Journal

My Favorite Bit: Yves Meynard talks about ANGELS & EXILES

YMy Favorite Bit iconves Meynard is joining us today with his book Angels & Exiles. Here’s the publisher’s description.

“We dream of angels, black as space, and wish they could return from the future to warn us of the dark years ahead. We who have forgotten our origin, exiles in a land we may have shaped with our own hands; we who struggle to find meaning in a world that only vouchsafes us deadly revelation; we wage war, for reasons now lost to us, and our hopes are as tenuous as the light of a single star.” In these twelve sombre tales, ranging from baroque science fiction to bleak fantasy, Yves Meynard brings to life wonders and horrors. From space travellers who must rid themselves of the sins their souls accumulate in transit, to a young man whose love transcends time; from refugees in a frozen hold at the end of space, to a city drowning under the weight of its architectural prayer; from an alien Jerusalem that has corrupted the Earth, to a land still bleeding from the scars of a supernatural war; here are windows opened onto astonishing vistas, stories written with a scientist’s laser focus alloyed with a poet’s sensibilities.

What’s Yves’s favorite bit?

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YVES MEYNARD

Looking at the stories that make up my first English-language collection, I have to admit I have a lot of favorite bits in there. It’s unfair to have to choose, but I guess I’ll have to go with the setting of “Hunter and Prey.

I’m a rationalist at heart, a dour skeptic; yet that does not at all mean I write Apollonian stories featuring dispassionate scientists who solve problems through the use of logic and slide rules. On the contrary, my SF leans towards horror, while my fantasy strives for rigor even as it spews magic by the barrelful. So it was probably inevitable I would end up writing a story whose protagonist’s belief in a rational, ordered world is revealed in the end as utter delusion.

Although it’s a pretty conceit (and one which posed problems for a few readers), that’s not the main draw of the story for me. In my description of an imaginary World’s Fair, I have gone back to a wellspring of my youth, the exhibition known as Terre des Hommes / Man and His World, which began as the Universal Exposition of 1967 in Montréal and remained open year after year until 1981. My family moved to Montréal in 1971; throughout my childhood, my mother, my brother and I would go visit the exhibition and its many pavilions. My favorite one was Le monde insolite, near which stood a semi-abstract statue called Le Phare du Cosmos (seehttp://lemog3d.blogspot.ca/2010/10/un-vestige-dexpo-67-montreal-le-phare.html), which still gives me a shock when I see a picture of it. Its head used to rotate endlessly, displaying in turn its two faces, one with two eyes, the other monocular.

Within the sloping walls of the pavilion I was exposed to a torrent of glorious nonsense: UFOs, strange creatures, ancient astronauts, unexplained mysteries. I was young; I thought that adults were smart and sensible people; I believed all of it. How could it be false if grown-ups had expended such effort to display it all?

It took me a while to emerge from that state of uncritical acceptance, and I am deeply glad that I did. Still, something was lost in that transition. It may only be youth itself; perhaps this twinge I feel looking at old pictures ofMan and His World is nothing more than nostalgia for those summer afternoons. It may be innocence: I have come to the painful realization that adults are not much wiser than children, that charlatanry is a thriving business and that people want to be deceived. But it probably is the sense that I was living in a wondrous world.

Of course that’s an unfair assessment, because the world is still wondrous. The natural world is an endless source of amazement; human culture all across the planet ceaselessly produces works of stunning beauty. You shouldn’t need anything else to satisfy your need for wonderment.

And yet it still twitches inside me, that urge for the miraculous. I read stories of the fantastic and write them myself, to assuage it. And I tell myself it’s better to have it only inside of stories. Because if such a miraculous world were real, loaded with revelations and terrible marvels, a world in whose oceans swam hybrids and monsters, a world where everything was charged with transcendent meaning, and all our human conceits were true—that world would devour us.

LINKS:

Angels & Exiles

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Goodreads

BIO:

Yves Meynard was born in 1964, in the city of Québec, lived most of his life in Montreal and has recently moved to Ottawa. He has been active in Québec science fiction circles since 1986, serving as literary editor for the magazine Solaris from 1994 to 2001. He has published over thirty short stories in French and eighteen in English. He is a multiple award winner, with several Boréal and Aurora Awards, along with the Grand Prix de la Science-Fiction et du Fantastique Québécois, Québec’s highest award in the field.
He has published seventeen books in French and three in English: The Book of Knights, a Mythopoeic Award finalist, the massive novel Chrysanthe, and the collection Angels & Exiles.

MRK’s dairy-free faux parmesan recipe

So… You have a friend coming over who can’t do dairy, and you want to serve something that calls for Parmesan cheese. Here’s my faux parmesan recipe.

  • 1 Tbl miso
  • 1 Tbl olive oil
  • 4 Tbl pinenuts
  • 2 Tbl pecans (If you have a friend who is allergic to tree nuts, roasted sunflower seeds work)
  • 1/4 tsp sugar

Put it all in a food processor and blend the heck out of it.

Now, you can use it as a 1 to 1 substitute in a recipe. Obviously, it doesn’t melt, but it has that nutty, sweet, salty thing that Parmesan has. And if you want that crusty cheesy goodness on top of a casserole? Mix it with bread crumbs, spread it on the casserole and it toasts up beautifully. (Yes, it works with gluten-free breadcrumbs)

My Favorite Bit: Abra SW talks about A CIRCUS OF BRASS AND BONE

My Favorite Bit iconAbra SW is joining us today with her novel A Circus of Brass and Bone. Here’s the publisher’s description.

