the people I’m studying. What techniques were used? What materials were available? Imported, or local, or does it depend on the status of your characters?

And when you can, don’t just look–do. Ride a horse if you haven’t (that’s an easy one). Take a falconry workshop (still my favorite tax deduction). Learn a trade or visit with re-enactors and craftsmen who practice old, unusual or foreign techniques. For virtually any research topic, there’s someone out there who has devoted their life to it–if you can find those people and gain their trust, you can access a wealth of knowledge to make your fantasies that much more real.

Lawrence M. Schoen

Lawrence SchoenResearch for me occurs in stages, evolving as the ideas that make up the novel evolves.

I start with things online, devouring what I can, usually of “entry-level” materials. This has the advantage of immediate gratification and will either cause me to drop an idea because the stuff I find out doesn’t quite ring with the vision in my head, or spur me on to the next level, where I want a richer, more detailed tapestry to play with.

Pursuit of that tapestry takes one of two forms. Most typically I’ll plunge into a library or bookstore, questing after specific books on the subject.

Sometimes though I’m able to take advantage of contacts from my professor days and reach out to an old friend or colleague. If that person is within a hundred miles or so I’ll hop in my car and have a visit, take that academician to lunch, and pick his/her brain on the topic that is my newest passion.

Finally, as these details are congealing in my mind, as they’re beginning to slip into specific plot points and character developments, I’ll move on to the last phase of research and (if applicable) go to a place where I can immerse myself in the topic firsthand. In the case of The Elephant’s Graveyard, my novel coming out next year from Tor, this meant spending more than a hundred hours hanging out with elephants at the Philadelphia zoo. Back then they had four of them, two African, two Asian, and I came to know them (and they me) as unique individuals. So much so that I could walk into the elephant house, where other zoo visitors might already be present, and greet each elephant with a faux-trunk wave (i.e., crossing an arm up to my face and waving the forearm) and they’d respond in kind. This last stage is best, as I find I really soak in the feel of what I’m after, getting it under my skin, taking it out of the realm of simple facts and making it personal.

J. Kathleen Cheney

J. Kathleen CheneyLibrarians. Research Librarians.

I wanted to point them out, since a lot of people don’t think about going up to that desk in the library and talking to them. But a research librarian can cut through the fog of information to the tidbit you want far faster than you can yourself. They’re trained for that.

I’ve also contacted research librarians on-line. For my Saratoga Springs stories, I emailed the librarian at the public library there for help with a strange little factoid I needed. In that case, it turned out that she didn’t have what I needed (I found it a few days later in the NYT On-Line Archives and sent it to her for the next patron that comes along), but it was amazing how willing she was to help with my silly tidbit.

Whenever you’re stuck, these people can turn you in the right direction!

What’s your best research trick?


