Tag Archives: j. kathleen cheney

How Do You Read?

I met yesterday with my real life writers’ group, and after doing some critiques, we—as we usually do—chatted a bit about what we’re watching and reading.  And one of the interesting things to me was how differently some of us function as writers and readers.

When I’m actively writing a book or novella, I struggle to read. When I do read then, I usually read outside of genre. I can read mystery or romance or non-fiction…but reading fantasy just doesn’t work.

The thing that I struggle with is my internal editor. My brain, as it’s reading, wants to restructure every sentence, swap paragraphs four and seven, and change all the dialog tags. And after a time, I’m not reading the story any longer…I’m only looking at words. And then I stop caring about the story. It’s weird.

(There are rare exceptions to this. I can, for example, read an author whose style is wildly different from mine—let’s say, Ben Aaronovitch—and for some reason, the internal editor turns off.)

Because of this, I usually build up a bunch of reading to do between projects. So I’ll finish writing a book and then read voraciously for a while before turning back to writing again. I usually schedule time for that.

One of my writer friends, however, said that she has no problem reading while she’s writing. She’s a very disciplined reader, and tackles a poem, a short story, and a bit of novel reading every day. WOW!

And a third threw in the point that she doesn’t re-read things…whereas I can reread books over again and again. (I also have no problem with spoilers in movies or TV, which may be related.)

I always find it fascinating that writers have such different approaches to reading, so I thought I would see if there were other opinions out there. Here are a few questions:

  1. Do you reread books?
  2. Do you read in a disciplined manner? Or do you read in a haphazard, on-and-off, when-the-mood-takes-you fashion?
  3. Do you read exclusively within genre? Or do you read outside genres?
  4. Do you read the newest stuff immediately? Do you read only some authors immediately? Or are you, like me, constantly behind the reading curve?
  5. Do you binge read?
  6. And for writers: Is there a difference in reading habits between when you’re actively writing and when you’re not?

Bonus question: How big IS your TBR pile? (photos welcome)


library-425730_1920 (1)

When a Series Dies an Early Death

One of the thing that traditionally published authors know is that your relationship with your publisher isn’t permanent.

Most of the time, our contracts with them are for a limited number of books. They purchase two books, see how those go, and then maybe purchase a few more.

Sometimes they don’t.

With my first contract, I made sure that Book #2 (the last book of that contract) could be read as a completion to the series…just in case the publisher didn’t offer to purchase my next book. Fortunately, they did, so I got to end The Golden City series the way I wanted. Yay!

I wrote books 3 and 4 for my second contract. Book 4 was the beginning of a new series, but since I didn’t have a new contract, I made sure it could stand alone. Yes, there are a lot of things that remain unanswered in that book (Dreaming Death) but overall, the story doesn’t end on a cliffhanger or anything like that.


But by the time I was coming up for my next contract, the merger between Penguin and Random House was motivating my publisher (which was an imprint of PRH) to clean house. They didn’t renew a lot of their writers…and I was one of those swept away.

So what happens to my story now?

Most writers live with the knowledge that this can happen. We’ve seen it happen to our friends.

Fortunately, nowadays there are a lot of ways that the series can go on now.  The author can self-publish the story, whether by funding it themselves, or going with crowd-funding. There are also a few smaller publishers who are willing to pick up a half-finished series. (There are a lot off drawbacks to that for that publisher, though, the main reason that it’s not common.)

The writer, however, usually needs to move on to a different series to stay afloat.

This can be frustrating and disappointing to readers (AND the writer.) But it happens. Far more often these days than anyone likes.
So what can the reader do when their favorite series is cancelled?

  1. Watch the writer’s webpage or blogs to see what they have planned for the next books in the series.
  2. If the writer’s going to finish out the series by crowdfunding, either donate…or just spread the word. (Others may not have seen the news.)
  3. If the writer does publish the remaining books in the series, purchase them. (Yes, we’re always asking you to buy our books. It’s how we survive.)
  4. If the writer DOESN’T publish the remaining books in the series, buy what they’ve got coming out next.

Some writers aren’t prepared to self-publish things. Either they don’t have the time (it IS time-consuming), the funding (we do have to eat), or the desire to put out that series ending on their own.

Please don’t let that scare you off of buying their next series. I guarantee, that author is working as hard and fast as they can to get new stories out there.

