My Favorite Bit: Cat Rambo talks about BEASTS OF TABAT

My Favorite BitCat Rambo is joining us today with her novel Beasts of Tabat. Here’s the publisher’s description.

When countryboy Teo arrives in the coastal city of Tabat, he finds it a hostile place, particularly to a boy hiding an enormous secret. It’s also a city in turmoil, thanks to an ancient accord to change governments and the rising demands of Beasts, the Unicorns, Dryads, Minotaurs and other magical creature on whose labor and bodies Tabat depends. And worst of all, it’s a city dedicated to killing Shifters, the race whose blood Teo bears.

When his fate becomes woven with that of Tabat’s most famous gladiator, Bella Kanto, his existence becomes even more imperiled. Kanto’s magical battle determines the weather each year, and the wealthy merchants are tired of the long winters she’s brought. Can Teo and Bella save each other from the plots that are closing in on them from all sides?

What’s Cat’s favorite bit?



I’m still a little dazed that Beasts of Tabat is appearing in print; it’s been a long time in the works, and now it’s going from acceptance to print copy in under three months. I’m halfway through finishing book two, Hearts of Tabat, and finding that knowing that the books will be in people’s hands makes an enormous difference in terms of motivation and speed. I’m revelling in Hearts when I get a chance to dive in and write, and I’m so happy with the book at the moment.

What’s my favorite bit about Beasts of Tabat, though? It’s related to that second book, in that I love the structure that’s emerged. Book one follows two characters: Teo, a boy who has just come to Tabat, and Bella Kanto, the foremost Gladiator of the city, who is about to face the biggest challenge of her life. Teo has come to the city with a secret that can kill him. When he’s taken under the wing of Bella, a heroic figure he’s worshipped for most of his brief life, he thinks all his problems solved, but they’ve only just begun.

They’re both in Tabat, a city in which I’ve placed numerous stories, including “I’ll Gnaw Your Bones, the Manticore Said” from Clarkesworld Magazine, “The Dead Girl’s Wedding March” (though technically that takes place under the city) from Fantasy Magazine, and “The Ghost-Eater” (in XIII from Resurrection Press). It’s a world where the human economy depends on both the labor and sometimes even physical bodies of what they call “Beasts,” intelligent magical creatures such as centaurs, dryads, manticores, and minotaurs. At this point in time, those creatures are questioning the system, and political upheaval fills the city.

Book two starts at a chronological point halfway through Beasts, and follows three different characters: Bella’s best friend and former lover, Adelina, and the two men who are wooing her, one a mage and the other a riverboat pilot. Book three (Exiles of Tabat) will pick up with Bella and Teo again, jumping back in time to point where the first book ends, and then it’ll be a glorious medley of povs in the final book, Gods of Tabat.

That’s a structure that grew out of an earlier version with an unmanageable number of points of view, and it’s made me think a lot about the series’ overall arc and how to create that out of the stories I have at hands.

It’s also a weird and experimental structure that I’m not convinced a traditional genre publisher would have let me get away with, and that’s among the many reasons I’m excited to be working with Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta’s excellent Wordfire Press. And it lets me play around with point of view in a way that I really enjoy. Workshopping an early draft of the book, Walter Jon Williams said, “Suddenly I realized I was in the point of view of a pigeon, and not just that, a hypothetical pigeon,” and though that early pigeon went away in later drafts, I think it’ll be back before the last page of Exiles of Tabat.

I go about in a happy glow that I’ve finally got a chance to put Beasts and its accompanying books in front of the world. While I’m starting to approach two hundred short stories published, I’ve always been a bit self-conscious about the fact that though I’ve written several novels, I didn’t have any actually published ones. Now I can put that little insecurity aside, and find some new thing to obsess over.


Cat Rambo

Wordfire Press

Amazon  (hardcopy and other e-formats are coming)



World Fantasy and Nebula-nominated writer/editor Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches by the shores of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her fiction publications include stories in Asimov’s, Clarkesworld Magazine, and as well as three collections and her latest work, the novel Beasts of Tabat. A fourth collection, Neither Here Nor There, appears this fall from Hydra House. She is the current Vice President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

GHOST TALKERS = finished!

My dears, I have just typed the most glorious word in the history of novel writing, “END” on the first draft of Ghost Talkers. This is my WWI novel. It is rough. Really rough. But it has a shape and lo! it wants polish but is not full of suck. I think you’ll like Ginger Stuyvesant when you meet her next year.

Meanwhile, for those of you who’ve been reading along on the beta– really, the alpha read — Chapter 23 is up along with the rest of the novel. Shocking. No waiting.

And I? I am going to go pour myself a celebratory Scotch.

Oh so ready for Spring. Any time now. Really…

Fierce jungle cat.Sadie and Marlowe are desperately finding the slim beams of sunshine that find their way into the apartment. It snowed again today and I’m totally with them about the whole cabin fever sort of thing. Yes, I went outside, but the sidewalks were slick with ice and the wind was the very definition of bitingly cold.

Comparatively speaking, it wasn’t that bad. A mere 20 degrees.


But my heavens. I am ready for Spring. Oh, so ready.

A new chapter of Ghost Talkers is up

It’s been way too long since I last had a chapter for you. Waaaaay too long.