July Coversplash

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

Fiefdom by Dan Abnett & Nik Vincent

Elisha Magus by E. C. Ambrose

Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews

The Devil’s Chord by Alex Archer

Fireborn by Keri Arthur

Resistance by Samit Basu

The Adventure of the Ring of Stones by James Blaylock

Jani and the Greater Game by Eric Brown

Hurricane Fever by Tobias Buckell

The Seat of Magic by J. Kathleen Cheney

Seeders by A. J. Colucci

Monster Hunter Nemesis by Larry Correia

Path of Smoke by Bailey Cunningham

Out of the Black by Evan Currie

Artful by Peter David

The Splintered Gods by Stephen Deas

William Shakespeare’s The Jedi Doth Return by Ian Doescher

The Wurms of Blearmouth by Steven Erikson

Poison Promise by Jennifer Estep

Rebel Nation by Shaunta Grimes

Valor by John Gwynne

Enslaved by the Others by Jess Haines

Head Full of Mountains by Brent Hayward

The Hunt for Pierre Jnr by David Henley

The Little Green Book of Chairman Rahma by Brian Herbert

Unwept by Tracy Hickman & Laura Hickman

The Return of the Discontinued Man by Mark Hodder

Haxan by Kenneth Mark Hoover

SynBio by Leslie Horzitz

Elements of Mind by Walter Hunt

A Plunder of Souls by D. B. Jackson

No Return by Zachary Jernigan

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Hardship by Jean Johnson

Born of Fury by Sherrilyn Kenyon

The Rods and the Axe by Tom Kratman

Wolf in Shadow by John Lambshead

The Tesla Gate by John Mimms

Free Agent by J. C. Nelson

Blood for the Sun by Errick Nunnally

All Those Vanished Engines by Paul Park

Academic Exercises by K. J. Parker

Shattering the Ley by Joshua Palmatier

The Buried Life by Carrie Patel

Wolfsbane by Gillian Philip

The Causal Angel by Hannu Rajaniemi

Bête by Adam Roberts

How the White Trash Zombie Got Her Groove Back by Diana Rowland

Tower Lord by Anthony Ryan

Premonitions by Jaime Schultz

Pathfinder Tales: The Crusader Road by Michael Stackpole

Equoid by Charles Stross

The Rhesus Chart by Charles Stross

One Night in Sixes by Arianne “Tex” Thompson

Last Orders by Harry Turtledove

The Shadow Throne by Django Wexler

Ghosts of Time by Steve White



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

Book Debut: Elisha Magus

E. C. Ambrose’s second novel Elisha Magus is out today!


Available at: AmazonBarnes & Noble, and Powell’s.




Elisha Magus

Elisha, a barber-surgeon from the poorest streets of benighted fourteenth-century London, has come a long way from home. He was always skilled at his work, but skill alone could not protect him on the day that disaster left his family ruined and Elisha himself accused of murder. With no other options, Elisha accepted a devil’s bargain from Lucius, a haughty physician, to avoid death by hanging—by serving under the sadistic doctor as a battle surgeon of the king’s army, at the front lines of an unjust war.

Elisha worked night and day, both tending to the wounded soldiers and protecting them from the physician’s experiments. Even so, he soon found that he had a talent for a surprising and deadly sort of magic, and was drawn into the clandestine world of sorcery by the enchanting young witch Brigit—who had baffling ties to his past, and ambitious plans for his future. Yet even Brigit did not understand the terrible power Elisha could wield, until the day he was forced to embrace it and end the war…by killing the king.

Now, Elisha has become a wanted man—not only by those who hate and fear him, but by those who’d seek to woo his support. Because, hidden behind the politics of court and castle, it is magic that offers power in its purest form. And the players in that deeper game are stranger and more terrifying than Elisha could ever have dreamed.

There are the magi, those who have grasped the secrets of affinity and knowledge to manipulate mind and matter, always working behind the scenes. There are the indivisi, thought mad by the rest of the magical world: those so devoted to their subject of study that they have become “indivisible” from it, and whose influence in their realm is wondrous beyond even the imaginations of “normal” magi. And then there are—there may be—the necromancers, whose methods, motives, and very existence remain mysterious. Where rumors of their passing go, death follows.





Book Debut: The Seat of Magic

J. Kathleen Cheney’s second novel The Seat of Magic is out today. seatofmagic
Available at: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Powell’s.

From Publisher’s Weekly:

The mesmerizing sequel to The Golden City shows the deepening relationship between two non-humans living clandestinely in an alternate early-1900s Portugal. Though mer-folk such as beautiful sereia Oriana Paredes and half-selkie Duilio Ferreira are officially banned from the mainland, they choose to live there and use their superhuman abilities to protect their friends. The two are brought together by their mutual attraction and the discovery that someone is butchering sea-folk to steal their supernatural powers, part of a plot to gain control of the throne.



The Seat of Magic:

Magical beings have been banned from the Golden City for decades, though many live there in secret. Now humans and nonhumans alike are in danger as evil stalks the streets, growing more powerful with every kill….

It’s been two weeks since Oriana Paredes was banished from the Golden City. Police consultant Duilio Ferreira, who himself has a talent he must keep secret, can’t escape the feeling that, though she’s supposedly returned home to her people, Oriana is in danger.

Adding to Duilio’s concerns is a string of recent murders in the city. Three victims have already been found, each without a mark upon her body. When a selkie under his brother’s protection goes missing, Duilio fears the killer is also targeting nonhuman prey.

To protect Oriana and uncover the truth, Duilio will have to risk revealing his own identity, put his trust in some unlikely allies, and consult a rare and malevolent text known as The Seat of Magic….