It’s the end of civilization, but the show must go on.

The Loyale Traveling Circus and Menagerie is in turmoil. During their ocean voyage from British India to Boston, someone murdered their ringmaster. The killer must be one of their own. Unfortunately, that is the least of their problems.

While they were at sea, an aetheric calamity sent a wave of death rolling across the world. In post-Civil War America, a third of the population died outright, and many of the survivors suffer strange nervous symptoms that are steadily increasing in severity. Basic technology is also rendered dangerously unstable by the disaster. The circus members find themselves traveling through the collapse of civilization. In such desperate times, what use is a circus?

If they can defend themselves against the starving populace, if they can outwit and outperform the political factions that have seized power, if they can fight off the ravening monstrosities born of the aether storm … they just might find the answer.

What’s Abra’s favorite bit?

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ABRA SW

What makes your bones grow?

In A Circus of Brass and Bone, the answer is bone aether. Normal levels of bone aether simply maintain healthy bones. Adding a drop or two of harvested bone aether promotes rapid healing. Overdosing is . . . inadvisable. Bone aether is my favorite bit of the story because it has such wonderful potential for good and so many marvelous possibilities to go horribly, horribly wrong. As it does.

I started with the outmoded scientific notion of aether as a transmission medium. Natural philosophers proposed that aether was what allowed planets to move through space. It was what allowed sensations to flow through our own bodies. Light was able to travel because of luminiferous aether (and isn’t that a beautiful phrase?). Gravity itself could be interpreted using an aether model. If everything had its own type of aether, aether could explain everything.

A Circus of Brass and Bone imagines that aether theory is correct. People learn to collect and manipulate the different types of aether. By the time America starts rebuilding after the War Between the States, aether is the foundation for all technology. Without it, there would be no steam-powered ships and trains, no industrial machinery, and no telegraph communications. Even domestic comforts like electric lighting and plumbing depend on it.

I enjoyed exploring the ramifications of functional aether-based science. Some of its applications are only slight variations on actual historical technology. Others are a much larger departure into alternate history. Bone aether in particular has a lot of potential for everything from medicine to cosmetics to weaponry.

Consider a doctor in the Civil War. A mortally wounded soldier is carried into the medical tent. With the aid of bone aether, our hypothetical doctor can fuse flesh and bone together to save the soldier’s life. Maybe the doctor’s exhausted, but he has to keep working. When nobody’s looking, he might inject a tiny amount of bone aether to revitalize his energies. If he’s a Confederate doctor, he probably has more bone aether to spare. In the South, harvesting it isn’t illegal the way that it is in the North. Energized, the doctor sends his aether-powered mechanical creature back onto the battlefield to fetch more patients. There will be plenty of wounded to choose from, especially if the doctor is near the broad swath of destruction caused by aether-boosted super soldiers.

You won’t see a perfectly functioning aether technology-based society in A Circus of Brass and Bone, though. The story opens with a catastrophic chain reaction destroying the whole system. Technology is rendered dangerously unstable. Lines of communication are cut. Naturally occurring aether is also disrupted, including the bone aether inside people’s bodies. That’s when the fun really begins!

LINKS:

Amazon

Goodreads

Book website

Google Play

Smashwords

B&N

BIO:

Abra SW spent several years living abroad in India and Africa before marrying a mad scientist and settling down to live and write in Minneapolis. She specializes in dark science fiction, cheerful horror, and modern fairy tales. Writing as Abra Staffin-Wiebe, she has had short stories appear at publications including Tor.com and Odyssey Magazine. Discover more of her fiction at her website, http://www.aswiebe.com.

My Favorite Bit: Leanna Renee Hieber talks about THE ETERNA FILES

LeanMy Favorite Bit iconna Renee Hieber is joining us today with her novel The Eterna Files. Here’s the publisher’s description.

Welcome to The Eterna Files, written by Leanna Renee Hieber, “the brightest new star in literature”(True-Blood.net)

London, 1882: Queen Victoria appoints Harold Spire of the Metropolitan Police to Special Branch Division Omega. Omega is to secretly investigate paranormal and supernatural events and persons. Spire, a skeptic driven to protect the helpless and see justice done, is the perfect man to lead the department, which employs scholars and scientists, assassins and con men, and a traveling circus. Spire’s chief researcher is Rose Everhart, who believes fervently that there is more to the world than can be seen by mortal eyes.

Their first mission: find the Eterna Compound, which grants immortality. Catastrophe destroyed the hidden laboratory in New York City where Eterna was developed, but the Queen is convinced someone escaped—and has a sample of Eterna.

Also searching for Eterna is an American, Clara Templeton, who helped start the project after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln nearly destroyed her nation. Haunted by the ghost of her beloved, she is determined that the Eterna Compound—and the immortality it will convey—will be controlled by the United States, not Great Britain.

What’s Leanna’s favorite bit?

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LEANNA RENEE HIEBER

Firstly, a big thank you to Mary for hosting me, because if we’re talking favorites; not only do I find Mary to be one of my favorite authors, but also one of my favorite people. It’s really wonderful when someone who has a great deal of shared interests and some parallel life trajectories also happens to be immensely talented and just as gracious. So thank you Mary, and thank you, Dear Readers, for reading.

