Tag Archives: Novels

Magic, Intrigue, Medieval Surgery: Elisha Mancer Book Launch Day!

Yes, I’m excited today because book 4 in my Dark Apostle Series comes out this very day.  What do you mean, you’re not that excited? Oh, right, you probably haven’t read book one.  So rather than harp on about a new book that is best read after the first three, how about I post the opening of Elisha Barber, the book that started it all?

Elisha stands over an array of medieval medical instruments–the barber is in! visit my website for a scroll-over image with descriptions of each tool

Here you go:

“You sent her to the hospital?” Elisha whirled to face his brother, the razor still in his fist. “My God, man, what were you thinking?”

“The midwife couldn’t help her, Elisha, and she’s in such awful pain, for the babe won’t come,” Nathaniel stammered, his pale hands clenched together. He ducked in the low door of the draper’s quarters, his fair hair brushing the carved oak of the lintel.  “The neighbors carried her over while I came here.”

“But the hospital? That place is deadly.” Elisha set his razor again at his customer’s chin, deftly shearing a narrow stretch of the full, and now unfashionable, beard. “What did she say?

“Not so fast, if you don’t mind. I care to keep my chin today, Barber,” the draper snapped.

“Helena?” Nathaniel asked, his face a mask of anguish and confusion.

“No, you fool, the midwife!” Elisha slapped the razor through the water basin and plied it again, forcing himself to slow down. Last thing he needed was to carve the ear off the master of the drapers’ guild.

Sagging, his brother balanced himself against the wall, scrubbing at his sweaty face. “The babe’s turned, and wedged somehow. She thought the physicians—”

At the mention of physicians, Elisha froze. The draper glowered up at him from his best leather chair, but his brother’s wife lay in the hospital, contracting God-knew-what illness added to her condition. For a moment, his conflicting duties trapped him—but Helena needed him, if it weren’t already too late. The draper could abide. Flinging down his razor, Elisha roughly dried his hands on his britches. “The physicians never enter the hospital if they can advise from afar. Nobody who can afford their services goes to hospital.” He popped open the window frame nearest and flung out the dirty water.

The draper rubbed a hand across his chin and jerked it back with a cry of dismay. “You’ve not finished the job, Barber. I’ve still got half a beard!”

“Then you owe me half my fee,” Elisha told him. He snatched his towel from the man’s neck and spun on his heel, basin tucked under his arm. The razor he folded with a snap and gripped until his fingers hurt. “Why did you not come for me sooner?” he asked, dropping his voice to a murmur.

Instantly, Nathaniel straightened, taking advantage of his superior height. “I think you know why.”

For a moment, their eyes met, and Nathaniel swallowed but gave no ground to his elder brother. Elisha had caused the breach that lay between them. He had apologized, but Nathaniel’s presence here was as close as he would come to forgiveness.


Want to read more?  Here’s a link to the first three chapters of Elisha Barber!  Available wherever books are sold.  When you love it, you’ll know there are three more volumes ready and waiting. . . and one final book forthcoming to complete the series.    Thanks for reading!

5 Mistakes New Writers Don’t Know They’re Making

Hey–it’s NANOWRIMO!  For those of you taking part in the annual National Novel Writers’ Month, you should already be at least 1667 words into your new project. And you probably shouldn’t be browsing the blogs.  But if, like me, you are close to your word goal for the day, and you’re kind of hung up on how to write the next scene, then feel free to browse away.  Otherwise–get back to work.


I read a lot of manuscripts by new authors, either because they seek me out for blurbs, agent advice, or marketing ideas, or through events like the WorldCon Writers’ Workshop.  I see the same kinds of mistakes over and over, so I’d like to give you a run-down on five of them.

  1.  They don’t know where to begin.  This usually means they start weeks, months, even years before anything actually happens in the story.  Begin as close as possible to the moment when all hell breaks loose.  That’s when it gets exciting–when the character is about to encounter the conflict.

2.  They include too much back-story up front.  This can be a subset of mistake #1, by starting in the pre-history of the story, but often it manifests as the author trying to squeeze all kinds of character commentary or inner monologue in the first few pages.  Let the reader get to know the characters first by seeing them in action, then when they want to know more, give it to them.

3.  They write in summary rather than in scenes.  Scenes include action taking place surrounded by details that bring the reader into a particular moment in space and time.  All five senses, forward momentum, dialog and revelation.  Let the reader be a witness to the scene, not merely an accessory after the fact.

4.  They write scenes that don’t add to the work.  These scenes are often transitional:  scenes where someone has to go somewhere, or wait for something, or listen to a version of something that already happened.  This is what summary is for–when we need to know something happened, but we don’t need any details or investment in the process.  Unless something happens on that long ride through the forest, you can just say, “Four days later, they arrived at the castle.”

5.  They lose track of characters in dialog.  The dialog consists entirely of the quotations, without any sense of characters being present in a place.  Instead, use your dialog tags judiciously to show how characters react to what’s being said, and reveal themselves through small actions, expressions, and interactions with the scene around them.

