Tag Archives: writing

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

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

Steve Bein

imagenI’ve got to go with Hank Devereaux.

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

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

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

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average department meeting is an attempt to reach agreement between obstinate, opinionated nerds who are gregarious and withdrawn in equal measure.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

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

J. Kathleen Cheney

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

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

Beth Cato

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

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

Lawrence M. Schoen

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

Tina Connolly

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

Michael R. Underwood

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

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


What book character do you most strongly identify with?

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

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


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

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

J. Kathleen Cheney

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

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

Beth Cato

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

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

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

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

Tex Thompson

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

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

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

Fran Wilde

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

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

M.K. Hutchins

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

Ken Liu

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

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

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

What are your favorite non-fiction resources?

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

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

Steve Bein

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

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

1. Don’t overdo it.

2. Don’t get anything wrong.

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

So let me express these two tips a little differently:

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

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

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

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

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

Ken Liu

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

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

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

M. K. Hutchins

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

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

Beth Cato

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

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

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

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

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

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

E. C. Ambrose

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

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

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

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

Lawrence M. Schoen

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

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

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

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

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

J. Kathleen Cheney

J. Kathleen CheneyLibrarians. Research Librarians.

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

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

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

What’s your best research trick?

Vectors: How Do You Handle Rejection?

Our question of the week concerns something that all writers go through…rejection. How do we handle it?

Beth Cato

BethCato-steampunk-headshotHow I handle rejection: three days of debilitating depression, sporadic crying, and self-loathing.

Er. No. But that’s how I did respond to rejections back in 2008 when I first started sending out story submissions. I was crippled by self-doubt and rejections only confirmed every awful thing I thought about myself and my writing. A lot of those initial stories, I only sent out once because I thought one rejection meant the story was obviously awful and would never sell anywhere.

My skin’s a lot thicker now. Most rejections do not bother me. I read them and say, ‘Well, that stinks,’ and send the story or poem out again. There are exceptions to this. There are always some stories that feel especially personal for me, and having those rejected is hard, especially when it’s a higher tier letter (“We really liked this but just bought something similar, so with regret…”). Novel rejections are the worst of all.

E. C. Ambrose

E. C. AmbroseAt this point, it strongly depends on who’s doing the rejecting. . .there’s a big difference between being rejected by a magazine choosing among a zillion stories, by writers large and small, many probably better than mine (bummer, but hey, those are the odds!) and being rejected with a project you hope to write by your own agent or editor who is not interested in the work.

The first kind no longer phase me. I’m happily surprised to be accepted by magazines or anthologies, but I have pretty low expectations (novel seems to be my ideal length). The second kind, on the other hand, can make me second-guess everything. My agent recently took a pass on representing a YA fantasy I still like, leaving me anxious and wondering if The Dark Apostle books were a fluke and nothing else I write will Ever Sell AGAIN!

The first kind really aren’t personal (though we sometimes take it as if they are) but the second. . .well, it’s probably *still* not personal, she just doesn’t think this book is marketable. It just *feels* more personal. Can’t pretend she doesn’t know who I am. Can’t think she just doesn’t understand me and won’t get my work. Can still stomp around the office and eat too many chips, tho!

M. K. Hutchins

MK HutchinsRejections tend to hit me in a variety of ways.

Sometimes (often with short fiction), rejections feel rote. Is there anything I want to revise? Nope? Off to the next market on the list. Not a big deal.

Some rejections make me want to go write an even better, shinier story and sell that. I wish I knew how to encourage this reaction. It’s easy to dive into a new project when I’m full of a yes-I’m-just-that-stubborn attitude.

And sometimes rejections just stink and it’s impossible to focus on what I’m currently writing. What if it’s all crap? No one will ever buy this! I generally find taking a break to stress-clean my apartment generally cures me. And, as a bonus, I end up with a nicer space to write in.

Tex Thompson

Tex ThompsonI’m not the world’s most experienced rejectionist by any means, but of course there’s times in everybody’s everything when the game’s not going your way, and disappointment reigns supreme.

One of the things I’m only just now beginning to appreciate is how my social circle has grown over the past few months – and how much that’s deepened my perspective. Sure, we all intellectually know that a story or manuscript rejection is the quintessential First World Problem – but it’s been such an eye-opener to have friends whose Big Awesome News is that they are officially six months cancer-free, or that the ex-partner has agreed to modify the custody arrangements, or that the kid’s rehab looks like it’s going to stick this time. I’m finding it much easier not to sweat the small stuff when there’s capital-B Big Stuff also situated somewhere in the frame.

I’m also working really hard to make sure I always have other irons in the fire, as it were. Putting my emotional eggs in multiple baskets – writing stuff, teaching stuff, family stuff, whatever – definitely helps minimize the damage whenever any single one of them falls and splatters on the floor. I don’t think it’s possible to sink thousands of hours into ANYTHING and not be deeply invested in the results, but I’ve learned the hard way how important it is to diversify your mental portfolio.

J. Kathleen Cheney

J. Kathleen CheneyFirst of all, I’d like to state that I handle rejection with the utmost maturity. I do not eat ice cream. Or tamales. (I’m actually more likely to resort to tamales. I’m not an ice cream girl.)

Truthfully, though, my reaction to rejection often surprises me. There are times when my work is rejected, and it hits me like a pile-driver to the stomach. Other times I simply shrug it off and move on. Often I don’t know which one of those it will be. It’s only afterward that I realize I wanted a particular sale more than I’d previously believed. And I’m surprised that my mind can trick me that way.

If it’s one of those instances when I can’t just shrug it off, then I resort to the old standby…a RomCom. I don’t cry for myself. But when I see Sandra Bullock getting beat down over and over again in Hope Floats or Katherine Heigl ruining her own life (temporarily) in 27 Dresses, I cry for them, and that lets out all my angst over my own situation. It never fails me.

Fran Wilde

Fran2014I love a passage from Connie Willis’ 2013 collection (The Best of Connie Willis, Del Rey 2013) – which has commentary on each story. After the post-apocalyptic “A Letter from the Clearys,” she wrote:

“What saved me from [quitting] was those already made-out and stamped envelopes and SASEs. I mean, stamps were expensive, and what would it hurt to send everything out one last time?”

She’s chronicling the moment she got eight rejections all on the same day. I’m so glad she didn’t quit then. I try to remember that when I get a rejection (usually I’m remembering that while munching chocolate and considering a career making tin cans). And then I make another go at it.

How do you handle rejection???

The Golden City: Book Release with Giveaway

The Golden City debuts in Mass Market Paperback today (that’s the smaller and less-expensive size of paperback).

To celebrate, we’re giving away a copy of the novel. If you’d like to enter a drawing for that copy, just leave a comment before Friday 6/6. We’ll announce the winner in comments then.

The Golden City

For two years, Oriana Paredes has been a spy among the social elite of the Golden City, reporting back to her people, the sereia, sea folk banned from the city’s shores….

When her employer and only confidante decides to elope, Oriana agrees to accompany her to Paris. But before they can depart, the two women are abducted and left to drown. Trapped beneath the waves, Oriana’s heritage allows her to survive while she is forced to watch her only friend die.

Vowing vengeance, Oriana crosses paths with Duilio Ferreira—a police consultant who has been investigating the disappearance of a string of servants from the city’s wealthiest homes. Duilio also has a secret: He is a seer and his gifts have led him to Oriana.

Bound by their secrets, not trusting each other completely yet having no choice but to work together, Oriana and Duilio must expose a twisted plot of magic so dark that it could cause the very fabric of history to come undone….