The publishing industry is changing so fast these days that writers are constantly under pressure to decide what’s the best next step to them. Whatever that step turns out to be, they can’t get buy without the support of their readers!

So stick with them!


Which favorite series of yours died an early death?





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

* 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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


* 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.

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.

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

* 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.

* 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)

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

* 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)

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


* 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.

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

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

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

* 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.

New Release: The Shores of Spain

Out today, from Ace/Roc, the final novel in the Golden City series by J. Kathleen Cheney:

A brilliant new chapter in the Novels of the Golden City.

Even as the branches of peace are being offered, there are some who still believe those who are not human should be used as chattel. And they are willing to go to great lengths to retain their power.

Newlywed siren Oriana Paredes has been appointed Ambassador to her home islands now that communication between Northern Portugual and the magical races has been restored. But convincing her people that the new Portuguese Prince’s intentions are honorable after years of persecution is difficult. And her husband, Duilio, faces his own obstacles among the sirens where males are a rare and valuable commodity with few rights.

In addition to their diplomatic mission, the two hope to uncover the truth behind Oriana’s mother’s death. Evidence suggests that Spain—a country that has been known to enslave magical beings—may have infiltrated the siren authority. Unable to leave their post, Oriana and Duilio must call on Inspector Joaquim Tavares to root out the truth.

But even his seer’s gift cannot prepare him for what he will discover.


This is the third and final book in the series, although there will be a couple of related novellas eventually…


In addition, the mass market paperback of The Seat of Magic goes on sale today…so if you purchase books at that size, this is your chance!

Seat of MagicEnjoy!

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: What is your favorite first line in a novel or story?

Steve Bein

I’m torn between Ernest Hemingway and Jeff Carlson:

tumblr_m4ghjz00MB1qhho07“He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.”
(The Old Man and the Sea)

“They ate Jorgensen first.”
(Plague Year)

Carlson sets the tone for the next three books in that one sentence. Not an easy thing to do!

But Hemingway being Hemingway, he accomplishes quite a bit more than this. He sets the tone, introduces the protagonist, and raises a host of questions about him. Why does he fish alone? Is he just bad at this, or does he have terrible luck, or is something happening in the Gulf Stream to make the fishing so poor? Given how poorly he’s faring, why does he keep going out in that skiff? This geezer is either as persistent and tenacious as Rocky Balboa or as lonely and wretched as Gollum.

Some day, when I teach a class on fiction writing, The Old Man and the Sea will be a required text. Hemingway fills the whole book with sentences like that. But in terms of sheer stopping power, no one hits harder than Jeff Carlson with those first four words. Hemingway, himself a boxer, would appreciate that.



Tina Connolly

pride-and-prejudice-by-jane-austen-mobile-wallpaperCertainly Pride & Prejudice! “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

In the SFF arena, I always loved the opening to Robin McKinley’s Hero and the Crown: “Aerin could not remember a time when she had not known the story; she had grown up knowing it.” It sets the mythic tone of the book, but more, of course, I immediately
want to know what that story is. A story you learned so long ago that you can’t even remember the first time you heard it. It must be an important story to her – and it is; it’s about her mother–which rolls into being important about Aerin, too. The story of her ancestry is the story of the book, and it unfolds beautifully from there.


Beth Cato

download“Mars is supposed to be dead, just a big hunk of cold rock hanging in space.”

That’s the first line of The Daedalus Incident by Michael J. Martinez, one of my favorite books from last year. The book is not a straightforward science fiction tale set on Mars, though. It has two parallel plots: one set on Mars, where a human mining settlement is disturbed by seismic activity and other weirdness that defies logic, and late 1700s aboard a British ship that is powered by alchemy and sailing through deep space. The two realities begin to overlap and it’s incredibly fun. I love the mind-bendy aspect of Martinez’s historical fiction. That first line is really a great set up for that fact that everything they think they know is utterly wrong.

The sequel, The Enceladus Crisis came out the first week in May. I’ve had it preordered and I can’t wait to start reading!

J. Kathleen Cheney

76620The primroses were over.
—Watership Down, by Richard Adams

This was the first novel that I read (in sixth grade) where I actually began to notice the structure of the novel. The first time I had serious meta-thoughts about a book that I can remember. I read this novel over and over and over, because it fascinated me in every way—the stories they would tell each other, the made-up language, the relationships and hardships. Even some of the dialog is still stuck in my head all these years later. “Can you run? I think not.”

