Tag Archives: michael r. underwood

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.

6 Comics for SF/F Prose Readers

I spend a lot of time reading not only SF/F prose books, but comics in the genre as well. But there are a lot of prose readers who have a hard time figuring out where to start, or where to find jumping-on point with comics.

Worry no more. Here are six SF/F comics that I think prose readers will really enjoy.

Continue reading

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?

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.)

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: Name two books that you’re really looking forward to this year

Our topics often look to the past. This time, we look to… the future! We’re talking about books we’re looking forward to in 2014.

Beth CatoBethCato-steampunk-headshot

I answered a similar question on SF Signal a few months ago, but I have so many books on my wish list, it’s no problem to mention two more.Shaman Rises

C. E. Murphy’s Walker Papers series was my first love in urban fantasy, one of the few series I’ve followed all the way through, and a major influence on my writing. I actually studied her books to find out how to write first person. Sadly, all good series must come to an end, and book #9 Shaman Rises comes out June 24th. I’m already stockpiling tissues for when I read it.
FullFathomFive
We on Novelocity have previously expressed admiration for Max Gladstone’s first two books, Three Parts Dead and Two Serpents Rise. Book three is Full Fathom Five and it comes out July 15th. I fully anticipate the same brilliant mix of magic, dystopia, steampunk, and fresh-secondary world mythology that I’ve loved in the others.

J. Kathleen CheneyJ. Kathleen Cheney

So many of the books I’ve been holding my breath for have already come out this year: Emilie and the Sky World by Martha Wells, The Tinker King by Tiffany Trent, and Why Kings Confess by C.S.Harris are among the ones I pre-ordered as soon as they popped up on Amazon. Dust and Light

But one that’s not out yet? Carol Berg’s new Sanctuary series kick off in August, with Dust and Light. Now, I’ve loved Carol’s work since I first ran across one of her novels, Son of Avonar years ago. Her prose is lovely, the characters deep and tortured (often literally), and the stories always keep me engaged. So I’m anxious to see what her new series brings. And the cover is absolutely luscious!

MK HutchinsM.K. Hutchins

Echoes of UsI’m super-excited for the release of Echoes of Us by Kat Zhang. It’s the third and final book of the Hybrid Chronicles, a YA alternate history where everyone is born with two souls. I’ve loved the worldbuilding and the character interactions. Addie’s relationship with her sister (they share a body) and their relationship with everyone else is so interestingly complicated. Having two souls sounds wonderful (never alone!) and exhausting (never alone!) at the same time.

Ruins
The last book in the Partials trilogy, Ruins, by Dan Wells also just came out and is on the top of my TBR pile. I know that some people are sick of post-apocalyptic YA…but I’m not one of them. Besides the killer almost-human war machines, humanity is also suffering from a virus that kills infants shortly after birth. I love that the first book isn’t just about destruction or just about a love triangle…it’s also about trying to find a cure to save her best friend’s baby. And it rocks.

tina_connolly-300x450Tina Connolly

Child-of-a-Hidden-Sea-A.M.-DellamonicaI recently blurbed A. M. Dellamonica’s Child of a Hidden Sea for Tor, which was super easy as I LOVED this book. (This counts as “looking forward to” because I can’t wait to tell everyone to go out and buy it in June!) It’s a portal fantasy – 24 year-old Sophie Hansa is busy looking for her birth mother when she ends up in the island world of Stormwrack. But instead of looking for, I dunno, evil wizards and prophecies, she geeks out over seashells and little critters, trying to figure out exactly where and what Stormwrack is. Then she goes home and comes back with her brother, and he geeks out over old maps and things. It’s really delightful and engaging, and there’s plenty of excitement and drama without any of it being the One True Child who has returned variety.
Seraphina-cover
Another book I’m REALLY looking forward to is Shadow Scale, the sequel to Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina, which came out in 2012. Seraphina is a YA high fantasy with incredibly interesting and unusual dragons that can take on human shape. I absolutely loved it. But, darnitall, Goodreads says Shadow Scale won’t be out till early 2015. At least there’s a pub date now! [goes back to waiting patiently….]

Lawrence SchoenLawrence M. Schoen
There are a handful of authors that just push my buttons every time. Part of it probably comes from having gotten to know them as individuals, not merely as supplies of reading material, and so their voices and personalities come through to me as I flip the pages.

One of these is Karl Schroeder, the man who gave us the Virga series. Karl’s just started a new YA series, and a month ago I’d have been putting the first book of it in my list here of books I’m eagerly awaiting, but it came out the end of March and I’m deep in the thick of it now (but feel free to go pick up a copy of LockstepDanielAbraham-TWH

Instead, let me tell you about Daniel Abraham, perhaps best known for his Long Price Quartert, and if you haven’t read it stop what you’re doing right now and rush out and dive into that first book (you can send me a nice fruit basket as a thank you gift later).

Daniel has moved on from that series and is now writing a new fantasy series collectively known as The Dagger and the Coin. The fourth book in this series, The Widow’s House doesn’t come out until August. The other three have been brilliant. Daniel juggles a cast of so many characters, cultures, races, political threads, and mythologies on the kind of level that only George R. R. Martin can usually lay claim to. Yeah, he’s that good.

JamesSACorey-CBThat’s a long time for me to wait for my next “fix” of Daniel’s fiction. Fortunately for me, I don’t half to because Daniel is also half of the pseudonym James S. A Corey (the other half being Ty Franck), the name attached to a series of SF novels called The Expanse. Book four in that series, Cibola Burn, comes out in June. This James Corey fellow writes epic, character-driven space opera that just brings a smile to my face with every page.

And who knows, maybe by the time I’ve finished that next Corey book, there’ll be a listing for a new Schroeder book coming soon.

Michael R. UnderwoodMichael R. Underwood

The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley

I’m cheating a bit on this one, as I’ve already gotten to read much of this book through my work at Angry Robot, who will be publishing The Mirror Empire this August. But the book is so inventive, so powerful, that I have to talk about it, and I can’t wait for everyone else in the SFF world to be able to read it.

The Mirror Empire features carnivorous plants, consent-based cultures, militaristic matriarchies, and a magic system where gifted’s powers wax and wane with their patron sattelites, each sattelite imparting a different style of magic. The writing is muscular and the first 50 pages play like the opening cutscene from an XBox One game. It rocks. Hard.

The Crimson Campaign by Brian McClellanCrimson Campaign

I read Promise of Blood, the first book of the Powder Mage Trilogy, shortly after it came out last year, and I was really impressed. Promise of Blood was richly textured, and featured a very cool set of magic systems. More traditional D&D Wizard-style magic is counter-pointed by Powder Magic, which can float bullets for sniper fu, detonate gunpowder from a distance, and/or let mages ingest gunpowder for temporarily-enhanced strength & speed).

The Crimson Campaign continues where Promise of Blood left off, in the aftermath of a French Revolution-style overthrow of a corrupt government. But all is not well in the recently-freed nation of Adro. They’ve got enemies at the gates, and a reborn God sworn to destroy the whole country for its insolence. All of this before the dust has even settled on their revolution.