Tag Archives: fran wilde

SPEED AND DIRECTION: A GUIDE TO WHERE TO FIND US (JUL – SEP, 2016)

Summer is coming, and with it the opportunity to stalk encounter many of us as we pop up here and there. The following list can help you keep track of where to do just that. :

JULY 2016

LAWRENCE M. SCHOEN:
* Jul 21st – 23rd – will be participating in the 23rd annual conference of the Klingon Language Institute (the qep’a’ cha’maH wejDIch) in Chicago, IL.
* Jul 29th – 31st – is a GoH and appearing on programming at Confluence in Pittsburgh, PA.

E. C. AMBROSE:
* Jul 8th – 10th – appearing on programming at Readercon in Quincy, MA.

FRAN WILDE:
* Jul 8th – 10th – appearing on programming at Readercon in Quincy, MA.

TEX THOMPSON:
* Jul 29th – 31st – will be attending ArmadilloCon in Austin, TX.

MICHAEL R. UNDERWOOD:
* Jun 30-Jul 3rd – Appearing on programming and running the Angry Robot booth at CONvergence in Bloomington, MN.

TINA CONNOLLY:
* July 1st – 4th – appearing on programming at WesterCon in Portland, OR.

J. KATHLEEN CHENEY:
* Jun 29th – 31st – appearing on programming at ArmadilloCon 38 in Austin, TX.

AUGUST 2016

TEX THOMPSON:
* Aug 12th – 14th – will present at the Willamette Writers Conference in Portland, OR.
* Aug 17th – 21st – appearing on programming at WorldCon in Kansas City, MO.

MICHAEL R. UNDERWOOD:
Aug 4th-7th – Appearing on programming and running the Angry Robot booth at GenCon in Indianapolis, IN.
* Aug 17th-21st – Running the Angry Robot booth at MidAmeriCon II in Kansas City, MO.

FRAN WILDE:
* Aug 17th – 21st – appearing on programming at Mid-American 2 (aka the 74th WorldCon) in Kansas City, MO.

LAWRENCE M. SCHOEN:
* Aug 4th – 7th – appearing on programming at Gen Con Writers’ Symposium in Indianapolis, IN.
* Aug 17th – 21st – appearing on programming at Mid-American 2 (aka the 74th WorldCon) in Kansas City, MO.

TINA CONNOLLY:
* Aug 17th – 21st – appearing on programming at WorldCon in Kansas City, MO. (Including launch party for debut collection On the Eyeball Floor and Other Stories)

J. KATHLEEN CHENEY:
* Aug 17th – 21st – appearing on programming at Mid-American 2 (aka the 74th WorldCon) in Kansas City, MO.

BETH CATO:
* Aug 17th – 21st – appearing on programming at WorldCon in Kansas City, MO. (Including the launch of her new novel, Breath of Earth, to be officially released August 23rd)

STEVE BEIN
* Aug 4th – 7th – appearing on programming at Gen Con Writers’ Symposium in Indianapolis, IN.

SEPTEMBER 2016

TEX THOMPSON:
* Sep 2nd – 3rd – will be giving the keynote address at the Roanoke Writers Conference in Roanoke, TX.
* Sep  14th – 18th – will attend BoucherCon in New Orleans, LA.
* Sep  23rd – 25th – will appear on programming at FenCon in Irving, TX.

MICHAEL R. UNDERWOOD:
* Sep 17th-24th – Attending the Out of Excuses Writing Workshop and Retreat from Ft. Lauderdale, FL.

FRAN WILDE:
* Sep 2nd – 5th – appearing on programming at Dragon Con in Atlanta, GA.

LAWRENCE M. SCHOEN:
* Sep 23rd – 25th – appearing on programming at the Baltimore Book Festival in Baltimore Inner Harbor, MD.

J. KATHLEEN CHENEY:
* Sep 2nd – 3rd – will be attending the Roanoke Writers Conference in Roanoke, TX.
* Sep  23rd – 25th – appearing on programming at FenCon in Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX.

News for May and June

Beth Cato

– will be attending Phoenix Comicon June 5-7. Her schedule can be viewed here. There might possibly be shenanigans and the worship of tacos.

– finished a round of edits on the first book in a new steampunk series.

Michael R. Underwood

Appearances: Mike will be attending Phoenix Comicon June 5-8 with Angry Robot Books. His schedule is here.

Publications: Mike’s superhero fantasy novel Shield and Crocus is coming June 10th.

Writing: Revising The Younger Gods, an urban fantasy coming Q4 of 2014.

M.K. Hutchins

Drift is coming out in June!
My novelette, “The Temple’s Posthole,” tied for third in the annual IGMS Reader’s Choice Award.

E.C. Ambrose

Elisha Barber by E. C. Ambrose will be released in paperback June 3rd

Fran Wilde

– Finished a new novelette.
– Finalizing edits on novel #1.
– Working on novel #2 in the Tor series.
– Sold a new short story to Drabblecast called “Local Delicacies.” (pub date TBA)
– Joined an SF Signal Mind Meld for “Books we’ve worn out reading.”
– Am co-editing the SFWA 50th Anniversary cookbook with author Cat Rambo.
– Interviewed agent Rachel Kory from SGG Literary for Cooking the Books.

J. Kathleen Cheney

-Inked a new deal with Ace/Roc for Book 3 in the Golden City series, The Shores of Spain, and the first book in a new series, Dreaming Death.
The Golden City will be coming out in mass market paperback on June 3.
-J. will be appearing at SoonerCon in OKC, June 27-29.

Lawrence M. Schoen

– The second half of May had me bouncing around from the Nebula Awards conference in San Jose, CA, to the Memorial Day weekend joy that was my return to Balticon after several years absence, to a Writers’ Retreat with some of my Taos Toolbox cohort (and others) in my own backyard of Philadelphia.
– I just completed negotiations for the publication of a new novella featuring the Amazing Conroy (both of the previous novellas enjoyed Nebula Award nominations) to come out in 2014 from NobleFusion Press as both an ebook and a stand alone trade paperback. It will feature a cover by Rachael Mayo, the astonishing artist who has done the covers for all of my books to date.
– In theory, my editorial letter for Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard will be dropping any day now. My anxiety demands cake!
– And though the actual event is still quite a ways away, I can now announce that I’ll be a Special Guest at next year’s RavenCon, alongside GoH Allen M. Steele.

