Archive for the ‘My Favorite Bit’ Category

My Favorite Bit: Felix Gilman talks about THE RISE OF RANSOM CITY

My Favorite Bit iconWhen I was living in New York, I lived around the corner from Felix Gilman. Really. Just around the corner. We met at one of the KGB readings and had that funny thing where you slowly realize that you are neighbors. I picked up a copy of his first book, Thunderer, and was blown away by it. It’s like he takes the New Weird movement but makes it accessible. I am fascinated by his imagination.

The new book, the Rise of Ransom City, fascinates me all over again because it sounds like it was written a hundred years ago. It does not sound like Felix, but the richness of the world and the vibrancy of the characters is still there.

So what’s his Favorite Bit?


I love the cover design. The cover design is the only thing about the book that I can love unreservedly, without any equivocation or second-guessing or sudden attacks of anxiety, because I had nothing to do with it. Nice work, guys.

The hardback is also satisfyingly heavy. Heavier than a lot of other hardbacks, if I do say so myself. Not too heavy to read on the bus, but with a good solid heft to it. Feels like you’ve got value for money, you know?

the Rise of Ransom City by Felix GilmanWhat else?

OK: I loved writing in Harry Ransom’s voice, and I will miss him now the book’s done. I don’t really buy it when writers talk about characters taking over books and charting their own course – my characters go where I tell them, damn it, or I will know the reason why – but this was definitely a book that was built around a particular voice. (In fact, the first draft was very different, and it had to be painstakingly cut down and re-centered around that character; anyway, old wounds).

Backstory: Harry Ransom is the book’s narrator. “Professor” Harry Ransom, he sometimes calls himself. The book is his rags-to-riches-to-rags-to-who-knows-what’s-next story. Harry is a sort of genius, probably. He grew up in a small mining town in the middle of nowhere; a childhood sickness and a miracle cure left him with an obsession with light and electricity. As a young man, he heads out to the western frontier to make his fortune, looking for investors in his wondrous Free-Energy Lightbringing Apparatus. Later he does get rich and famous in the big cities back east, though not in the way he expected. He gets caught up in the Great War between the horrible supernatural forces of the Gun and the Line, and some bad things happen and he becomes sort of notorious. The book that’s in the reader’s hands is (this is the conceit) composed from the letters he sends back as he heads out west again, this time for good, to found his utopian community of Ransom City – he’s setting the story straight, he’s settling some old scores, he’s recruiting followers. He’s trying to strike a balance between salesmanship and sincerity. He’s an enthusiast, a high-energy salesman, a bullshit artist who is also almost as brilliant as he thinks he is, a utopian dreamer. All of this is fun to write.

What’s also been fun is seeing readers’ responses. Obviously Harry is not entirely reliable. (Who is?) Obviously he’s not just making it all up, either. (Who would write a 368-page book that is entirely unreliable even on its own terms? Not someone who wants it published, that’s who). Different readers have had very different takes on Harry’s precise level of sincerity and fidelity to facts. That’s satisfying for me as a writer, and also allows me to stroke my chin and say how interesting that you think that as if I wrote the whole thing as an elaborate psychological experiment; which perhaps I did.

Can I do another? I loved writing legal stuff into the book. In real life, I’m a litigator. I don’t care for legal thrillers as such but I like fantastic, absurdist takes on the law, and have always meant to get around to writing a proper Legal Fantasy. In prior drafts I had courtroom scenes — legal battles over Harry’s dubious patents. Very little of that survived the flensing process. Really just Chapter 25, “The Injunction,” which is only about two pages long, and is about an injunction. Probably for the best, really.


the Rise of Ransom City  amazon | b&n | indiebound


Felix Gilman is the author of three novels: Thunderer, Gears Of The City, and The Half Made World, which was one of Amazon’s Top Ten SF/F novels of 2010, and was described by Ursula LeGuin as “gripping, imaginative [and] terrifically inventive.” His new book, the Rise Of Ransom City, came out November 2012. He lives in New York.

My Favorite Bit: Jaine Fenn talks about QUEEN OF NOWHERE

My Favorite Bit iconFor the first My Favorite Bit of 2013, we have Jaine Fenn who brings us Queen of Nowhere. Here’s what the publisher says about it.