My Favorite Bit of The Eterna Files is The Visitor. She’s an otherworldly character that comes into Clara’s life at the worst times to say irritatingly cryptic things. Who this woman is and what she’s about will become clearer as the series goes on. Whether she gets her own entire book or whether she’ll be two side novellas I’m not yet sure, that depends on discussions with my editor, but she’s one of the most delightful force-of-nature characters I’ve ever written with a compelling origin story of her own.

While not wanting to give away too much of the visitor’s story, (she’s named in Eterna book 2) I can say specific signs of her have been with me through all my work. She’s been trying to break through into it all along. This iteration of her began, actually, as a character that I would play for a web-series, but my co-writer Thom Truelove and I grew too fond of her just the way she was to have to constrain her into a TV/Web-series format. So we pulled her from that pitch to give her free reign in fiction. This happened while I was editing The Eterna Files, and I realized that this mysterious, imperious woman had already put her stamp on Eterna narrative in the role of the visitor (a character that, to be honest, I wasn’t sure why I’d included in the first draft but both my editor and I were inexplicably fond of her). But once I knew the visitor and that fabulous character I’d fell in love with were actually one and the same, it was one of those wonderful, synergistic creative realizations that make writing so fulfilling.

I love high mysticism and intense, poetic characters, and she’s larger than life enough to pull it off. Full disclosure; my love for her also has to do with the fact that she was born as a character I would play as an actress, and so I channel her differently than I do other characters I write, having considered her as a character I had literally already begun to embody, write, and speak as. I’ve never directly channeled a character like her before, it’s a compelling new way (albeit a bit ‘method writer’ of me) to work with narrative.

Here’s an example of her; a prologue scene with my heroine Clara. This scene caused Kirkus reviews to quote the visitor as having one of the best lines in the novel:

 

“Why can’t you stop terrible things if you’re aware of them?” Clara demanded. “Why can’t I?”

“Not in our skill set,” the visitor replied. “You’ve taken too much ownership of something that is not your responsibility, Templeton. What is your responsibility, is to—”

“‘Wake up?’ Yes, I hear it, on the wind. In my bones. What does it mean?”

The woman gestured before her, to Clara’s iterations. “You see the lives, don’t you?”

“Yes.” Clara swallowed hard. “Do you?”

“Of course I do,” the visitor replied. “I’m here to tell you that a great storm is coming. It will break across two continents; two great cities, the hearts of empires. Your team is gone and storms are coming. Weather them, find special souls and shield them. Second-guess your enemy. Find the missing link between the lives you see. Do this for yourself. And for your country.”

Clara snorted bitterly. “Do I hear patriotism?”

The visitor shook her head. “I owe allegiance to no land.”

“Then what are you here for?” Clara begged.

The visitor’s voice grew warm. “I care about certain people.”

“Why me?”

Show me why you, Templeton,” the visitor proclaimed. “You’re at the center of the storm. Be worthy of the squall.”

The mockingbird made the strange, roaring sound again and the woman was gone.

 

I hope you’ll enjoy this first installment in the Eterna saga! All my worlds are parallel worlds so fans of my Strangely Beautiful as well as my Magic Most Foul saga will see familiar characters make cameo appearances in Eterna. (Which is another one of my favorite bits about writing this series so far!)

If you’re interested in a signed, personalized copy, please order one from the fabulous independent bookstore WORD in Brooklyn, leave any personalization requests in the “Comments” section. http://tinyurl.com/eternawd

Thank you to Mary for hosting me, you fabulous wonder you! Cheers and happy haunting!

LINKS:

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Blog

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Goodreads

Read an excerpt

BIO:

Leanna Renee Hieber is a classically trained actress, playwright and award-winning, bestselling author of Gothic Victorian Fantasy novels for adults and teens, such as the STRANGELY BEAUTIFUL saga, the MAGIC MOST FOUL saga, and THE ETERNA FILES from Tor Books. Revised editions of the STRANGELY BEAUTIFUL saga will reissue from Tor in the coming year. Leanna’s short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and her books have been translated into many languages. A proud Goth girl, New Yorker and member of performers unions AEA, SAG-AFTRA, she works in film and television on shows like Boardwalk Empire and as a ghost tour guide for Boroughs of the Dead.

My Favorite Bit: Robert Levy talks about THE GLITTERING WORLD

My Favorite Bit iconRobert Levy is joining us today with his novel The Glittering World. Here’s the publisher’s description.

In the tradition of Neil Gaiman (The Ocean at the End of the Lane), Scott Smith (The Ruins), and Jason Mott (The Returned), award-winning playwright Robert Levy spins a dark tale of alienation and belonging, the familiar and the surreal, family secrets and the search for truth in his debut supernatural thriller.

When up-and-coming chef Michael “Blue” Whitley returns with three friends to the remote Canadian community of his birth, it appears to be the perfect getaway from New York. He soon discovers, however, that everything he thought he knew about himself is a carefully orchestrated lie. Though he had no recollection of the event, as a young boy, Blue and another child went missing for weeks in the idyllic, mysterious woods of Starling Cove. Soon thereafter, his mother suddenly fled with him to America, their homeland left behind.