Vectors: Plotter or Pantser?

Our question this week: Plotter or pantser? Have you changed your position on the spectrum and if so, how?

Tina Connolly

tina_connolly-300x450I used to be a total pantser. Not the sort of pantser who describes their process as “following the headlights down a dark twisty road”, but a terrible sort that involved seeing one little image that might be part of a story someday. It might be a sentence, it might be a character, it might be a moment. And then, seeing another little image. And another. And maybe the first image is the end of the story and maybe the second one is in the middle and maybe the third one is also in the middle, but a different middle, one that exists if the story goes somewhere else. (But in the meantime, you’re going to need this non-canon 3rd image in order to find the 4th image, and the 6th.) And then, trying to put all these things together.
This worked . . . okay . . . for short stories.

This was terrible for novels.

I have a trunked novel written this way. It’s a glorious mess, and maybe someday it’ll come out of the trunk and try to reform. But basically around the time of Ironskin (my 7th novel), I had to learn to start writing linearly. There were still many times in that novel I would jump sideways and write another piece of the puzzle that had occurred to me, and then go back. Copperhead got a little better, process-wise. And then with the last novel, Silverblind, I was finally able to just write it from start to finish. No jumping around. And I think it’s my strongest novel yet.

My current process is somewhere between plotter and headlights. I start by figuring out the loose overall arc to the story. About as much as would go on the back of a book, say. Then I start writing, finding the voice, finding out things I didn’t know. I go back and refine my outline, adding more detail. Back and forth. I’m enjoying this process much more than the floundering connect-the-dots I had before, and I think it may stick with me for awhile. . .

E. C. Ambrose

E. C. AmbroseI used to write only when the inspiration took me–so I might not write for weeks, then suddenly I would spend days on end working on the novel. Each time, the spaces seemed to grow–I’d spend more time doing nothing, then more time writing. But the books that resulted from this tended to be rambling and jumpy. I did sell one of these books, which was submitted at 220K words, and published at 167K–ouch! Painful revision!! Two big epiphanies lead me to my current process.
First of all, I had a bunch of friends doing NANO. I couldn’t take off the month of November (I was running a wholesale gift business at the time) But I could take off most of January into February, so I did a personal chapter-a-day challenge. I wrote 38 chapters in 35 days, the book that became Elisha Barber. I think this approach allowed me to maintain the energy of the work during the whole time I was writing. On the other hand, the book has a single protagonist, and a fairly tight plot structure. I would get ideas about things to happen later and jot them on old business cards to keep a sort of loose, running outline. The equivalent of a GPS for that dark, windy road where I could see a few turns ahead, but not the whole roadmap.

By the time I sold Elisha Barber, as book 1 of “The Dark Apostle” series, I had written 4 more books to follow it, and wrap the series. Unfortunately, the editors loved the first book, but wanted the rest of the series to be bigger, more epic. They wanted. . . an outline! Gasp. So this dedicated pantser sat down and brainstormed a new series structure. They weren’t crazy about it. They had suggestions. I wrote a new outline with those suggestions. I wasn’t crazy about it. I wrote yet one more outline–this time really working each major turn, especially developing a climax worthy of the whole series.

And lemme tell you–far from making me lose steam on the books because I know how they end, having that big, amazing moment to work toward has fired me up about it. I still make changes as I go–usually moving around parts of the outline rather than ditching them entirely–but the outline gives me confidence about the work. I just finished developing an outline for a new series, taking my time with the R&D, then doing a lightning draft for the first few chapters, combining the big-picture structure tools of the outline with the energy and excitement of the writing flow. Can’t tell you how jazzed I am to get to work on that!

M. K. Hutchins

MK HutchinsWith short fiction, I usually write a scene-by-scene outline before drafting. Every scene carries so much burden of the story that I feel I need to carefully plan it out for the story to flow and make sense.

With novels, I used to wing the entire thing, but the results were not always pretty (or even salvageable). Now I start a book with a very rough outline — maybe a page or two of notes, often along the lines of Dan Well’s 7-point-plotting system, which makes a lot of sense to me.

But “outlining” isn’t just something to do before writing a book. Whenever I finish a chapter, I go summarize it in my ongoing chapter-by-chapter outline. I usually outline the next chapter before I actually write it as well. Having a broad framework to hang the story on, then keeping track of what I’m actually doing, helps me a lot. But digging in and just writing gives me ideas for what should happen next. I also love writing a character into a horrible bind with no idea of how they’ll survive, because then I’m pretty sure my reader won’t know, either.

So, plotting and pantsing are, for me, both valuable tools.

Fran Wilde

Fran2014It depends on the story. Quite often, I write a scene or a voice because it wants to be written — so a complete pants — and then I block out what kind of story that scene is trying to tell — plotting. The first novel I wrote was loosely outlined. The second was pantsed, then plotted, then the last third came out in a completely different direction than I’d expected, and that was great too.

Story’s gonna story.

J. Kathleen Cheney

screenshot2Definitely a plotter. I’ve rarely had any luck just ‘going where the story takes me.’ When I try that I usually have to go back and rein in all the subplots that want to go off in every direction. So in interest of being efficient (which is my goal these days), I’m working harder on the front end. I hope that saves me headaches on the editing end.

Not that I’m perfect. I usually write an outline and fall off the outline wagon somewhere about 1/3 of the way through. By 2/3s I’m hopelessly off….so I re-outline the rest of the book then and try to fix it. In fact, this has always been a problem for me, so much so that while I do outline the story and I know where it will end, I’ll generally only produce a detailed outline for the beginning of the book. The middle third is lighter, and the last third of the outline is sketchy at best. Why spend the time creating an elaborate ending when I know that by the time I get there I’ll have to redo the outline?

That doesn’t qualify me as a pantser, though…

Michael R. Underwood

Michael R. UnderwoodI see plotter and pantser as two extremes of one continuum. I’ve swung from 95% pantser to 80% plotter over the course of my writing career. Before I wrote my first novels, all of my short stories were 100% pantsing.