When paranoia is a way of life, trust doesn’t come easily. The Sidhe look like us. They live amongst us. What they lack in numbers they make up with their fearsome mental abilities and the considerable physical resources at their disposal. And their biggest advantage? No one believes they exist. Almost no one. Bez, the best hacker in human-space, is fighting a secret war against them. Always one step ahead, never lingering in one place, she’s determined to bring them down. But she can’t expose the Hidden Empire alone and when the only ally she trusted fails her she must accept help from an unexpected quarter. Just one misstep, one incorrect assumption, and her Sidhe trap – her life’s work – could end in vicious disaster. Worse, if Bez fails then humanity may never have another chance to win free of the manipulative and deadly Sidhe …

And now, here’s Jaine’s Favorite Bit.


I’m not a trained scientist. More unusually for someone who writes SF, I’m not a gadget-fiend, so whilst I understand the urge to sacrifice all at the altar of Shiny! I can resist.

A clever bit of tech in a story pleases me, and in my own stuff I try for consistency and scientific accuracy (except for the bits that obey Clarke’s Third Law), but I’ll never come up with some of the harder SF concepts writers that Alastair Reynolds or Charles Stross manage.

So then, just what is my ‘thing’?

Queen of Nowhere coverIt’s the urge found in a lot of fiction, but which SF lets the writer indulge to the max: Megalomania.

In Queen of Nowhere I get to fully exercise my inner demi-god. The novel is the story of Bez, a genius hacker trying to bring down a galactic conspiracy that (almost) no one believes is real. That ‘almost’ is important, because she does encounter people who are in the know and who could be of help in her near-impossible task. Except, of course, they have their own agenda.

And here’s where the first authorial evil cackle can be heard, because obviously I know what her potential allies are really up to. Or even, in some cases, what they really are. Anyone who has read the earlier Hidden Empire books will know about certain characters, and I like the idea of readers who’ve followed those other story-lines being in on the secret too, though that’s not a necessity. But in one case, no one knows – although the clues are there if you look carefully. Bez herself only finds out the full truth at the very end, and though I’m obviously not going to let on what the deal is with her strangest ally, I will say this: it’s the sort of universe-changing secret you don’t get to play with outside the SF genre.

As well as messing the reality itself and having fun with the fates of my characters (bwa-ha-ha – sorry, that just slipped out), I also get to build whole new worlds. Several of them. Or rather, new cultures. I was a humanities student, and I love twisting the rules when creating new cultures, to see what comes out (hopefully without inadvertently thieving from or offending any existing human cultures – that can be a fine line to walk). I had a number of chances to come up with new worlds in Queen of Nowhere because although the book is Bez’s story, her plans affect the whole of human space. She visits several worlds in the course of the novel, and influences the fate of people on many others … and vice versa as, mistress of data though she is, she can’t know everything. And in this case, what she doesn’t know can definitely hurt her…


Queen of Nowhere: amazon

Jaine Fenn studied Linguistics and Astronomy at college before spending a decade and a half developing a healthy distrust of technology whilst working in computing. She lives in Hampshire, England with her husband and her books.

As well as numerous short stories she is the author of the Hidden Empire series which started in 2008 with Principles of Angels and is published by Gollancz. Queen of Nowhere is the fifth book in the series, but it’s not necessary to read all the preceding ones as there will not be a test.

She is nowhere near as smart as Bez.