Hope this helps as you dive into or revise your project–happy writing!

Vectors: What ONE book would you like to see made into a movie? (PART 2)

This week our topic is Movies Made from Books….or rather, that movie that hasn’t been made yet. What ONE (and only one) book needs to be made into a movie?
(Part 1 here)

Elizabeth Wein

elizabeth-wein-18f62672d92c2112Our third guest on this question is Elizabeth Wein, author of the acclaimed novels Code Name Verity (see previous post) and Rose Under Fire, as well as an Alternate History series, The Aksumite Cycle: The Lion Hunters.

I will never forget the catalogue copy that first made me buy Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint about 25 years ago: “The kind of book where you’d root for the good guys, but you can’t work out who they are, so instead you root for the characters with the best dress sense.” And frankly, that really tells you all you need to know about this novel-turned-virtual-movie. It will be twist upon twist and you’ll lust over every single figure, male and female, who stalks or slinks across the screen, and the costumes and set and design will all be so PRETTY. The first thing you’ll do when you get home is to ask your friend on Etsy to make you a coat just like that one, and the next thing you’ll do is get yourself fencing lessons.

61SFC+IyI8LSwordspoint is a fantasy without magic, set in the fictional pseudo-Regency (or is it Victorian?) city of Riverside, centered around the relationship between Alec, an eccentric young aristocrat who doesn’t want anything to do with his heritage, and Richard, a commoner who happens to be the best damned hired swordsman in the country (he’s mostly hired as a sub for duels, as I recall). Swordspoint may have set the tone for modern Steampunk, but it predates it by a couple of decades. It’s worth reading for the language alone-Ellen Kushner is the Goddess of Elegant Prose. The visual richness of her imagination leaps off the page but Oh. My. Goodness. How I would love to see that treasure trove translated to the silver screen. With a Cast of Thousands and In Glorious Technicolor, please.

Tina Connolly

12680907I could pick a number of childhood books that I’ve imprinted on, of course! But for something recent I’ll go with Kristin Cashore’s Graceling Realm series: Graceling, Fire, and Bitterblue. (If I can only pick one I’ll pick the most recent, Bitterblue, but I
think a trilogy is fair game to pitch to Hollywood, right?)

For starters, these books are gorgeous high fantasies with strong female protagonists. The world is fascinating, too–many people are “gracelings”–they are marked with eyes of two different colors, and they have a unique talent. (Katsa, the heroine of Graceling, is graced with the art of killing.)

But also interesting is that each book features a different lead character in a different time and place. The books are linked, and some of the same characters pop up, but they are not a traditional trilogy with one main character and a series of cliffhangers. They are gorgeous, vibrant, thoughtful books, and of course they’d be a challenge to adapt well… but I’d like to see it happen anyway.

Michael R. Underwood

Heroes Die (HC) (1)I’m going to reach back a ways and say Heroes Die, by Matthew Woodring Stover (1998), the first of the Acts of Caine series. Heroes Die combines sword & sorcery with dystopian SF, which is basically my literary peanut butter & jelly combination of epic win.

In an era where fantasy & science fiction rule the box office, and Heroes Die has all of the cool and excitement of both genres. We’d see the corporate-run future SF in the main setting, and when protagonist Hari Michaelson heads into the ‘game’ world on the other side of the galaxy, we’d see a world that resembles the fantasy realms of Dungeons & Dragons or the pulp fantasies of Robert E. Howard.

Michaelson would satisfy Hollywood’s desire for powerful male leads (keeping the status quo), while building in room for Shana’s Pallas Ril to take center-stage in the sequel.

Lawrence M. Schoen

Miles VorkosiganToo many of the books that I adore would not make very good movies. The depth and insights in novels like China Miéville’s Perdido Street Station or Embassytown, or Kameron Hurley’s God’s War would quickly be lost to Hollywood’s love of explosions and the genre’s equivalent of car chases.

So instead I went with something that just overflows with heart, a classic story of a sympathetic protagonist who overcomes all obstacles to win the day. The kind of book that’s so full of fun even moviemakers would find it very hard to spoil it. And best of all, once you get hooked by this book/movie, there are plenty more to come after it. In fact, I’m stunned that we haven’t seen this on the big screen yet.

I refer to The Warrior’s Apprentice from the Vorkosgian saga by Lois McMaster Bujold. In a world that honors physical perfection, young Miles Vorkosigan has all the advantages of noble birth but exposure to a poison while in utero has left him weak of stature and brittle of bone. His parents still love him, but he’s an object of pity to the rest of his world. Despite his determination to succeed, he washes out of the planetary military academy. A series of events allow him to combine luck and his own native brilliance, ultimately putting him in command of a mercenary space fleet and leading him to create an alternate identity for himself as Admiral Naismith. Now if he can just think of a way to explain this to his parents back home.

I’ve yet to meet anyone who hasn’t delighted in the story of Miles Vorkosigan. And perhaps most exciting of all when I think of the film version of The Warrior’s Apprentice is that it’s not even the best book in the series. Someone get Peter Jackson on the phone. Better yet, send him a copy of the book!