My first novel was 90% pantsed, with only the vaguest structure in mind. When I wrote Shield and Crocus, my third novel (before Geekomancy, but published after), I built out a bit of an outline, a ‘lamp posts in the darkness’ structure that gave me landmarks but little in the way of connective tissue or points in-between.

Each novel since then, and in a big way in the last year, I’ve moved more and more toward being an outliner. Attack the Geek was broken out down to the scene, and Hexomancy, which I’m writing even now, Is broken down to scene and beats within. I still go off-outline, and frequently, trying not to be afraid to let my imagination lead me down unforseen paths on the day and in the moment.

My next step is not to outline more, but to outline smarter, to look at the arcs, sub-plots, and to have more of a sense of the shape of the story in addition to the beat-by-beat of ‘this happens, and then that, all leading to this’ outlining that I do now. I know that I’m only operating at the low levels of plotting, and I’m hoping I can get better and smarter at it to produce even stronger first drafts and to be able to look at complete drafts and get better at identifying where the structure has gotten lopsided and needs to be corrected to create more beautifully-shaped stories

Beth Cato

BethCato-steampunk-headshotI’m totally a plotter, but then, I’m even a plotter in real life. I’m the queen of to-do lists and planning out my day, researching restaurants before I will eat there, etc. It only makes sense that this carries over to my writing. I even do little outlines for flash fiction.

That said, I’m flexible within my plots, too. My writing tends to surprise me, especially as I near the climax. There’s often a point as I write or as I rewrite when the proverbial light bulb clicks on over my head and I realize, “Oh yeah, THAT is what I was writing.” My novels in particular are this way. I heavily outline plot and subplot up to the climax. At that point, I have vague ideas of the event and definite ideas about the result, but no clue how it actually happens.

That said, my poetry is my one area of spontaneity. I start with a prompt or first line, write, and have no idea where it will go. My rough drafts tend to pour out all at once.

Lawrence M. Schoen

Lawrence SchoenIn thinking about my answer this week, it felt a bit like being enrolled in a 12-step program and attending a meeting. Imagine yourself in a room full of cheap folding chairs occupied by a menagerie of authors, a table with bad coffee and donuts at the back, and some writer standing at the front who introduces himself by name and then adds, “And I’m a Pantser.”

When I first started writing, my fiction began with a cool idea and a character. That was enough to begin the engagement for me (and ideally, for my reader). It’s that teaser at the beginning of a television show before the first commercial break; if they did their job you’re still watching after the commercial ends. Beginnings are crucial.

With a Beginning in hand, I’d then turn to the Ending. How do I want things to look when it’s all over? Where will my character be and how is he different now (which is not the same as how did those changes come about)?

Once I had a rough idea of my Beginning and my Ending, I was off! This for me is the very definition of being a Pantser. As you stand at the start of your tale, there are an nigh infinite number of ways for you to get from Point A to Point B. Who needs a map? Turn off the GPS and just head out. The adventure will unravel.

The problem though is that while you can often get a satisfying story this way, I’ve found the the odds of actually doing so go way up when you have a clear (which is not necessarily the same as saying “detailed”) outline before you begin.

The thing that converted me was spending two weeks on top of a mountain and learning from master plotter Walter Jon Williams. I refer to his master class, the Taos Toolbox. That experience set me on the road of recovery (to continue beating the 12-step metaphor).

The last thing I’ll say about being a (reformed pantser) outliner is that when you have an outline and you get stuck on the part of the book you’re working on, you can skip ahead to another point along the line and keep on going. Which allows me to turn the unrepentant pantsers in the room and go “neener neener” when they get stuck.

Steve Bein

Steve BeinI’ve always been a plotter, and I wish to hell I wasn’t. Plotting is the hardest part of writing to me.

I’ve tried it the other way, and writing by the seat of my pants, I can churn out lots of snappy dialogue. Nice descriptions of settings and characters too. Cool fight scenes, interesting philosophical problems, all that good stuff. What never, ever emerges is story. It’s all just rambling.

So I’m a plotter because I have to be. I think of it this way: I need to log a flight plan before I take off. I need to know my destination in advance. That said, unexpected turbulence can force me to depart from the plan. I always outline, but I rarely end up following the outline point by point. The flight path evolves as it progresses, swerving to avoid problems as they arise.

So where are you on this continuum?

News for April and May

Tina Connolly

tina_connolly-300x450– Wrote and sold a brand-new story! It’s called “Super-Baby-Moms Group Saves the Day!”, and I sold it to Alex Shvartsman for the UFO3 humor anthology.
– Is currently doing copyedits for Silverblind. Then come page proofs, and then we are ALL DONE.

Beth Cato

BethCato-steampunk-headshot– sent sequel novel The Clockwork Crown to editor a month and a half before deadline. Huzzah!
– science fiction poem “Barstow” in Spark Volume V
– steampunk poem “Cogs” in the April issue of Apex Magazine
– will be attending LepreCon in Mesa, Arizona, on Saturday May 10th

J. Kathleen Cheney

-sold two more books to Ace/Roc (Penguin), The Shores of Spain, the third book in the Golden City series, and Dreaming Death, the first in a new series that includes a character who’s previously appeared in her fiction, Shironne Anjir. If you’d like to read a story about her, “Touching the Dead” was originally published in Jim Baen’s Universe and reprinted in The Best of Jim Baen’s Universe, Vol. 2. It’s also available free here.

E. C. Ambrose

E. C. Ambrose-is doing a cover reveal on Goodreads on May 9th for Elisha Magus, book 2 in The Dark Apostle series!





Steve Bein

PMA cover— The Italian translation of Daughter of the Sword hit shelves.
– Turned in copyedits for the mass market release of Year of the Demon, which comes out in September.
– Had a very successful panel at C2E2, and then shook hands with Hacksaw Jim Duggan, and later that night I had drinks with Patrick Rothfuss and John Scalzi!
Got a first look at the cover for Philosophy and the Martial Arts, which features an essay from Yours Truly.
– Looking forward to another great panel at Minneapolis Comic Con on Saturday, May 3, this one on writing and martial arts.
– Still going all stops out, full steam ahead on Disciple of the Wind.