My Favorite Bit: Anne Lyle talks about THE MERCHANT OF DREAMS

My Favorite Bit
Anne Lyle also writes historical fantasy, which is one of my happy places for fiction. Her first book was set in Elizabethan England, but the new one takes us to Venice.
What’s her Favorite Bit?
When I started planning the sequel to my Elizabethan fantasy novel “The Alchemist of Souls” way back in 2007, I knew I wanted to set it in Venice, which I had visited a few years earlier. Not only is it a beautiful and fascinating city, but it has also changed very little in the past few hundred years, making it a great setting for a historical novel. I ended up throwing out that first draft and rewriting the book (now titled “The Merchant of Dreams”) from scratch, but the setting and some of the key characters remained, TheMerchantOfDreams-224and I knew I wanted to go back there to research it properly.
First, though, I did some online research for my book, and whilst looking into the different kinds of boats used in Venice (they didn’t just have gondolas, you know!) I came across a website belonging to an ex-pat Brit who owns a renovated medieval palazzo in Venice and rents out rooms on occasion. I contacted him, and arranged to stay for a few nights with my husband. It was the perfect place for a writer’s research trip: tucked away in one of the less touristy areas, right on the canal-side with a little garden – and free wifi 🙂
Although it has been renovated, the palazzo still has some Renaissance features, like the huge stone pillars in the living room (formerly a storeroom/gondola dock, since regular flooding makes it inadvisable to live on the ground [first] floor of Venetian houses) or the ornate marble hood of the fireplace in the dining room. Note that when I say “palazzo”, this is what all Venetian houses tended to be called, to distinguish them from the multi-occupancy tenements where the lower classes lived. The other word for such a place is “ca'”, the Venetian dialect form of Italian “casa”. Most houses have names (e.g. Ca’ Dario, which appears later in the book), but I felt I couldn’t use the real name of this one (Ca’ Malcanton) because it bears an uncanny similarity to that of my protagonist, Mal Catlyn. (Cue “Twilight Zone” theme…)
Of course I had to put it into my book, so I made it the home of the English ambassador and thus my spy characters’ base of operations in the city. Queen Elizabeth I didn’t actually send an ambassador to Venice, but since I’m writing alternate history this gives me a bit of licence. Still, I made him relatively unimportant and unregarded – at this stage in history, England was not established as a world power – and hence this tiny palazzo in the suburbs fits his position nicely.
I had to make a fair bit up, since we weren’t allowed all over the house, but many of the details are entirely accurate. The uppermost floor consists of two main attic rooms, as described in the novel, and there really is a pomegranate tree in the garden. In my book it’s summer and the tree is in flower, but when we were there in October it was fruiting and we had the seeds in our breakfast fruit salad.
Finding these little nuggets of reality – the details of real peoples’ lives – amongst the dust of the past is one of the main reasons I love writing historical fantasy. Right now I’m working on the final instalment of the trilogy, set mainly here in England, which is giving me an excuse to visit all my favourite Tudor places, from the Tower of London to Hampton Court Palace. In fact I visit them so often, I bought the annual membership card!

The Merchant of Dreams (Night’s Masque)


Anne Lyle was born in what is popularly known as “Robin Hood Country”, and grew up fascinated by English history, folklore, and swashbuckling heroes. Unfortunately there was little demand in 1970s Nottinghamshire for diminutive swordswomen, so she studied sensible subjects like science and languages instead.

It appears, however, that although you can take the girl out of Sherwood Forest, you can’t take Sherwood Forest out of the girl. She now spends practically every spare hour writing – or at least planning – fantasy fiction about dashing swordsmen and scheming spies, set in imaginary pasts or invented worlds. Her Elizabethan fantasy series debuted earlier this year with “The Alchemist of Souls”, and the sequel “The Merchant of Dreams” is published on December 18th. She is currently working on the final volume in the trilogy, “The Prince of Lies”, due out November 2013.

My Favorite Bit: Howard Andrew Jones talks about THE BONES OF THE OLD ONES

My Favorite Bit icon

When I was first introduced to Howard A. Jones he mentioned this book he was working on, which he said was sort of like a cross between Arabian Nights and Sherlock Holmes. The first book, The Desert of Souls, totally lived up to that elevator pitch.  Rollicking! He’s back with the sequel, The Bones of the Old Ones,  and I think you’ll enjoy hearing about his Favorite Bit.


In my stories, Dabir ibn Khalil is sort of like an Arabian Sherlock Holmes – except that he’s not as infallible as the famous Englishman – so let’s say that his deadliest enemy, Lydia Doukas, is a little like Irene Adler, except with necromantic powers. And she, more than any particular scene, is my favorite part of The Bones of the Old Ones.