But– for those of you reading along, I have finished Chapter 22. I’m actually one scene from the end of the novel as I post this, which means that, hopefully, in the not too distant future, you will have the rest of the book to eat in a single gulp. Meanwhile, since it’s been so long, here’s a link to Chapter 21 if you want to skim it to remember what’s happening.

My Favorite Bit: Laura Liddell Nolen talks about THE ARK

My Favorite BitLaura Liddell Nolen is joining us today with her young adult novel The Ark. Here is the publisher’s description:

It’s the final days of earth, and sixteen-year-old Char is right where she belongs: in prison. With her criminal record, she doesn’t qualify for a place on an Ark, one of the five massive bioships designed to protect earth’s survivors during the meteor strike that looks set to destroy the planet. Only a select few will be saved – like her mom, dad, and brother – all of whom have long since turned their backs on Char.

If she ever wants to redeem herself, Char must use all the tricks of the trade to swindle her way into outer space, where she hopes to reunite with her family, regardless of whether they actually ever want to see her again, or not . . .

What’s Laura’s favorite bit?

The Ark


The Ark is about a girl who can’t seem to get it right. Charlotte Turner has been behind bars, off and on, since she was twelve. Even before that, she felt trapped– hemmed in at every angle by her parents’ relentless drive toward status and achievement. But at least in juvy, people seem to get her. They call her by her chosen name, Char, and they even pronounce it correctly: with a hard ch, as in charred. Something that got burned.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: world-weary criminal seeks out redemption and a better life, only to find that, given his status as a convict, his past will follow him wherever he goes. For some, there is no out.

Only in my book, the hardened criminal is a little girl. And instead of a life of crime and prison, she’s looking at a violent end in an oncoming meteor strike.

Even if she could break out of prison and steal a spot on an Off-Planet Transport, she’d still be an outlaw for the rest of her life. The Arks are populated by the best and brightest Earth had to offer. Its most upstanding citizens. The lives that mattered enough to save.

None of which applies to Char. She’s not welcome on board an Ark, and attempting to steal someone else’s place is a crime punishable by death. Char will never have a home there. There’s no bed for her in her family’s bunk, and she’s pretty sure they’ve long since closed their hearts to her as well, leaving her without even the chance to apologize.

It’s a book about starting over. Earth has just wrapped up World War III, and with the ink barely dry on the Treaty of Phoenix, humanity has one last shot at peace. We either cooperate long enough to escape to space together, or we die.

The idea that any one group of people is responsible for our planet’s ills seems crazy, but if we could hand-pick only the smartest and most personable among us, leaving everyone else behind, could we eradicate injustice? If there were no more land or oil to fight over, could we be done with war forever?

Or is the past not so easily left behind?

Here’s my favorite bit from the book. In this scene, a flashback, Char meets with her lawyer one last time. If she pleads guilty, she can still hope to be released from prison before the age cutoff that would render her ineligible for an Ark on moral grounds. If she fights the charges, she stands to lose everything: her family, her eligibility for a place on an Ark, and by extension, her life.

The felony charges are nothing new to Char. She’s been down that road and served her time. She’s clung to the hope of a new life, of redemption, and starting over.

Much good it did her. She’s back in court, and only one thing has changed:

This time, she’s innocent.

I am in a holding room, sitting on an iron folding chair. The walls are darker gray than the usual steel blue of juvy, and my lawyer asks me to stop looking at them, to look at her. My parents are on their way, she says, and we have a lot to do before the end of the visit.

“For example, we need to go over a viable defense strategy.” I get the impression that she uses words like “viable” to impress me, so that I’ll do what she wants.

I look at her. “You don’t understand. I really didn’t do it.”

She bites her lip, an exaggerated gesture reserved for people like me, half her age, none of her potential. She’s the best that money can buy, so I really should be grateful that she’s here. Kip and Cassa could never afford an attorney like this.

“Charlotte, we’ll get so much further if you just tell me what really happened. You’re not the one they want. It’s this James Kingston, the ringleader. Or those other two. The other kids you work with.”

“We’ll get farther if you believe me. I don’t work for Jimmy anymore.”



“It’s fur-ther,” she pronounces carefully. I raise an eyebrow; she returns my gaze in silence. Like I’m really going to talk about grammar right now.

I continue to stare, nonplussed, and eventually she looks down at her legal pad with a world-weary sigh.

I decide to start over. “Ms. Liston, I left him. I swear.”

“You had six calls from Kip Carston the day before the robbery.”

“That’s… that’s not related.”

“Then what was he calling you about?”

“He never mentioned a job. We were just talking. Really.”

She leans forward. “If you don’t plead out of this, you’ll be ineligible for the Ark. You realize that. This is your third offense, and the victim isn’t going to make it through the trial. You’ll go away until you’re twenty-one, at least, and the meteor hits in one year. You’ll miss the final lottery. It’s the end of the line, Charlotte.”

I know better than to explain myself to people like her. People who only hear the worst. No matter what you say, they think you’re lying. And everything in your head, everything that you want to believe about yourself, feels thin, dirty.

“I’ll tell them everything I know about Kingston, but I can’t plead out. Not this time.”








Laura Liddell Nolen grew up in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where she spent lots of time playing make-believe with her two younger brothers. They supplemented their own stories with a steady diet of space- and superhero-themed movies, books, and television. Laura loves coffee, dogs, and making lists. She lives in Texas with her husband and children. The Ark is her first novel.