(And because Steve was too humble to mention it himself, were noting here that Colleen Lindsay included Daughter of the Sword in her shortlist of top scifi/fantasy, including other notables like William Gibson’s Neuromancer and Charlaine Harris.)

M. K. Hutchins

MK HutchinsDrift will now be released in mid-June.
– My short story, “Water Lilies”, is up for free at Daily Science Fiction.
– show quoted text –
http://www.mkhutchins.com/


Fran Wilde

Fran2014– Interviewed Mur Lafferty AND Novelocity author Michael R. Underwood for Cooking the Books.

– My Storium kickstarter stretch goal level funded and I get to join the amazing group of authors writing for this incredible game. My space opera, State Liminal, will be available by the fall.

– And the big one: edits are turned in on the novel. Wooo! ::falls down:: ::gets back up:: ::keeps writing::

Michael R. Underwood

Michael R. UnderwoodAttack the Geek: A Ree Reyes Novella was published on April 7th. I conducted a short but potent blog tour to promote it, with highlights including an appearance a special GeekMom edition of Fran Wilde’s Cooking the Books.

The Skiffy and Fanty Show (of which I am a co-host) was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Fancast. This means I may now forever style myself a Hugo nominee. Two weeks later, I am only vaguely getting used to the idea.

Tor.com hosted the cover reveal and a first chapter excerpt of my upcoming novel, Shield and Crocus. I also received a box full of ARCs for said novel and somehow restrained myself from trying to dive into them like Scrooge McDuck.

And along the way, I started the first draft of Hexomancy, the third Ree Reyes novel.

Vectors: Favorite Non-English Language Story or Book (part 2)

We continue to answer the question, What’s your favorite non-English language book or story in the SF/F genre?

Lawrence SchoenLawrence M. Schoen
This is an easy pick. I’m going with the Epic of Gilgamesh, the oldest, written story we have. We’re talking early Mesopotamian here. Gilgamesh was King of Uruk back around 2500 BC. Uruk, for those of you playing along at home is believed to be one of the first cities of the world, so that makes it an even cooler place to have been a king, right?ghIlghameS

The story was probably originally written in Sumerian, but survives into present day because it was used as a teaching exercise for young scribes learning to write Akkadian. As a result, there are numerous, intact sets of cuneiform tablets with the story, which have allowed historians ready access to the work, as well as creating a pretty standardized version of the story.

Gilgamesh is described as “two thirds god,” and has some wonderful adventures. He battles a wild man of the forest (Enkidu) and eventually the two become closer than brothers. When Enkidu dies (whoops, sorry, spoiler!), Gilgamesh goes to the underworld demanding the return of his friend. There’s also a section, written in a very different voice, that describes the sorts of things a person should do to lead a good life. Nice advice from the dawn of civilization.

Of course, what makes this even more special to me, is that it’s precisely the kind of Human action tale that Klingons would enjoy. Which goes a long way to explaining why, in 2003, I published ghIlghameS, a Klingon translation of the Earth’s oldest epic.

I think I’ve got the timeline spanned pretty well there, don’t you?

AnatolyBelilovskyGuest Anatoly Belilovsky
If I had to pick one book, it would have to be 20000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA by Jules Verne – it hit me early and it hit me hard; I remember reading it in my grandparents’ apartment in Lvov, in Russian, in first grade in school, and rereading it more times than I can count. The grandeur of going places, of the alien world under the sea; the lone, isolated captain Nemo; incredible freedom in strict confinement – the parallel between living in the Nautilus and living inside one’s head – it put the wonder in wandering.20000Leagues

As for others – also very early on –

MONDAY BEGINS ON SATURDAY (link to pdf)

NIICHAVO, the Institute of Research into Sorcery and Magic, is best thought of as a very small Hogwarts with Hagrid in charge – and if there are to be any charges of plagiarism, MONDAY BEGINS ON SATURDAY is vintage 1966.

And, finally:

AMPHIBIAN MAN

Another outcast, another quest for freedom in a dimension perpendicular to everyone else’s plane of existence. I see a pattern emerging. Hmm…

Anatoly Belilovsky was born in a city that went through six or seven owners in the last century, all of whom used it to do a lot more than drive to church on Sundays; he is old enough to remember tanks rolling through it on their way to Czechoslovakia in 1968. After being traded to the US for a shipload of grain and a defector to be named later (see wikipedia, Jackson-Vanik amendment), he learned English from Star Trek reruns and went on to become a pediatrician in an area of New York where English is only the fourth most commonly used language. He has neither cats nor dogs, but was admitted into SFWA in spite of this deficiency, having published stories in NATURE, Ideomancer, Immersion Book of Steampunk, Daily SF, Kasma, UFO, Stupefying Stories, Cast of Wonders, and other markets. He blogs about writing at loldoc.net, pediatrics at belilovsky.com, and his medical practice web site is babydr.us.

Michael R. UnderwoodMichael R. Underwood
I’m going to cheat and bring in media sources so I can talk about Ghost in the Shell. I was an anime/manga fan as a teen, because of and informing the fact that I studied Japanese in high school. Many of my friends were also studying Japanese, so we’d hang out and watch anime with subtitles over the weekends, practicing our aural comprehension.GitS

We started with Ranma 1/2, Vampire Hunter D, Tenchi Muyo, Akira, and Neon Genesis Evangelion, but it was really Ghost in the Shell that most blew me away. It was far deeper than most of the other anime (but more coherent than Neon Genesis Evangelion), and packed an incredible amount of plot, worldbuilding, character, and theme into one story, all lead by an impressive female lead who had a complicated and nuanced relationship to her body and to physicality in general. Other films and shows got me into anime, but Ghost in the Shell showed me what it could really do when it was stretching to be thought-provoking without being obtuse.

Fran2014Fran Wilde
Ahhh I was hoping someone would bring Ghost in the Shell. Go Mike!

My favorite non-English language stories are a tie, but one author influenced the other greatly. So:

Jorge Luis Borges (Argentina). All of it. The Book of Sand. Ficciones, “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius,” “The Library of Babel.” I love watching his stories unfold. I love the way he explores ideas of place and memory.