Bones of the Old Ones by Howard A. JonesHer relationship with Dabir has sort of an odd origin, one birthed not from historical fiction or fantasy, but space opera. When I was 9 and looking over the paperback book rack at the neighborhood Goodwill I chanced upon E.E. “Doc” Smith’s Skylark Duqesne. I didn’t know much about the history of science fiction or what was new/old/groundbreaking and, like I said, I was 9, so you’ll have to forgive me for thinking this back cover copy was one of the coolest things ever written:

Dick Seaton & Marc DuQuesne are the deadliest enemies in the Universe—their feud has blazed among the stars & changed the history of a thousand planets. But now a threat from outside the Galaxy drives them into a dangerous alliance as hordes of strange races drive to a collision with mankind! Seaton & DuQuesne fight & slave side by side to fend off the invasion—as Seaton keeps constant, perilous watch for DuQuesne’s inevitable double-cross!

I read and re-read that back cover copy as I tracked down the preceding volumes, anticipating the good times I was to have reading the whole series, culminating in that fantastic ending. By the time I finally read Skylark Duqesne, I had imagined something pretty different from the conclusion Smith delivered. I felt disappointed. I’d kind of enjoyed the book, sure, but it seemed sort of old fashioned, and… I got to wondering what would have happened if it had been done differently.

Decades later I was still thinking about the kind of character dynamics I’d wanted to see, and how I might incorporate an interaction like that into one of my own stories, even if that story was in ancient Mosul rather than deep space. By then I was better informed in genre matters, and just as I took a little from the relationship between Holmes and Adler, I took just a smidge from the whole Batman/Catwoman dynamic. Don’t laugh. Okay, well, laugh a little. Dabir doesn’t dress up in a costume to fight crime, but he is dedicated to justice, and like the Animated Series Batman, he’s pretty smart. Lydia isn’t remotely a sexy cat burglar, but she’s got that “I’m out for my own good” vibe coupled with that whole air of “I’ve had to be tough to make it on my own.” After all, she’s an incredibly gifted woman in a world dominated by men even more than it is today.

I knew anyone who could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Dabir had to be pretty smart, and to have his respect she’d have to be talented and driven. Lydia’s got all of that going on. She’s smarter than just about everyone else she meets, so she doesn’t know what to make of the brilliant Dabir, who’s one of the first people she’s ever met that might be her equal. Because the narrator, Asim, had to kill her father in the previous book, Lydia wouldn’t especially mind seeing Asim dead, and that naturally doesn’t sit well with his best friend Dabir.

Just as Seaton and DuQuesne had no choice but to ally, Lydia and Dabir have to join forces to stop the disaster Lydia herself had a hand in creating. Watching those two and Asim try to find a way to work together was some of the most fun I’d ever had writing. Each side watches the other for that fatal betrayal at the same time that they’re beginning to feel inklings of trust and even affection for one another. Each new piece of information revealed – sometimes against someone’s wishes — over the course of the novel created so many character sparks for me that great chunks of those conversations are almost identical to their first draft. I could hear the characters so clearly I got it “right” the first time. I wish it always felt like I was taking dictation while rough drafting.

I happen to be proud of a number of things I did in this novel, along with the creation of another important character or four. I like the added complexity I wove in, and I think I somehow managed to pull off the feat of having Dabir be far more brilliant than me (mostly because I give myself a few months to figure out dilemmas he unravels in a minute or two on the page). I’m pleased with the character arcs, and the background mythology and some scenes I don’t want to give away. But for all that, I think most of my favorite parts involve Lydia in some way or another. It’s funny how a beat-up old paperback from a different genre can inspire you. I wonder if The Bones of the Old Ones would even have been written if someone hadn’t turned over that old novel to Goodwill thirty some years back?


The Bones of the Old Ones:  amazon | B&N | indiebound

When not spending time with his family Howard can usually be found hunched over a laptop or notebook, mumbling about doom-haunted towers and flashing swords. His debut historical fantasy novel, The Desert of Souls (St.Martin’s/Thomas Dunne Books 2011) made Kirkus’ New and Notable list for 2011, and was on both Locus’s Recommended Reading List and the Barnes and Noble Best Fantasy Releases list of 2011. Its standalone sequel, The Bones of the Old Ones, released this week, has received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly. He is hard at work on a third historical fantasy novel as well as a sequel to his Pathfinder Tales novel, Plague of Shadows.