By eighth grade the paperback copy that I carried everywhere was in tatters. As a graduation present, my adored choir teacher presented me with a hardback copy—the first hardback I’d ever owned. I still have that hardback, well-worn, sitting in the very top left of the big bookshelves. And I still cry over the ending—even just thinking about it.


Michael R. Underwood

Neuromancer_(Book)The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.”
– from Neuromancer, by William Gibson.

Not only is it an incredibly evocative and tone-setting line indicating that the mediated world will be prominent, technology present in every aspect of life, it’s also one grounded in a sense of time and place. When Neuromancer was written, dead channels were all greyscale fuzz, a sea of null signal, out of which channels would emerge for intrepid adventurers adept enough with the bunny-ear antennae.

Now, dead channels are an infinite neon blue, flat, unchanging. I was too young to read Neuromancer when it first hit (I was 1 year old), and instead, I grew up in a world that had embraced Neuromancer‘s lessons, both the lessons to follow and the ones to avoid…but perhaps not as Gibson had intended. It’ a testament to how much has changed in science fiction and science reality in just 30 years.

M.K. Hutchins

“So, there I was, tied to an altar made from outdated encyclopedias, about to get sacrificed to the dark powers by a cult of evil Librarians.” This is from Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson, which I know I’ve already kinda mentioned. But it was worth mentioning twice—especially for that first line.

I’m also rather fond of the opening to The Shifter by Janice Hardy: “Stealing eggs is a lot The Shifter 72harder than stealing the whole chicken.

What is you favorite first line?

Vectors: What gets you excited about a new project?

E. C. Ambrose

Elisha BarberI know I have a story to tell when I have a person, in a place, with a problem.  I usually have no idea what the solution to the problem is–but I know it will get much worse before I’m done!

Most of my work is inspired by research. I’ll start reading up on a certain setting–the vital intersection of a particular place, with the historical period or current event I want to focus on.  I’ll read anything I can to build up that background material, taking notes on details I think might be useful, and considering what kinds of people in that setting would be interesting to tell a story about.  The character usually appears from this research and brainstorming. So–person, place–next, I just need the problem!  Conflict is the engine of plot.  This initial problem could be large, clearly a major conflict, or it could be a smaller one that gets the character moving (willingly, or not).  In the case of Elisha Barber, my reading on medieval surgery led me to a barber surgeon in London, his hands dripping with blood, framed in a sunlit door and saying, “My God, I’ve killed them all.”  Who had he killed?  And why?  I had to write the book to find out. . .


Beth Cato

Clockwork DaggerI get excited about a project when I have an outline. Yes, I’m a total square, a dweeb. I’m also diagnosed as OCD and that is very true with my writing process, too.

See, the story/poem/novel begins with the base concept, whether that’s a scene, an opening line, or a problem. But then the conundrum is figuring out how everything fits together–and this makes me very anxious. When my grandma taught me how to do jigsaw puzzles, her primary tip was, “Look for the edge pieces first.” When I start something new, I don’t know if I hold an edge piece or one from the middle, so I begin to create my own edges. I jot down notes, stream-of-consciousness. For a story, I usually type them straight into Word like a little list of plot points. This is the exciting part–it’s when my brain sees everywhere out there and I can judge if it actually makes sense, if it’s worth writing.

Novels are bigger and scarier. I get excited by the concept, but I’m afraid to get too enthusiastic. I feel a lot better about things when I have an outline and when I can see the spectral tendrils of how everything will click together. When I do my stream-of-consciousness notes for novels, I called it “plot vomit.” I hack up everything that might happen in the course of the story. It’s messy. It’s ripe. But from there, I can break things into scenes and chapters, flesh it out more, shuffle everything into Scrivener, and actually start writing.

After I finish a draft and accept that it might not completely suck? That’s when I get really excited.



Steve Bein

Like Beth, I’m an outliner, and like E.C., I need some kernel to work with before I can move forward. For me that kernel pops into being when two ideas coalesce.

Here’s an example: I heard an interview with Steven Tyler, who once forgot all the lyrics to the new Aerosmith album in the back seat of a cab. He said it was the most important thing in the world. I thought, Hell, the whole world should burn to a crisp if the most important thing in it is Aerosmith lyrics. That got me wondering what the most important thing in the world really is, and how someone could forget it in the back seat of a cab.