Milorad Pavić (Serbia), specifically The Dictionary of the Khazars. This is a dictionary written in three parts, divided by religion. Definitions for the same word change depending on which part of the dictionary you are reading. You can read it linearly, or by jumping back and forth between words. And there’s a mysterious swordsman that weaves his way throughout the book. There are male and female versions of the dictionary, with only one word different. And the original dictionary (for this is a found object) was written in poison ink. Published in 1984, The Dictionary of the Khazars is a bound work of hypertext. It’s also lovely.

tina_connolly-300x450Tina Connolly
I have two answers to this question, and both are books I fell in love with as a kid. The first is Michael Ende’s The Never-Ending Story. Do you have memories of the moment of *discovery* of your favorite books? I definitely do. In this case . . . Well, I had a bad habit as a kid of going over to friend’s houses to play . . . and then sitting down and reading their books. On my friend Theresa’s bedstand was a library book that looked exactly as The Never-Ending Story should look: a hardback with an embossed picture of Auryn. I started reading . . . I got to the point where I found Bastien reading this very book . . . I could not stop. I think I read half of that book that night (and yes, as we all know, this is a very long book.) I couldn’t borrow it from her – it was a library book! I couldn’t borrow it from the library – she had it! Ah, the agony. I finally got to read all of it. I remember being confused and disappointed by the movie. But it didn’t change my love for the book.Paris20

And the second is another book that I still wildly love, and have re-read even more. Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth. I’ve seen the old Disney version a number of times, and though it, too, doesn’t match up with my own idea of the story, I rather like it all the same. When I took French in college, I worked my way through copies of this and of Around the World in 80 Days to practice the language. And of course, if you haven’t read the (comparatively) recently-discovered Paris in the 20th Century, the story is not my favorite, but it’s worth it just to see what Verne came up with!

Vectors: The Deadline Kitchen

When you’re on a deadline, or trying to finish that novel, or copy edits, the last thing your brain sometimes has space for is cooking. But folks have to eat. So.

What do you cook, or not, when you’re in the weeds?

The Novelocity crew brings you five time tested recipes, plus survival foraging and ordering tips.

Tina Conolly

tina_connolly-300x450My favorite go-to when on deadline is to have already in the past prepared and stored quarts of soup. And by “already in the past” I also mean that someone else has done it for me. I don’t know why I have such a mental block on soup, but I’m absolutely convinced that I cannot get it to come out right. Luckily my husband happily throws whole chicken carcasses in our soup pot and makes stock, and when my parents come out to visit, my dad often offers to make up a couple pots of chicken noodle or green bean ham. It’s such a relief to see the freezer lined with plastic quarts of soup that just need to be reheated.

And then, while the soup’s warming up, I can throw together some cheese biscuits. Again, I’m unlike everyone I know in that I have a block against making soup but the opposite of a block against baking. Baking is relaxing. Baking is fun. Baking results in cheese biscuits or plum crisp at the end. I don’t even measure, so this is a totally unhelpful recipe, but it’s something like:

  • a cup of flour,
  • a tablespoon of baking powder,
  • several tablespoons butter,
  • some cheese,
  • some salt, and
  • some chopped-up whatever herby things are in the garden.
  • Add milk until it looks right (I know! Sorry.)
  • and bake at 425 for 12 minutesish.

Voila, dinner! And then, back to work. Oh no, wait, bathtime and bedtime. And THEN, back to work.


BethCato-steampunk-headshotBeth Cato 
When I’m on a deadline, I’m all about making large quantities of food that I can portion out to keep in the fridge or freezer. I love making breakfast cookies or energy balls, stuff that might take thirty minutes or an hour to assemble but save me a lot more time in the long run. In case my husband needs treats for work, I always keep cake mix stashed in the pantry so I can throw together cookies with two eggs, 1/3 cup oil, and chocolate chips or candy.

For supper, I love my crock pot. One of my new favorite recipes is pesto ranch chicken thighs–weirdly, my husband adores this recipe, though he doesn’t like ranch dressing or pesto. I love this because it comes together in five minutes, cooks over the afternoon, and is absolutely delicious. I modified the recipe from Picky Palate.

Pesto Ranch Thighs4_smNovelocityCrock Pot Pesto Ranch Thighs

Ingredients

  • 8 boneless skinless chicken thighs (2-3 pounds)
  • 6-8 ounce jar of pesto
  • 1 packet ranch dressing dry seasoning mix
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth or water mixed with chicken/vegetable stock concentrate or water

Directions

  1. Place chicken thighs, pesto, ranch dressing (dry from the packet) and liquid into crock pot. Stir gently to coat chicken and combine everything.
  2. Place lid on top and cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 6-8 hours. Leave thighs whole or chop. (If you chop, add them into the pot again on warm for 15 minutes so they can soak up more flavor!)
OM NOM NOM.

J. Kathleen CheneyJ. Kathleen Cheney

When I’m under a deadline crunch, most of my cooking goes by the wayside.   It’s chouriço and cheese, nuts (I had cashews for lunch yesterday), boiled or scrambled eggs and sausage.  The local Sprouts sells shredded chicken and turkey, which can be used to shortcut meals.  Apples with peanut butter.  A banana.  

It’s kinda sad, but I revert to college cooking.
But when I’m done?  Enchiladas and tamales, FTW!!!

 

Fran2014Fran Wilde
In the summer, two words: Tortellini Salad*

  • Cook up a bag of dried cheese tortellini.  Drain and rinse to cool.
  • Toss with olive oil and sea salt.
  • Add:
  • 1 container quartered cherry tomatoes
  • 1 avocado (or more if you’re an avocado person)
  • 1 can sweet corn
  • If we have other vegetables around, those have been known to go in there too.
  • Refrigerate until ready to eat. Makes leftovers.

*can be modified using gluten-free pasta. Turns out pretty ok, despite the best efforts of GF pasta to taste like wet cardboard.

Once that’s all eaten up, three more words: Take Out Indian. 