My Favorite Bit: Jeremy Zimmerman talks about KENSEI

Allow me to introduce you to Jeremy Zimmerman, who I first met when I was one of the pros at a writing workshop. At these things, you see a lot of stories that are… challenged.  But sometimes you get lucky and you get a writer like Jeremy, where you look at the story and think — “Hey! This guy can write. Thank god.”

He’s got a novella he’s going to tell you about.  The publisher’s description goes like this:

Cobalt City, Jewel of New England, has been the home of superheroes since the first people settled on the rocky shore. But as the old heroes move away, die, or retire, it falls to a new generation to step up and bear the burden—protecting Cobalt, and the world, from the nefarious plans of madmen and malicious Gods. Join a diverse band of new teen heroes as they pick up the mask, challenge destiny, and dare to become legends.

But let’s see what Jeremy says his Favorite Bit is…


Kensei is a superhero young adult novella set in the shared universe of Cobalt City. It’s being published with two other novellas under the title Cobalt City Rookies. Research for the character, who I originally envisioned as an opportunity to write someone very different from myself, involved the chance to reach out to other people, make new friends, and have deep conversations with old friends. A thirty-something straight white guy doesn’t try to write respectfully about a teenage lesbian biracial superhero without going outside his usual circles. But that isn’t my favorite bit. More than anything else, including flat track roller derby had a big impact on my life and the shared universe.

The titular character, Kensei, was born in a short story I had written for another project for Timid Pirate. When they first approached me to write Kensei into a longer work, I mulled around things I might want to include in the book that I’d wanted to write about. At that time, my wife and I had been fans of roller derby for a couple years and she had recently begun volunteering as an official for the Jet City Roller Girls and the Seattle Derby Brats. I had wanted to write something fantastical about roller derby, but hadn’t put anything to paper. While it didn’t work for my protagonist to play roller derby, I was soon able to find a way to use roller derby as both a plot element and a connection to other corners of the shared universe.

The first immediate challenge was understanding derby better. The idealized vision of the sport from the bleachers is not the same as the view from the ground. My wife banned me from roller skating after my first attempt ended in a fractured elbow and a trip to the emergency room (and physical therapy, and surgery, and more physical therapy…), so I volunteered in non-skating capacities. All told, the experience was positive. I’ve made many friends and gained a deeper appreciation and understanding of the sport.

Creating both adult and junior roller derby leagues that fit into the shared universe was the next hurdle I faced. My favorite derby league names often invoke some aspect of their city. Seattle’s Rat City Roller Girls invoke an old nickname for the Seattle-area neighborhood named White Center. Kitsap County’s Slaughter County Roller Vixens draws upon the original name for that county, named after Lt. William Alloway Slaughter.

But Cobalt City, being a fictional New England metropolis, had no origin for its name within the setting. Its history reached back to the American Revolution, where some of the stranger battles of the war had been fought. It was also a place that attracted more than its share of superheroes. But neither of these really provided any ideas. I consulted with the publisher, Wikipedia, and friends involved with roller derby. The first thing we came up with was that cobalt is used in glass and porcelain. Then we realized that the word “cobalt” comes from the German word “kobold,” which roughly translates to “goblin.” We decided on a disputed origin for the name, one which involves early Cobalt City’s glaziers and another that ties into pre-Cobalt City myths of goblins living in the area. The adult league became the Goblin Town Roller Girls, the junior league became the Glass-Eyed Dolls.

The part that takes this up another notch for me is the impact it had on the setting. After coming up with the disputed theories behind the name, Nathan Crowder included it in an episode of the audio drama, Cobalt City Adventures Unlimited. The previously unnamed river that runs through the city became the Puckwudgie River, a reference to the goblin-like creatures of Wampanoag folklore. And because of overlap with some elements of Kensei, another book written in the shared universe focused on one of the founders of the Goblin Town Roller Girls.

Making friends, getting a wicked scar from roller skating, and infecting a shared-world setting? I call that a win.