This was just my bag. I’m a philosopher, so I spend a lot of time thinking about the most important things in the world. Truth, justice, beauty, love, wisdom, the kind of stuff Plato wrote about. Stuff it’s not so easy to leave in a cab.

So the cab idea floated idly for years, and somewhere along the way I started thinking about time travel, precognition, and poker. (You know, as one does.) untitledIf moments are like cards in a deck, it would be really nice to know in advance which cards are coming up—or better yet, to borrow the best ones from deeper in the deck to play right now. This wouldn’t be time travel per se. More like time borrowing.

And bang, there it was: the coalescence. What’s the most important thing in the world? Time. How do you leave time in the back seat of a cab? You keep it in a time lender.

The result was “The Most Important Thing in the World,” which might be the best short story I ever wrote. It published in Asimov’s, and reappeared just this year in The Time Traveler’s Almanac. (Check out that table of contents. Star-studded to say the least!)


Tina Connolly

silverblindI get excited when the right voice finally comes to me. (Which, often, might be the same as knowing who the main character really is.) I’m in the noodling-around stage of a new project right now. The last couple months I’ve had it ticking along in the back of my brain, gathering bits of ideas and mashing them together. I can hear a voice starting to emerge out of it. I have a hard time working on more than one project at once, so I’m letting it build up until I have a chance to
put some words down. The whole early process of grabbing fun ideas, playing with them, and then finally, putting fingers to keyboard and finding out if there’s something there . . . that’s definitely my first exciting bit!


Michael R. Underwood

GeekomancyI almost always start with the Big Idea for a story. Things like “What would happen if you combined the New Weird with Superheroes?” (Shield and Crocus) or “What would geek magic look like?” (Geekomancy).

Those big ideas come knocking, and I take some notes, brainstorm a bit. But a project goes from ‘this would be a cool idea’ to ‘I Must Write This’ when I get a character, a starting situation, and an overall conflict.

When I’m developing a story, I plan, I think, and more recently, I outline. There’s an accretion effect, where my ideas and excitement for a project build, and build, and build, until there’s a point where I am nearly jumping out of my own skin to get started, and then that pile of excitement I’ve been building breaks like a wave,, and I dive into the project, riding that excitement into the beginning of the draft.

M. K. Hutchins

brownies-05021Ideas get me excited. Big, tasty, chewy, worldbuilding ideas. But a single idea does not a story make. Usually I need to slam several idea together to carry a story…but not all ideas go together. So I keep an idea folder, brimming with notes of things that would be cool to write about. Sometimes the ideas linger for years, just waiting for the right pairing. It’s like goat cheese brownies. Goat cheese is tangy and delicious. Dark chocolate brownies are decadent. Bake them together, and you’ve got a mind-blowing, tasty treat. When I try to write before I have the right mix of ideas, the results are underbaked (bad pun entirely intended).

With Drift there were a lot of different things whirling together in my brain. Floating turtle-islands inspired by Maya cosmology. Family structure on an agrarian and population-restricted floating island. A watery hell populated by dangerous monsters. A main character with a family history of treason who is still trying to figure out what that treason was. Eventually, I knew I had enough to fill a world, to fill up a novel, and I was ready — and eager — to start.

J. Kathleen Cheney

My process is very similar to M.K.’s.  I put together lots of ideas, gathered from myriad sources. Some things I can’t even tell you where they came from. (I was asked recently about my underwater artwork idea the other day, and could only reply that it sprang fully-formed from the dark corners of my mind.)Jia-li hands

I usually mentally string those ideas together with characters, then come up with a plot. Then I flesh out that plot with all the circumstances that make it logical. This photograph, for instance, cut from a magazine ad, ended up being tied with several other images, two concepts, and some time-period studies into an entire series of short stories (including “The Dragon’s Child” and  “Early Winter, Near Jenli Village.”)

But at some point, the possibility of a Romance comes along for one of my characters, and that’s when I truly start to enjoy it. Yep, somewhere deep down inside, I have a Romance Writer struggling to get out (I probably subsumed my romance-writing twin in the womb or something.)

(I do write stories without any Romance, BTW, Fleurs du Mal being an example of that.)