But then Blue begins to remember. And once the shocking truth starts bleeding back into his life, his closest friends—Elisa, his former partner in crime; her stalwart husband, Jason; and Gabe, Blue’s young and admiring coworker—must unravel the secrets of Starling Cove and the artists’ colony it once harbored. All four will face their troubled pasts, their most private demons, and a mysterious race of beings that inhabits the land, spoken of by the locals only as the Other Kind…

What’s Robert’s favorite bit?

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ROBERT LEVY

The Glittering World is the story of four friends on vacation in rural Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, and all the wondrous and terrible things that happen to them in the seemingly idyllic landscape of Starling Cove. The novel was written in four parts, each told from a different point of view. The end of the third section of the book happens at a critical juncture in the story, when two of the four friends have joined forces to penetrate the existence of another world beneath the cove, a shadow land both within and beyond our own, and find themselves ready to share their knowledge in order to better face what is to come. It’s at this moment that one of them says to the other, “Tell me everything. And start at the beginning.”

This line of dialogue is my favorite bit! It was inspired by Hitchcock’s seminal film “Rear Window,” specifically the moment when Grace Kelly’s character says to Jimmy Stewart’s snooping wheelchair-bound photographer, “Tell me everything you saw, and what you think it means.” Those words have always carried a powerful resonance for me, and I think it’s a particularly meaningful phrase for a writer. What else do we writers attempt, after all, than this very same dual exercise of representation and interpretation? The old writing commandment of “show, don’t tell” is really a canard, because in showing anything we are necessarily telling what the reader should be experiencing; otherwise storytelling would be a far more simplistic cataloguing of facts and events. Showing is telling.

But it’s not just the refashioning of this particular line of dialogue that’s my favorite part; it’s also the function that it serves in the larger story. Right after those words are spoken, the third part of the novel ends, and Part Four—the one told from the perspective of young, idealistic Gabe—gets underway. And just as the line says, we do start at the beginning. Or rather, we start at Gabe’s beginning, his origin story, if you will. Not only does the opening of this final section travel back in time to Gabe’s childhood, it’s where we first learn that he’s actually been privy to this secondary shadow world from a very young age, a secret he’s been keeping from the other characters until now.

One of the recurring themes of The Glittering World is the excavation—both literally and figuratively—of what is buried and hidden, and each successive shifting of perspective yields its own fresh angle. A return to Gabe’s past, where we “start at the beginning,” serves to throw the supernatural undercurrent of the novel into stark relief, and also gives the reader a new lens through which to absorb and reinterpret what has already transpired in the previous three parts. This new information changes what we thought we knew about the characters, the hidden corners of the land, and the larger world of Starling Cove and the novel.  It’s the moment when the thin curtain between places is finally thrust aside altogether, and we are left standing in bright and blinding wonder. Nothing is as it once seemed.

LINKS:

WEBSITE

TWITTER

FACEBOOK

GOODREADS

AMAZON

BIO:

ROBERT LEVY is a writer of stories, screenplays, and plays whose work has been seen off-Broadway. A Harvard graduate subsequently trained as a forensic psychologist, he lives in his native Brooklyn near a toxic canal. His debut novel, The Glittering World, was published this week by Gallery/Simon & Schuster.

Ghost Talkers 21 is up, for those of you reading along.

After way the heck too long, I’ve finally posted another chapter in Ghost Talkers.

Why did that take so long? Because I realized that I had a pacing issue and needed to cut a scene I’d already written and move a plot point to another one. Which involved a lot of restructuring of things. It also means that those of you who have already read Chapter 20 might want to reread the ending, since that’s where some of the changes occurred.

The other thing slowing me down was the need to work on the Of Noble Family page proofs. Things they don’t tell you when you sign the Standard Rich and Famous Author Contract* is that you will often have to work on two books simultaneously. The one that has the closest deadline gets priority.

*Please, please tell me that you get the Muppets reference.

I’m teaching a Short Story Intensive March 6-8

In March, I’m teaching another Short Story Intensive.

Through exercises focusing on viewpoint, dialogue, and plot, you’ll learn how to let nothing go to waste. By the end of this three day workshop, participants will be given a writing prompt and complete their own short story.

Classes will be taught via G+ from March 6-8

Each session, you will be given an exercise that builds on the previous session. Classwork will be uploaded to a shared Google Drive folder visible only to you and your classmates. The class will be divided between lecture and group critique. The class is capped at eight students, to create a class size that allows the most interaction, feedback and personal attention for each of you.

Class requirements: You need an interest in writing short stories, but you do not need to have written or published anything yet. You also must be able to use G+ Hangouts (Note: You don’t need a web camera, although they’re useful, but you do need a working microphone, a G+ account, the internet and some speakers so you can hear us).

This is an intensive workshop, so do not plan anything else that weekend.

My Favorite Bit: Randy Henderson talks about FINN FANCY NECROMANCY

My Favorite Bit iconRandy Henderson is joining us today with his novel Finn Fancy Necromancy. Here’s the publisher’s description.

Writers of the Future grand prize winner Randy Henderson presents a dark and quirky debut in Finn Fancy Necromancy.