 


 

Steve BeinSteve Bein

Wow!  My fellow Novelociraptors are much more industrious in the kitchen than I am.  When I’m under a deadline — like right now, so I’ll keep this short — my default meal is breakfast cereal.  Prep time: one minute or less.  Clean-up: one minute or less.

Other favorites are bananas and granola bars.  Prep time: one second.  Clean-up: two seconds.  Chocolate goes on the list too, because otherwise this diet is a little low on vitamin C.  (The C does stand for chocolate, doesn’t it?)

Lest you think this diet is unhealthy, I’ll have you know I spoke to a dietician about it.  Dr. Spaceman from 30 Rock thinks it’s just fine.


Megan Hutchins
MK HutchinsIf I’m lucky and the deadline runs over a weekend — I don’t cook. My husband makes a huge batch ‘o delicious gumbo in the dutch oven which we then feast off of for several days. Barring that, a few of my other favorite things to cook…
Curry
  • 1-2 Tbsp curry paste,
  • a can of coconut milk,
  • plus some veggies (like cabbage, sweet potato, onion, bell pepper),
  • plus some kind of protein (I love shrimp, but it’s usually chicken or tofu).
  • Simmer it up. Toss rice in rice cooker.
  • Make a big batch so we have leftovers.

Couscous Salad

  • Cook a bunch of bulk couscous with handy homemade chicken stock in the freezer.
  • Add in some vegetation (fresh cucumber, tomato, and green onion is nice; cooked carrots work)
  • and something with fat or protein (choose two: feta, olives, chickpeas, cooked diced chicken).
  • Dress with a little olive oil and lemon juice.
  • Dollop on Greek yogurt if it’s in the fridge.
  • Oh, and make lots and lots for leftovers.

It’s tasty hot and cold, so the kiddo can even have it for lunch at school.

And, of course, there’s the marvelous Radish Beef Rice Bowl. I marinate a bunch of beef at once, then freeze in meal-sized portions. With one of those handy, I can prep dinner in five minutes. Toss everything in the rice cooker and click a button. Yum.


 

Michael R. UnderwoodMike Underwood

I’ve generally had the most deadline stress for revisions rather than initial submission deadlines.

When I’m revising, the pizza comes out. In that I order pizza and then eat it for basically every meal except breakfast. Pizza is my comfort food in general, and there’s no time where I need comfort more than revisions. Or copy edits. Or when I have 48 hours to turn around page proofs. I’m rigorous in my scheduling for first draft deadlines, but revision deadlines are always tighter, and that means pizza.
When I really need to de-stress from work deadlines, I take the extra hour or two and make my own dough, since I’ve turned making my own dough into a meditative practice. The rest of the world goes away for a while, and it’s just me, the music, and the dough. It’s also great to work with my hands in a different way that just tapping away on a typewriter.
But when I just need to remove the time and thought of cooking from my day in order to maximize revision time, I call Homeslyce. They have a ‘Strongman’ pizza, which is a type of meat-lovers’ pizza. I’ve included a picture of Homeslyce’s Strongman, my go-to Deadline Pie.
photo (44)

 

 

Vectors: Disliked Required Reading from School

We love books., in general. There will, however, be exceptions. That’s especially true of assigned reading from school. We delve into our pasts to remember the books that made us growl, fuss, and contemplate violent acts against Ernest Hemingway.

What required reading in school did you absolutely despise?

 

J. Kathleen CheneyJ. Kathleen Cheney
To be honest, practically everything. I spent most of my high school career trying to get out of reading authors like Conrad and Hemingway and Faulkner. I suppose that my second runner up was Moby Dick, which will, no doubt, meet with gasps from some people. It simply didn’t make sense to me. This was followed by Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage, which I found annoying because I found the narration manipulative. (I especially disliked that we didn’t learn the guy’s name.) My crown for Worst Torture of High School Students, however, goes to Steinbeck’s “The Red Pony”, which is eighty pages of a horse dying slowly and a kid feeling miserable about it. RedPony

Essentially, I discovered early that I didn’t like what most English Majors consider ‘deep’ or ‘important’ works of fiction. They tended to be depressing, which is simply Not My Thing.

And thank heavens for my college English prof who taught Literature: Fiction who taught Tolkien and L’Amour and let me do my reports on The Mabinogion. and Gillian Bradshaw.

Fran2014Fran Wilde
My math book.

People in my family are notoriously good at math and engineering. Unlike them, I knew myself to be terrible at it. I focused on art and English. Took the algebra class with the goofy word problems, not calculus. A high school teacher (a kind soul, Mr. Maas) went so far as to pull me aside to talk DaVinci and show me how an artist could also be a mathematician. He was convinced — possibly because he’d taught my sister (now a world-class naval architect and marine engineer [whoops, sorry, proud sister moment]) by then — that all he needed to do was overcome my resistance and I would happily devour numbers like a good member of my clan.

Amusingly, the minute I learned I could automate an animation in Flash using algorithms, or build something really cool in php, I was All Over the Math. And I was good at it, too, most of the time. It took programming and lots of it to help me overcome my fear. Now I love it quite a lot.

Dear Mr. Maas, thank you for trying. Sorry I was late to class.

Steve BeinSteve Bein
I went to the same high school as Ernest Hemingway, and so naturally our teachers beat us half to death with Hemingway. I bore a grudge against that man for years.

Today, The Old Man and the Sea is one of my favorite books. When I teach a class on writing some day, it will be required reading. I could talk for ten minutes about the first sentence alone. He accomplishes so much with it. old man and the sea

But in high school, I wanted to replace the bronze bust we’d pass as we walked through the front door. Instead of a bust of ruggedly handsome middle-aged Hemingway, I wanted end-of-life Hemingway, which is to say Hemingway with his mouth open, the back of his head hollowed out, and a bunch of melted bronze splattered on the wall behind it.

Sorry, a little too much? That’s how much I hated Hemingway.

hemingway bust

Lawrence SchoenLawrence M. Schoen
Once again, Steve Bein seems to be reading my mind. My first thought was to talk write bout Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, one of many novels forced upon the 12-year old me in Mrs. Byers 7th Grade Honors English class. To this day, all I can recall from the book is the eponymous protagonist’s fondness for Joe DeMaggio and his incessant whining about how he “wished the boy was here.”