Vectors: Our Favorite Scoundrels

Who shoots first does matter. This week our topic is:
Excepting Han Solo (because otherwise this question would be too easy), who is your favorite sci fi or fantasy scoundrel?

J. Kathleen CheneyJ. Kathleen Cheney
I’m not a reader who likes villains. I think of monsters as monsters, and bad guys as probably-not-redeemable. That said, when I read this question, my mind immediately turned to the one villain I find fascinating: Bane. Not the Batman version, but a far stranger scoundrel/villain. Godstalk

In the book Godstalk P. C. Hodgell introduces us to a young woman named Jame who’s come to a city to escape her past. She earns an apprenticeship with the local thieves’ guild, but in the process attracts the attention of one of the local nasties, a fellow named Bane. He has a terrible reputation for hurting people who cross him, even to the point of flaying them alive. Yes, he’s that sort of bad guy. Bad all the way through.

Now I’m about to drop some spoilers, but the book has been out for years, so…here goes.

Along the way, Jame discovers that Bane is probably her half-brother, and that his soul was stolen from him by his foster father who used it to create a monster than haunts the lower part of town, devouring the souls of children. Near the end of the first book, though, Bane sacrifices his life protecting Jame, fully knowing that he will be flayed alive….and that because he’s separated from his soul, he cannot die.

And he doesn’t. His soul is still hanging around, halfway stalking Jame, and halfway watching her back. Later, when she has something precious she needs hidden, she puts it in an oubliette, and leaves him guarding it. BTW, the item is one of the three sacred items of their people.

The author is several books into this series, and the main reason I’m still reading it is not that I want to find out how Jame and her twin brother are fairing. It’s not to see the big apocalyptic showdown that we know is coming.

I want to see what Bane does with the Book Bound in Pale Leather….

BethCato-steampunk-headshotBeth Cato
I’m generally not attracted to the scoundrel type. I mean, as much as I love Mal in Firefly, I know in person I would be utterly repulsed. I like my heroes lawful good.

Oddly enough, though, as I started to ponder book scoundrels I had one immediately come to mind–Arvid Semminson, in Elizabeth Moon’s masterful Paksenarrion fantasy series. He’s a card-carrying member of the Thieves’ Guild and pretty darn good at killing people. Really, he’s everything that a paladin such as Paks should despise. Moon creates wonderfully shaded characters, though. Arvid has done bad things, but he still has a sound moral core, and everyone who is a satellite to Paks cannot help but be changed in a profound way. Maybe that’s why he’s my kind of rogue.crown-of-renewal

The original Paks books started in the 1980s and Moon has extended the series in recent years. The final book, Crown of Renewal, comes out in late May. I confess I haven’t read last year’s book yet–my to-read pile is downright scary–but I have a hunch that Arvid is destined for some kind of greatness. If he lives. If not, I figure there’s a grand purpose in that, too.

Lawrence SchoenLawrence M. Schoen
This is another tough one, particularly as I have my own series of novels, novellae, and short stories where the protagonist is a likeable rougue (and if you haven’t read any of the adventures of the adventures of the Amazing Conroy, then shame on you).

I’m leaning a bit toward nominating Vlad Taltos from the series of novels by Steven Brust. They’re a great read and loads of fun except one thing is holding me back: The protagonist in question isn’t so much a scoundrel as a professional assassin. That’s part of Brust’s charm as a writer, he has the reader cheering for a character who goes around killing other characters. Fun stuff, but not a proper choice for this week’s question.HouseofShards

Instead, I’m going to go with Drake Maijstral, the gentleman thief from a trio of novels by Walter Jon Williams. Humanity has long since assimilated by an ancient, alien civilization, and because a past emperor was a bit of a klepto, we now have “allowed burglary.” But it’s not simply a case where the authorities look the other way, it’s actually an “extreme sport” and minor aristocrat Maijstral is rated among the Top Ten by the Imperial Sporting Committee. And of course, he’s aided by his long-suffering alien butler. It’s bit like like a blend of P.G. Wodehouse’s “Jeeves” stories and Alexei Panshin’s Anthony Villiers books. Great characters shoved into great situations.

I’ve referred to Williams in the past as the Master of Plot, and he really shows that off here as he piles on subplot after subplot after subplot, book after book, in this too-short series that can perhaps best be described as an interstellar comedy of manners.