Finn Gramaraye was framed for the crime of dark necromancy at the age of 15, and exiled to the Other Realm for twenty five years.  But now that he’s free, someone—probably the same someone—is trying to get him sent back.  Finn has only a few days to discover who is so desperate to keep him out of the mortal world, and find evidence to prove it to the Arcane Enforcers.  They are going to be very hard to convince, since he’s already been convicted of trying to kill someone with dark magic.

But Finn has his family: His brother Mort who is running the family necrotorium business now, his brother Pete who believes he’s a werewolf, though he is not, and his sister Samantha who is, unfortunately, allergic to magic.  And he’s got Zeke, a fellow exile and former enforcer, who doesn’t really believe in Finn’s innocence but is willing to follow along in hopes of getting his old job back.

What’s Randy’s favorite bit?

Finn Fancy Final Tor Cover_RH

RANDY HENDERSON

My favorite bit about Finn Fancy?  Well, first, thank all the gods and goddesses (and four out of five dentists who chew gum) that I still love so many bits of Finn Fancy.  Because I’m (blessedly) stuck with this book, and this series, for a while.  And that was kind of the whole point — loving it I mean, not being stuck with it.  Though I almost made a terrible, terrible mistake.

You see, I’d written a Young Adult fantasy before Finn Fancy.  I chose to write it as a YA because, let’s face it, YA is hotter right now than a Marvel movie about a radiated jalapeno.  Problem was, when I started, I hadn’t read much YA.  So I was really forcing it, writing to a form and style that wasn’t natural to me.

Thankfully, that turned out … not great.  And it only took me about two years to realize my mistake and move on.

So Finn Fancy was all about writing something I would have fun writing, and that I truly loved.  And one of the things that made it fun for me was the dialogue.  I love when Finn interacts with his whacky cast of supporting characters, because it’s like I am having a conversation with them.

The best thing I did for Finn was cram his world full of family, friends, and creatures to interact with.  Because that means I get to interact with them.  And that’s really my favorite bit.

Here’s two samples.  The first is with perhaps my favorite character, Pete.  Petey is Finn’s younger brother who thinks he is a werewolf due to a childhood dog bite (even though he really isn’t).  It is one of the first real conversations Finn has with Pete after returning from twenty-five years of exile in a fairy Other Realm.  Mort is their older brother.

There was a long silence while Pete sat hunched over the pillow in his lap like a bear embracing its cub, then he said in a quiet voice, “If I ask you something, promise not to laugh?”

“Of course.”

“Promise?  Because Mort would just laugh.”

“I promise, Petey.”

“Okay.  Will you help me find a girlfriend?”

I laughed.  “I’m sorry.  I just — a girlfriend?  What makes you think I can get you a girlfriend?  I’ve never had one myself, not really.  Besides, I just got back from exile.  I don’t know anyone.”

He looked up with his wide, puppy eyes.  “Yeah, but you’re my brother,” he said, as if that explained everything.

And I guess it did, in a way.  As much as I might have teased Petey growing up, I’d also been the one to protect him from the worst of Mort’s pranks, to let Petey play games with me and my friends, and the one he came to when he had problems.  I’d always been his big brother – even though he was the one who protected me when it came to bullies — and clearly exile hadn’t changed that.

After all the things about my life and the world that I’d found changed in the last few hours, all the things I’d realized were lost to me during my exile, Pete’s trust in me as his big brother was comforting, and I found myself wiping tears from my cheeks.

I cleared my throat.  “Are there any girls you like?”

“No,” Pete said, then looked down.  “Well, yes, but they’re mundy girls, you know?  And besides, there’s my monthly visitor.”

I sighed.  “Pete, I thought I told you not to call it that.”

“It’s what Mort calls it.”

“Well, I’m telling you not to, okay?”

“Okay.  Trolling for vampires?”

“What?  No!  For cheese’s sake, you need to stop listening to Mort.  Call it, I don’t know, your wolf time.”

“Okay,” Pete said.  “Well, how am I supposed to date anyone with my wolf time?  What if I scratch or bite her?”

I resisted the urge to ask him what exactly he thought dating involved.

Finally, this next snippet of dialogue between Finn and another of my favorite characters, Zeke, is tied to the last (and felt appropriate for Mary’s blog).  Zeke is an exile from the 1980s like Finn, and an ex-cop of the magical world who had to maintain a macho persona during his days on the force.  He also has a bit of a Mr. T fixation.

“So,” Zeke said.  “You’re going on a double date while someone’s trying to kill you?”

“Yes, I am,” I replied.  “Whoever’s out to get me, they’ve already taken twenty-five years of brotherhood away from me and Pete.  I’m not going to let them take any more.”

“Still seems like a pointless risk.”

“Helping my brother isn’t pointless.”

Zeke headed for the hallway to our left.  “Fine, little miss Emma, you go play matchmaker and I’ll keep trying to get us clear of this mess.”

“Wait, did you just make a Jane Austen reference?”

Zeke paused, then resumed walking .  “The only Austen I know is Steve Austin, the six million dollar man.”

“Uh huh.  Then what did you just say?”

“I don’t remember.”

I followed after him.  “I do.  My mother used to read Jane Austen, and I’m pretty sure –”

“I’m pretty sure you’d better drop it, fool!  If Steve Austin ever writes a book –”

“Wait, the character, or the actor?”

“—writes a book about his adventures kickin ass, and they make it into a movie starring Chuck Norris, then you go right ahead and bring up the name Austen again.”