AnimalFarmBut the more I thought about it, the more another book from that same class intruded on my awareness, blocking out all rational thought. I refer of course to George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Now, what makes this particularly ironic is that the book I have sitting on my editor’s desk at Tor right now originally had the elevator pitch of “Dune meets Animal Farm as it’s a far future adventure set in a galaxy full of anthropomorphic animals. But irony aside, I just didn’t get what Orwell was selling. I followed the power struggle. I loved that bit about “all animals are equal, and some are more equal than others,” and it probably contributed in some small way to pushing me down the road toward a fascination with language and linguistics. But — and I cannot stress this strongly enough — every fricking bit of allegory went completely over my head. Communism? Seriously?

I should add that it’s not just the book itself that put it to the #1 spot on this list, but the book report that followed in Mrs. Byers’s class. And not my book report, that was fine (so far as it went). It was the horror and confusion that followed when another kid got up to do his report on the same book, and the elaborate explanations of pigs as communists that flowed form his lips, using vocabulary that he’d never demonstrated before and wouldn’t again for years. Yeah, and I don’t doubt that his parents helped him build that working volcano for science class later in the year.

CharlesEGannonCharles E. Gannon
The required reading that I found most aversive were all “theory” tracts, and so, while they were often picayune in their objects and habits of analysis, they were also written from that fever-pitch of earnestness that typifies many of the “must read” critical works that populate masters and doctoral program lists. Specific titles and authors elude me now—for which I am thankful.

Many of these treatises were hypertrophied (not to say bloated and fatuous) explications of “critical apparatuses” so extraordinary lofty and finely nuanced that the authors had to invent whole new vocabularies to express them. And by inventing that vocabulary, the author conveniently created a special kind of unassailable authority. I’ll call out two disciplines to illustrate: social psychology and literary theory.

For every practical and empirical in social psychology, there seems to be another whose imagination and sense of utility are both moribund. So they hide their paucity of worthy content in a deep and trackless thicket of terms, taxonomies, and distinctions so fine and so unnecessary that it makes the classic debate about how many angels may dance on the head of a pin sound like white-coated lab science.

In the domain of literary criticism, something similar started increasing as the theoretical vigor of post-modernism and deconstruction began sliding down into decrepitude. Nervous doctoral candidates and untenured assistant professors began mining the far reaches (not to say howlingly obscure corners) of their fields in search of something optimally recondite/byzantine. Lacanian and Foucauldian theory in fusional critical apparatuses, for instance. The agonizingly esoteric arguments resembled those between computer code jockeys over the respective merits of different programming languages and architectures, resulting in debates that were of interest to–maybe–63 people on the face of the planet.

No wonder I forgot the names and titles of the specific assignments—or maybe I suppressed them to get past the resentment of having to act as if all these emperors of theory were, in fact, wearing new clothes.

Dr. Charles E. Gannon’s current Nebula-nominated novel, Fire with Fire, was a best-seller and is also a finalist for the Compton Crook Award for best first novel. It is the first volume of an interstellar epic that continues in the forthcoming sequel, Trial by Fire (August 2014). Gannon is coauthor with Steve White of Extremis, the latest entry in the Starfire series created by David Weber, and 1635: The Papal Stakes, a Wall Street Journal Best-Seller in Eric Flint’s Ring of Fire universe. He has numerous shorter publications in shared world series, anthologies, and Analog. As part of his ongoing work with various defense and intelligence organizations (Pentagon, Air Force, NATO, others), Gannon was invited to present sections of Fire with Fireat the NRO, as well as highlights from his non-fiction book Rumors of War and Infernal Machines(winner of the 2006 ALA Choice award, Best Book of 2006). A multiple Fulbright scholar, Gannon is also Distinguished Professor of American Literature at St. Bonaventure University.

JamesLCambiasJames L. Cambias
I had the advantage of going to one of New Orleans’s better schools, Isidore Newman School, and now that I can see what my own kids are reading in school I realize how good the reading list at Newman was. But there was one exception.

In my freshman year of high school, back in 1981, the theme of the English class was “coming of age.” We read Lord of the Flies and Romeo and Juliet and Henry IV, Part II. All excellent stories of young people finding their place and role in the world. I learned a lot in that class; that was my first real exposure to Shakespeare’s works.

But for some reason, among all those classics, we were also handed a little paperback collection of short stories about “youth in rebellion” or something like that. I forget the title, but it had groovy early-Seventies cover art and featured stories like “The Bike” by Alan Sillitoe and John Updike’s “A&P,” and I’m pretty sure there were some excerpts from S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders in it as well.Outsiders

I’m not entirely sure why someone thought that stories of young people struggling with authority figures would resonate with a bunch of affluent, brainy kids in a private prep school in New Orleans. My classmates were authority figures in training — one of them became a city councilwoman, a couple of others now run some of the city’s big businesses. A lot of them became lawyers. Not a hotbed of angry youth. Our brushes with rebellion mostly consisted of trying to sneak into the college bars around Tulane despite being underage.

Now, the stories in that little paperback were fine. Whoever put the collection together obviously picked excellent selections. It was the purpose of the anthology, and the reason for assigning it which I despised. Apparently some editor decided that “today’s youth” circa 1978 couldn’t relate to fiction which wasn’t about contemporary teenagers. And my teachers, though they put Shakespeare and Golding on the lesson plan, apparently bought into that notion.

It irritated me, and it irritates me still, because I couldn’t avoid the impression that my teachers were trying to apply their Baby Boomer-era template of “youth rebellion” to my own Generation X cohort. We weren’t rebels; when my friends watched The Graduate our universal reaction was “take the plastics job, you idiot!” In their painstaking effort to reach out to “today’s youth” the teachers only demonstrated how little they understood our actual concerns.

The result was a paradox. If my teachers were trying to encourage myself and my fellow students to be rebels, as they liked to imagine themselves to have been, then we defied them by refusing to do so.