The books themselves (The Crown Jewels, House of Shards, and Rock of Ages) vanished from print years ago. The Science Fiction Book Club had them in an omnibus edition (Ten Points for Style), but I think that’s gone now too. Fortunately though Williams has been converting his backlist to ebook format, and all three books are available again, and at reasonable prices.

MK HutchinsM.K. Hutchins
Althalus, from The Redemption of Althalus by David and Leigh Eddings.RedemptionofAlthalus

I know the name “Eddings” brings up images of long series, but this is a stand alone. That’s part of what I love about it. The novel feels like an entire series tightly crammed into a delightful 726-page package (okay, that doesn’t make it sound short). I’ve read this one multiple times. It has all those big epic, sweeping stakes and all that lovely banter that I think the Eddings really excelled at writing — but without any long slogs of traveling or other meanderings that fantasy of that era was prone to.

And The Heist Society by Ally Carter was terribly fun — exactly what I needed while I was staying up late at night rocking a newborn. I rarely pick up contemporary novels, but the premise sucked me in. Katrina’s conman father’s been blamed for a theft he (actually) didn’t commit. So Katrina — who thought she’d left “the life” behind for good — is back in the game to find the stolen paintings and steal them back before it’s too late.Heist Society



Steve BeinSteve Bein
I think I’m going to go with Turin Turambar. For my money he’s Tolkien’s greatest character. I know that’s a bold statement, but seriously, read Children of Hurin. It’s brilliant.

But this is such a hard choice! It seems I’m not of the same mind with many of my fellow Novelociraptors, because scoundrels are usually my favorites. Even when I was little, I liked Wolverine and was bored by Captain America.

So for me Turin has some pretty tough competition. The next obvious choice after Han Solo is Chewbacca. After Chewie comes Mal Reynolds from Firefly (since let’s face it, Mal is Han Solo, just in a different incarnation). After him, the next most obvious choice is everyone else on Firefly.The_Children_of_Hurin_cover

After them, I want to say Jamie Lannister, and I would say Tyrion too, except Tyrion stays too close to the halls of power for me to call him a proper scoundrel. To me Jamie never quite fits in; he’s at his best when he’s riding rakishly around the Seven Kingdoms.

After them, Loki, Coyote, Butch Cassidy, Inigo Montoya, YT from Snow Crash, Rorschach from Watchmen, Gurney Halleck from Dune, Lando Calrissian from the old Alan Dean Foster novels, Silk from the Belgariad… so many choices! Not to mention Arya Stark, who isn’t quite a scoundrel but she’s one in the making, or Conan, who could be a great scoundrel if only he weren’t so darn grim all the time, or… well, the list goes on and on.

So since I’m forced to make a choice, I’m sticking with Turin. But he’s in good (bad?) company!

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.
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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 1)

This week we look to works that originate in other languages by answering…
What’s your favorite non-English language book or story in the SF/F genre?

ken_liuGuest Ken Liu
If I had unlimited space, I could talk about this topic all day: Russian, Polish, and Japanese works of scifi have all been memorable to me, and many of the short stories I’ve read (and sometimes translated) from Chinese by authors such as Ma Boyong, Cheng Jingbo, Xia Jia, Hao Jingfang, Tang Fei, Bao Shu, etc., are among my favorites. But today, I’m limiting myself to three books only.

I’d have to begin with Cosmicomics, by Italo Calvino (original in Italian, translated by William Weaver). A fabulist take on “hard” scifi, this collection of short stories remains unparalleled, in my opinion, to this day. It was the first work of scifi I read that showed me the possibilities of melding fantasy and science fiction tropes, of using the language of science to speak in a logic of metaphors, of telling human stories using whimsical mathematical equations and mischievous physical constants.ThreeBodyProblem1

Next, I’d like to highlight the THREE BODY trilogy by Liu Cixin (“Liu” is his surname) from China. Enormously popular in China, these three are among my all-time favorite hard scifi books. An epic tale of humanity’s journey to the stars that begins with the threat of an alien invasion, the series is breathtakingly imaginative and compelling, with a non-Western perspective that is at once refreshing and thoughtful. The science is handled with great care and precision to convey the beauty and power of this most wondrous of our endeavors, while the human drama complements and reinforces the grand scale of the scientific speculation. I’m really glad that Tor Books is bringing the trilogy to Anglophone readers (starting with the first book, THE THREE-BODY PROBLEM in fall of 2014). Volumes 1 and 3 will be translated by me while volume 2 will be done by Joel Martinsen.