LINKS:

Read the First Three Chapters

Goodreads

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Indiebound

Randy’s Website

Facebook

Twitter

BIO:

Randy Henderson is an author, milkshake connoisseur, Writers of the Future grand prize winner, relapsed sarcasm addict, and Clarion West  graduate.  http://www.randy-henderson.com

 

 

I’m 46 today! Have a novelette as a party favour.

I’ve got some guests in from out of town and will have dinner with them tonight. I’m making an apricot chocolate tart, and I would share it with you, if I could. Since I can’t allow me to offer a party favour. It’s a novelette called “A Fire in the Heavens.”

Now… if you are interested in process, this is a story that we brainstormed on Writing Excuses. We’ve put out an anthology last year, Shadows Beneath, that has an original story from each member of the cast plus the way we created it. So, brainstorming, outlines, early drafts and all of that. The idea was to show story creation from start to finish. I’ve got some of the supplemental materials on my site that you can take a look at, although, clearly, spoilers abound.

Or, you can just read the story.

A Fire in the Heavens
by Mary Robinette Kowal

A mutiny would not begin with a knock. At the simple rap upon her cabin door, Katin sent a prayer to the Five Sisters to grant her calm. Closing the Principium, she tucked the small book of scripture into the sash at her waist.

“Enter.” She swung her legs over the side of her hammock and set her bare feet on the smooth wood floor of her cabin. She had removed her leg wraps to sleep, letting the loose fabric of her leggings puddle on the bridges of her feet.

In the deep night, the light of the sailor’s glowdisc cast swaying shadows in the tiny space. Lesid ducked his head into the cabin. “Pardon, but the captain says we are in sight of land.”

“Praise the Sisters.” Months at sea, and even she had begun to think there was no other shore. She slipped the chain of her own glowdisc over her neck and flipped the cover back to expose the phosphorescent surface. Ashore, a disc would fade to darkness as its dust settled during the course of a night, but the constant motion of the ship agitated the powder trapped within and kept discs always glowing at least dimly. She shook hers to brighten it further. With its light, she took a moment to bind her scarf of office around her neck before following Lesid above decks. The heavy beaded ends swung about her waist as she walked.

Katin looked up for the cluster of stars that the Five Sisters inhabited in the heavens and murmured praise to them for guiding the search this far.

The captain glanced over his shoulder as she approached. Stylian’s tall form swayed easily with the rocking of the ship. “Well. You were right.”

His words made her feel more alone among the Markuth sailors than ever. She had no one of her faith aboard the ship to share her joy.

Stylian had mocked her goals, but how was that different from the mockery that the followers of the Five Sisters faced daily? He had taken the church’s commission . She was only grateful that he had been willing to sail on a course other captains had considered foolhardy, following the trail of ancient stories about a land far to the west. And the storm chased the Five Sisters from Selen, across the dark sea.

A glow lay on the horizon, marking the division of the ocean from the sky. In the darkness, she could just make out the rounded shadow of land. Katin closed her glowdisc so it would not interfere with her night vision. She frowned, slowly understanding what the light meant. She must be seeing a mountain with a city at its base. “I don’t know why I expected the land to be uninhabited.” Continue reading ›

February 5th – I’m declaring it Mary Elois Jackson Day. Celebrate with me?

Grandma in 1920I feel like, when a date has been celebrated for over a hundred years, that it really ought to be able to continue to be celebrated. Grandma would have been 110 today. This is the first year that I haven’t called her on her birthday since I was old enough to dial the phone on my own.

So! I’m declaring this Mary Elois Jackson Day.

Will you celebrate with me by writing a letter to, or calling the oldest person that you know and love? And then the youngest.

And since a festive holiday should have traditional foods, have some cornbread and/or teatime tassies.

My Favorite Bit: Genevieve J. Griffin talks about DANCE ‘TIL DAWN

My Favorite Bit iconGenevieve J. Griffin is joining us today with her novel Dance ‘Til Dawn. Here’s the publisher’s description.

Beneath the palace, deadly magic waits…

Rose is a seamstress for her kingdom’s twelve princesses, who all hold a bewildering secret: how have they been disappearing every night and dancing through each pair of shoes Rose makes? Overworked, overwhelmed, and fearful of what the princesses are hiding, Rose sets out with her sister Peony and the gardener’s son William to unravel this mystery themselves. Soon, however, they become so entangled in the palace’s dark enchantments that there might be no escape. The only chance Rose has is to begin crafting her own magic…and to step into the shoes of the cleverest princess of all.

What’s Genevieve’s favorite bit?

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GENEVIEVE J. GRIFFIN

Endings. Endings can be such a bugbear (and for its own part, bugbear remains a fabulous word). No matter how good your work is, no matter how compelling the story, the ending can stick with people in its own particular way, for better or worse—because if you miss that landing, your readers won’t forget it. Just ask anyone who still rants years later about TV Shows That Shall Not Be Named, as if those disputed endings were betrayals of everything that came before.

So, y’know. No pressure.