James L. Cambias writes SF and designs games. Originally from New Orleans, he lives in western Massachusetts. His stories have appeared in F&SF, Shimmer, Nature, and several original anthologies. A Darkling Sea, his first novel, came out in January 2014. Mr. Cambias has written for GURPS, Hero Games, and other roleplaying systems, and is a partner in Zygote Games. He is a member of the notorious Cambridge SF Workshop. Read his blog at www.jamescambias.com.

BethCato-steampunk-headshotBeth Cato
High school freshmen reading material is very depressing. My class read through Romeo and Juliet, Antigone, and the William Golding book Lord of the Flies. In case you haven’t read that novel of doom and gloom, it’s about English school boys on a desert isle who lose all their civilized senses and descend into their primitive, baser selves. Rather like going to high school, just without the profanity and innuendo. One of the boys–the most sane of the lot–is dubbed Piggy. He’s fat, and has glasses, and is treated like dirt… and I related to him strongly. I felt like the female equivalent of Piggy at my school.lordoftheflies

I won’t say what happens to Piggy.

I enjoyed my social studies class–I had a great teacher, Mr. McCaw–and loved reading. But wow, did I hate that book. Lord of the Flies mirrored what I saw around me, and it was neither pretty or hopeful. It’s the first book I remember reading where I thought, “Wow. I hate all of these characters. Rocks need to fall and kill all of them… except Piggy.” Then I kept reading.

Sigh.

Tex ThompsonTex Thompson
I had my share of less-than-favorite authors in school. Any unit on the Romantic poets was always especially tough to stomach, though eventually I learned to get through it with mental MST3K. (“Dad, I had a feeling today!” “Well, don’t, son.”)fear-and-trembling

But it wasn’t until I was in college that I met a Liberal Art that I absolutely could not master. I’m not ashamed to say that Aristotle punched me in the breadbasket, Descartes kicked out the back of my knees, and Nietzsche smashed a chair over my back. I was used to sobbing in frustration over differential equations and stoichiometry, but it was AMAZING to me how completely my powers of “reading words on a page and having an MLA-format Deep Thought about them” failed me in philosophy. Kierkegaard, you are my Kryptonite.

I would like to end with some Eye of the Tiger stuff here, but the short story is that I buckled like a belt, took Mexican Politics instead, and can converse at length about the damaging effects of “toallagate” on the Fox administration. Let’s call that a win.

March News

tina_connolly-300x450Tina Connolly
It’s all podcasts, all the time, around here!

I read two stories for Beneath Ceaseless Skies: The Breath of War, by Aliette de Bodard, and The River Does Not Run by Rachel Sobel.

I read a flash story for Cast of Wonders, Pictures in Crayon, by Elizabeth Shack.

One of my stories, A Memory of Seafood, is read by Kelley MacAvaney for Drabblecast.

And my flash fiction podcast, Toasted Cake, is back to its post-baby, regular weekly schedule, with the 100th episode! It’s Thirty-Six Interrogatories Propounded by the Human-Powered Plasma Bomb in the Moments Before Her Imminent Detonation, by Erica L. Satifka.

MK Hutchins

M.K. Hutchins
– ARCs for Drift are out! I’ve also turned back in the copy edit.

BethCato-steampunk-headshotBeth Cato
– the full first chapter of The Clockwork Dagger is currently featured on Tor.com
– science fiction short story “Measures and Countermeasures,” about the future of eating disorders, is on Daily Science Fiction
– poem “Nisei” in the new issue of Mythic Delirium alongside folks like Jane Yolen and Rhonda Parrish
– will be participating in the April Poem-A-Day Challenge using daily prompts from the the Writer’s Digest Poetic Asides Blog.

Lawrence SchoenLawrence M. Schoen
– the 2nd of April is my personal annual holiday, the anniversary of my dissertation defense. I call it “Doctoral Day” and I burn a vacation day from my regular job to treat myself especially well. I encourage everyone to bloviate and be pompous on this most hallowed day. Soapbox pontification is expected, as well as obnoxiously educating anyone who crosses your path. Truly a glorious holiday!
– the last weekend of April will see me down in Richmond, VA as I return to RavenCon after too long away. The incomparable Elizabeth Bear is the con’s GoH, so you know it’s going to be a great event. Hope to see you there!
– In other news, I am simultaneously working on polishing a YA novel and developing two new novels (one of which is a spin-off using characters from last year’s Nebula nominated novella “Barry’s Tale”). I’m not sure if I’m being super productive or procrastinating actually finishing a project. Time will tell.

Michael R. UnderwoodMichael R. Underwood
March was a busy month (and April will be even busier).

I submitted The Younger Gods to my editor, and wrote, revised, and submitted a short story promised to a RPG anthology.

At the start of the month, I attended FOGcon outside of San Francisco, which was a great deal of fun. I got to dispense harsh & beautiful publishing truths alongside colleagues to an eager audience.

Early reviews for Attack the Geek are coming in from all around the blogosphere:

Science of Couponing
Technomom
Journey of a Bookseller

At Skiffy & Fanty, I participated in Shoot The WISB episodes about the original Godzilla and part three of our ongoing Babylon 5 Re-Watch.

And right at the end of the month, I was a guest on the SF Squeecast, talking about expectations.

…so that’s why I’m exhausted!

Fran WildeFran2014

At the end of March, I gave a reading at ICFA – the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts. It was fabulous.
I also visited my publisher for the first time. That was a blast. Photos coming soon…
I’m preparing new Cooking the Books columns with Mur Lafferty and Novelocity’s very own Mike Underwood.
I sold audio rights to my very short story, “The Naturalist Composes His Rebuttal,” to Lakeside Circus – coming soon!
And some stuff I can’t talk about just yet. Watch the skies….

Steve BeinSteve Bein
Thrilled to see the US release of The Time Traveler’s Almanac! I think you’ll like my story in it, but let’s face it, I am not the #1 reason to buy this one. It’s got stories from George R.R. Martin, Ursula K. Le Guin, H.G. Wells, William Gibson, Ray Bradbury… well, the list goes on. I can’t recommend this book highly enough.
– Speaking of star power, I’m looking forward to some great panels and mega stars at Chicago Comic Con.
– Still pushing full steam ahead on Disciple of the Wind

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

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!