Finally, I want to talk about my friend Chen Qiufan’s debut novel, THE WASTE TIDE, which is now my favorite contemporary near-future Chinese scifi. (Again, “Chen” is his surname.) A dystopian tale rooted in the cyberpunk tradition, it’s also a clever, nuanced, and layered critique of globalization, neocolonialism, and the hypocrisy of democratic and authoritarian societies alike in the face of imbalances of power and wealth. And he manages to do all of this with moving, wonderful characters and a brilliant prose style that delights the ear
as well as the mind. I’ve translated a sample of his book and the reactions from readers so far are enthusiastic. I’m hoping to share this work with Anglophone readers soon.

Ken Liu is an author and translator of speculative fiction, as well as a lawyer and programmer. His fiction has appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Asimov’s, Analog, Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, and Strange Horizons, among other places. He is a winner of the Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy awards. He lives with his family near Boston, Massachusetts.

Ken’s debut novel, The Grace of Kings, the first in a fantasy series, will be published by Saga Press, Simon & Schuster’s new genre fiction imprint, in 2015. Saga will also publish a collection of his short stories.

J. Kathleen CheneyJ. Kathleen Cheney
This is a very difficult question to answer, mostly because I haven’t read a ton of foreign-language authors. Usually if I read something in French or Spanish, it’s an author I already know, and I’m just reading the book for practice. (With novels, it’s easier to read one you’ve previously read in English so that you know the context when you tackle the foreign language.)

If I were to pick something I’ve -only- read in French, it would be Ansen Dibell’s, Le Soleil du grand retour.soleil

I talked about my love for this series in an earlier post, where I explain the general premises of the series. And as I say that I’m a big fan of Dibell’s work, why haven’t I read this in English? Because books four and five in the series, The High King of Kantmorie, were never printed in English, only French and Dutch. Le Soleil du grand retour is book five in the series, and I’ve even toyed with translating it into English, only to discover that I simply don’t have the time (although I know that someone is working on that.)

The current going price for this book, BTW, is about 95 euros (about 132 dollars). So getting copies of books 4 and 5 isn’t cheap. But if you’re a fan, it’s worth every cent…

MK HutchinsM. K. Hutchins
The Carpet Makers by Andreas Eschbach. This is a haunting book — somehow depressing and beautiful at the same time. The novel is a series of short stories, starting on the humble planet where carpet makers spend an entire lifetime crafting a single carpet from the hair of their wives to send to their unseen God Emperor.CarpetMakers

From that rural beginning, the stories travel to urban, then to intergalactic. The scope is immense. I haven’t read many short-stories-as-novels, but it works so well here. I don’t think that it would be possible to have the same kind of emotional experience if Eschbach didn’t show us so many parts of this carefully-built universe.

Steve BeinSteve Bein
I just adore The 13½ Lives of Captain Bluebear, by Walter Moers. Ordinarily I’m not a big reader of kid’s fiction, but those Europeans seem to have much more refined child readers than we have on this side of the Atlantic. There are a lot of American parents who wouldn’t allow their kids to read Bluebear. It’s almost irreverent but not quite, almost bawdy but not quite, almost sophisticated surrealist adult fiction but not quite. I’ll sum it up this way: Captain Bluebear and Baron Münchhausen would make good drinking buddies.Bluebear

Here are the opening lines of Bluebear, from the eponymous author:

A bluebear has twenty-seven lives. I shall recount thirteen-and-a-half of them in this book but keep quiet about the rest. A bear must have his secrets, after all; they make him seem attractive and mysterious.

Attractions and mysteries abound in this book. Captain Bluebear encounters minipirates, yetis, rickshaw demons, time-snails, the headless Bollogg and the Bollogless head. He sails around all of the sunken continents we’ve forgotten about, and takes us to places like the Valley of Discarded Ideas. He encounters such natural wonders as the Eternal Tornado and Cogitating Quicksand.

This is one of those books you’ve never heard of, and when you finish it you wonder why everyonehasn’t heard of this book. It belongs on the shelf right next to The Hobbit, The Last Unicorn, and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe—namely, the shelf of kid’s fantasy fiction that remains perennially captivating adult reading.

(Oh, and his has been translated from the original German. The English is fluid and fun.)