When I start writing, I usually try to have a story’s basic ending in mind already so I’ll have something to aim for. Still, things can change in the telling. With Dance ’Til Dawn, I had the benefit of an expected story arc, since any version of The Twelve Dancing Princesses is likely to involve a horde of mysterious girls, someone determined to discover what they’re up to, and a happy (one presumes) ending for whoever succeeds. But I knew I was going to bend the path, and so where this story would end was still an open question. Originally, Dance ’Til Dawn was headed somewhere truly dire, and shadows of that still remain. (Let’s be honest, “shadows” is probably an understatement.) But I realized as I wrote that I wanted a better resolution for the girls I’d gotten to know.

Rose, the protagonist, isn’t even a princess herself. She’s a seamstress, and the product of the logistical question that started all this: Who on earth is making all those dancing shoes? Surely it’s someone hard-working and loyal, but I also imagined her as intelligent and perceptive, as someone who wants to help her fellow seamstresses out of this bind, and as someone who’s able to take advantage of how overlooked she often is, as a young and supposedly unimportant servant. So then what of the youngest princess, the central figure in so many tellings of this story? She would undoubtedly be just as underestimated, and with just as much potential to shape the story. Indeed Alia became a lot like Rose, albeit with her own brand of strangeness, her own dangerous secrets.

The door unlatches. Opposite me is not a maid but Alia herself. I curtsy deeply and fight to steady myself on the rise.

“Your Highness,” I murmur, offering the shoes.

Slim white fingers grasp the periwinkle silk, and the door, on an ill-maintained tilt, creaks open enough to show her in full. She has dark blonde hair in a long, simple braid, and her pale eyes glint sharply. She has already prepared herself for the day, unlike the other girls, and is wearing a lovely embroidered gown—I think it’s Nina’s work—along with surprisingly practical shoes. She regards me across my own handiwork. Her steady poise is…unsettling.

These two dance around each other throughout the story as both of them work against the enchantments that bind the other girls. Then at a key point, Rose has to step into Alia’s shoes herself. In lieu of spoilers, I’ll simply say that the following scenes are…eventful. But the resolution is ultimately very personal, and depends on the way that Rose and Alia have come to mirror each other.

It’s also the easiest thing I’ve ever written.

I’ve seen a lot of writers push back against the popular notion of the muse and say that no, creative inspiration is not some ineffable strike of magic, your characters aren’t suddenly speaking up and telling the story to you, etc. I tend to agree. Whatever you write is the result of your own ideas, plans, and work. But something else is also true: your mind is extremely adept at making connections, and sometimes those can fire off in useful ways you didn’t see coming. The trick is to set yourself up for them. If you seed your story with enough interesting details and build your characters well enough, then you’ll have things to work with when you need them, and the pieces can start clicking together in ways that feel almost inevitable. As it turned out, a couple little things in that quote above—the very first meeting between Rose and Alia—gave me the last scene of the story. I didn’t even realize at the time what I’d set up, but once I got to the end, I just knew. Fitting things together felt enough like magic as to make no difference.

Even magic still needs work, of course, and much of Dance ’Til Dawn was edited, tweaked, and rewritten before I was done. Still, the spirit of the last scene never changed, and I think the closing line has remained as-is since the first draft. I’ll have to leave final judgement to my readers, but at least for me, it felt too right to meddle with it. And even if I can’t say exactly what happens without giving too much away, I hope you’ll understand when you get there why it’s my favorite bit in the story.

Because damn, it feels good to stick the landing.

LINKS:

Amazon

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Twitter

BIO:

Genevieve J. Griffin is a writer living in the woodsy outskirts of the Seattle area, in a home full of books, gadgets, and creepy dolls. Her novel STRONGER THAN BLOOD and dark fairy tale DANCE ‘TIL DAWN are now available at Amazon.

Video of me recording part of the audiobook for Of Noble Family

I’m in the studio this week to record Of Noble Family. I’ve been wanting to show you what the recording process is like, but that requires getting permission from the author. Since I wrote this book…

So, Dustin Anderson, my engineer/director, and I set up a Google On Air and recorded us doing the first chapter of the book, starting from getting the mic set with some commentary about what we’re doing and why. This recording is a little odd because it’s a multiple narrator book.

Usually my books are a single narrator, just me. Because a lot of this one is set in an Antigua, there’s a high number of African-Carribean characters. No matter how hard I worked on the dialect, it would sound like a caricature. Also, frankly, if I hadn’t written the books I would be entirely the wrong narrator.

My Favorite Bit: Harry Connolly talks about THE GREAT WAY

My Favorite Bit iconHarry Connolly is joining us today with his epic fantasy series The Great Way. Here’s the publisher’s description.

BOOK ONE OF THE GREAT WAY: The city of Peradain is the heart of an empire built with steel, spears,and a monopoly on magic… until, in a single day, it falls, overthrown by a swarm of supernatural creatures of incredible power and ferocity. Neither soldier nor spell caster can stand against them.

The empire’s armies are crushed, its people scattered, its king and queen killed. Freed for the first time in generations, city-states scramble to seize neighboring territories and capture imperial spell casters. But as the creatures spread across the land, these formerly conquered peoples discover they are not prepared to face the enemy that destroyed an empire.

Can the last Peradaini prince, pursued by the beasts that killed his parents, cross battle-torn lands to retrieve a spell that might—just might—turn the battle against this new enemy?

BOOK TWO OF THE GREAT WAY: Having lost the prince to the madness of The Blessing, Tejohn and Cazia are the only people who know of his plan to retrieve a secret spell that might, just might, turn the tide of battle against the grunts.