J. Kathleen Cheney

9780441068807_custom-f85f12414e562cfecc2021c7fa615d27c0a071d0-s6-c30The very first time I read The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley, I thought it would make an excellent movie. I rarely think this about books. Most are far too complex to make a movie. They’d be better as a mini-series or something longer. But the story in this book is a nice tight one, and the visual aspect would allow the watcher to pick up most of the subtext that a lot of movies lose. It has desert (which I love) and horses (which I love) and Romance (which I love.) Seriously…this book has it all in a package small enough to hit the silver screen..

And the heroine’s named Angharad. How cool is that?

What novel are we missing on this list? What’s your one choice?

Vectors: What ONE book would you like to see made into a movie? (PART 1)

This week our topic is Movies Made from Books….or rather, that movie that hasn’t been made yet. What ONE (and only one) book needs to be made into a movie?

Steve Bein

Hobbit_coverHonestly? The Hobbit.

From the outset, I wanted to see this book made into A movie. As soon as I heard Peter Jackson was on board, I was excited. Then I heard they were doing two films and I got suspicious. Then they said they were doing three films, and that all of them would be three hours long. That’s when I knew these films would suck.

In the edition I have on my shelf, The Lord of the Rings is 1100 pages. Nine hours to film 1100 pages of story was about right. They cut what they needed to cut and they delivered three of the best fantasy movies ever made.

Compare that to The Hobbit’s 200 pages. Clearly this book calls for one tightly crafted two-hour film. I won’t go on a rant (since I’ve done that elsewhere) but I will cite one problem: why do we care about the Necromancer? He’s not mysterious. They tell us who he is in the first 20 minutes. And we know for a fact that it’s Aragorn and company, not Thorin and company, who will deal with him. So not only is he irrelevant; he’s anticlimactic.

So yeah, in my humble opinion, The Hobbit should be the first film whose director’s cut is a quarter of the length of the original.

Beth Cato

CodeNameVerityCode Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein.

I have read some books that I would classify as tear-jerkers. This one… this one left me feeling shattered and dazed like I had lost a loved one. The setting is World War II. The genre is YA, supposedly. What really matters, though, is that the book is about friendship. This is the kind of book I’d love to shove into people’s hands and say, “Read it. This will change your life.” But since most people won’t read it, a movie would be far more accessible. I think the BBC could handle this one. Hollywood… no.

“Kiss me, Hardy! Kiss me, quick!” *sniffle*

M. K. Hutchins

47587The Dark Lord of Derkholm by Dianna Wynn Jones.

I’ve always loved the premise of this book. There’s a portal from our world into a fantasy-land — but unfortunately, a conniving CEO has taken control of the magical world to rent it out to LARPers and make a hefty profit in the process. The titular character is the poor sap who has to play the Dark Lord this year, make-over his home into an evil-looking fortress, and fake his death for tourists once a week.

It’s incredibly fun to read, and I think all the different settings — and the griffons — would look stunning on the screen.

Maura McHugh

mauramchugh500x667Our guest today, Maura McHugh is a writer living in Galway, Ireland, who walks in the forests regularly, and writes prose and comic books.

Mythago Wood, written by Robert Holdstock. Published in
1984, based on a novella of the same name from 1981, Mythago Wood went on to win the World Fantasy Award and the BSFA for Best novel. The story revolves around the relationship between the Huxley family and the ancient forest they live next to called Ryhope Wood. Within the woodland pockets of different time periods exist, and within those various timelines reside the mythagos: human, and not-so-human, archetypes of chthonic forces.

mythagoSet at the end of World War II, one of the two brothers Stephen begins to discover the mysteries of the forest as his other brother Christian is lured away into the depths of the primordial forest. It’s a quintessential British novel, which celebrates England’s mythological heritage and explores the deep connection between people and the land.

This novel, and it’s tremendous sequel, Lavondyss, had a huge impact upon the British fantasy scene, and they certainly fired my imagination when I read them. It’s a shame that this evocative and important British novel has never been realised as a film.

Tinatsu Wallace

tina_headshotOur second guest today, Tinatsu Wallace, is head of the visual effects boutique ExodusFX, where she works on an ever-changing roster of feature films, TV shows, and commercials. Occasionally she writes.

Anytime I read a book or story, part of my brain is always evaluating how it would translate to the screen. downloadUnfortunately, many of my favorite books would lose too much of what I love about them to adapt well. The book that has most recently jumped out at me as being screen-ready is Seanan McGuire’s Discount Armageddon. It has an ass-kicking heroine, an action-filled plot, and tons of fun visuals. I would love to see the nightclub staffed by Gorgons and shapeshifting Tanuki, to freerun with Verity over Manhattan rooftops, and to watch her battle lizardmen in the sewers. And who doesn’t want to see ritual-chanting warrior-mice? Hail!

What novel are we missing on this list? What’s your one choice?