But Tejohn’s body is broken, and Cazia has been stripped of her magic. Worse, both are being held captive: Tejohn faces charges of treason in the lands where he was born. On the other side of the continent, Cazia is a prisoner of the Tilkilit queen, a creature with a desperate, deadly plan.

While they struggle for their freedom, The Blessing continues to spread across Kal-Maddum, their numbers growing more numerous as the human population shrinks. What had started as a race to restore an empire has quickly become a mission to save humanity from extinction.

BOOK THREE OF THE GREAT WAY: What was once the Peradaini Empire is now a wasted landscape of burned, empty cities and abandoned farmlands. The Blessing, now more numerous than ever, continues to spread across the continent, driving refugees to the dubious safety of the city walls. Unharvested crops mean that few strongholds have enough provisions to last the winter, although most know the grunts will take them before starvation will.

But hope survives. A piece of stolen magic just might halt the spread of The Blessing if Tejohn and Cazia can find a scholar with the skill to recreate the spell. If such a person still lives.

Unfortunately, they are nearly out of time. The few remaining human enclaves are isolated and under siege. Worse, The Blessing has spread to other sentient creatures. If Cazia and Tejohn are going to strike back at their monstrous enemy, they can not delay.

And there’s another, deeper question left unaddressed: where did The Blessing come from, and why have they invaded Kal-Maddum?

The Way Into Darkness is the final book in The Great Way, wrapping up the story begun in The Way Into Chaos and continued in The Way Into Magic.

Author Harry Connolly’s first book, CHILD OF FIRE, was listed to Publishers Weekly’s Best 100 Books of 2009.

What’s Harry’s favorite bit?

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Great Way Final Cover eBook 3 copy

HARRY CONNOLLY

I suspect this will surprise my regular readers, but in the whole 375,000 words of my new epic fantasy trilogy, my favorite bit is a single line of dialog.

Having written and released ten books, what I’m known for (to the extent that I’m known at all) is that my stories are like thrillers: desperate violence, twisty plots, a fast pace, and weird supernatural elements. I enjoy reading page-turners, and I try to write them, too.

But writing an exciting story isn’t enough. I need to poke at the format, too. I like to play with readers’ expectations, and not just in a “who will live/who will die” way. Making readers worry about the characters is easy. Making them rethink the characters is fun.

That’s why the first book of this trilogy starts with many the tropes of the genre: a bright and shining city, a festival, a school for magic, a good-hearted prince, and the worries of his royal family.

Then all of it gets wiped away.

That’s not a spoiler; I’ve been describing this book as “A sentient curse causes the collapse of an empire” for months now. The king and queen are killed, the prince flees for his life, and, in the aftermath, the characters mourn everything that’s been destroyed.

Because it’s not just the citizens of the largest city on the continent that has been lost, it’s also the learning, the culture, the arts, the writing, the traditions. The small group of characters who escape the city (people that I as the author have worked to make sympathetic) is mourning lost family, lost friends, a lost home.

But when the refugees reach the safety of a military outpost and, having arrived in the dead of night, they’re challenged at the point of a spear and told to identify themselves. Then this:

“Lar Italga,” the prince said as he stood, “prince of Peradain and heir to the Throne of Skulls.”

After seven chapters of fantasy tropes coded to indicate “good guys,” I had to drop in this one, which is most definitely not good guy terminology, because it’s the first moment when we see the other side. Yes, most of the characters are good people. They try to be kind to each other. When they’re in conflict, it’s because of misunderstanding or clashing value systems, not vanity, greed, or malice.

And yet, this likable prince is about to ascend to something called “the Throne of Skulls” and he doesn’t even blanch at the name. It doesn’t even occur to him that he should, because he’s heard the term his whole life and doesn’t think twice about it. And this bright and shining city that he loves so much is the center of an empire that has almost pushed its frontiers to the coasts… an empire that was built on the points of thousands of spears.

That’s why this is my favorite bit in this trilogy: in a story designed to be an exciting, page-turning adventure, this is the first substantial hint that there’s more going on underneath. This is the moment when the point of view characters fall out of their privileged place in society (which didn’t even feel privileged to them) and begin to see their society from other perspectives.

It also creates a framework for readers to view other characters. There’s more than one invasion in this trilogy, and more than one type of invasion.

Which I realize many readers won’t notice or care about amidst the monsters, chase scenes, fights, etc. And that’s fine. I’m sure some readers thought that line was misstep on my part, that the jarring effect it had was a mistake. That’s okay, too. But still, that one line of dialog is My Favorite Bit because, for me, it’s where things start to get interesting.

LINKS:

Website

Goodreads: Book One, Book Two, Book Three

Amazon: Book One, Book Two, Book Three

BIO:

Harry Connolly’s debut novel, Child Of Fire, was named to Publishers Weekly’s Best 100 Novels of 2009. For his epic fantasy series The Great Way, he turned to Kickstarter; currently, it’s the ninth-most-funded Fiction campaign ever. Book one of The Great Way, The Way Into Chaos was published in December, 2014. Book two, The Way Into Magic, was published in January, 2015. The third and final book, The Way Into Darkness, was released today. Harry lives in Seattle with his beloved wife, beloved son, and beloved library system. www.harryjconnolly.com