Cobalt City Rookies


Jeremy Zimmerman is a teller of tales who dislikes cute euphemisms for writing like “teller of tales.” His short fiction has most recently appeared in 10Flash Quarterly, Arcane and anthologies from Timid Pirate Publishing. Kensei is his first book to see the light of day. In his copious spare time, he publishes Mad Scientist Journal. He lives in Seattle with five cats and his lovely wife (and fellow author) Dawn Vogel. You can learn more about him at and more about Kensei and Cobalt City Rookies at


My Favorite Bit: Cassie Alexander talks about MOONSHIFTED

One of the things that I enjoy about Cassie Alexander is that she’s an actual nurse, so the medical stuff in her books is right. Her newest novel, Moonshifted, continues to follow Nurse Edie Spence as she tends to super-natural creatures. This time, her patient is the victim of a hit-and-run — oh, and he’s a werewolf.

So what’s her Favorite Bit?


It took a while for me to come up with my favorite bit from Moonshifted that wouldn’t be giving anything away – and then after I realized what it was, it seemed so self-evident. If you’re a writer, there’s always a few scenes you know you want to get to – one of the ones you write the entire rest of the book to get to write, and for me, that scene was the MRI scene near the end of the book.

MRIs are the magnetic resonance imaging machines that use electromagnets and radio waves to visualize internal parts of your body. Because of the way they’re constructed, using liquid helium to cool the superheated magnets, you can’t actually turn them off without “quenching” the magnets and releasing the helium off as a gas. They’re honest to goodness magnetic, all of the time – which sometimes people realize too late.

This was used as a side story on ER and also, I believe, in House. But it’s only fictionable for them (and me!) because people have had so many problems in real life.

Here’s an article about an off-duty cop getting his gun trapped in an MRI machine — the force of the magnetic field made the gun discharge.

And here’s a series of great images of things getting pulled into MRI machines – gurneys, wheelchairs, walkers, floor polishers, and most worrisomely, welding tanks.

And people desperately trying to get a chair out of an MRI machine (because quenching the magnet would cost them a ton):


Last but not least, my own MRI story – I’d been working a long shift when I had to take a patient down to MRI and I was down there with them sedating them (loooong story) for several hours, at the end of which my stomach hurt. For one horrible second, as I was leaning over the patient to reach their PICC line, all I could think was, “Jesus Christ, this thing had better not be sucking out my IUD!”…but then I realized I was just hungry. (What can I say, it’d been a really long shift.)

MRIs – they’re awesome, they’re a little scary, and the scene with the MRI in Moonshifted is definitely my favorite bit.

Thanks Mary! 😀


Moonshifted  amazon | B&N | indiebound

BIO:  Cassie Alexander is a registered nurse and the author ofMoonshifted, her second novel out from St. Martin’s Press.


My Favorite Bit: Nancy Kress talks about FLASHPOINT

Nancy Kress is one of those writers that I have to work hard not to squee all over. I have loved everything that she has written. She has a new book out, Flashpoint, which I am very excited about.

Nancy has also, consistently, given me some of the best writing advice both in terms of fiction and overall career sanity. One of the things that I love most about her as a writer and a person is that she never stops asking questions. Her work evokes strong feelings in part, I think, because of how deeply personal it is.

How so? You’ll see when you take a look at her Favorite Bit.


Recently a friend asked me, “Why do you write so often about strained relationships between sisters?”

“Do I?” I said, surprised. Then I thought about it. I do.

Beggars in Spain, my most commercially successful novel, features two sister, Leisha and Alice, at odds with each other. A host of my short stories, including the current “Mithridates, He Died Old” (Asimov’s, January), also have two warring sisters. And two sisters are at the heart of my new YA novel, Flash Point (Viking). But none of these works are actually about sisterly relations. Beggars is about genetic engineering; “Mithridates” about judgment; Flash Point about a future TV reality show for teens. And yet there the sisters are.

Do I have a sister? Yes. Do we ever have issues? Yes. Are we nonetheless good friends bound by unbreakable bonds of blood and loyalty? Yes.

But I also have two brothers, two sons, two parents, and a husband. And although I do write about those kinds of relationships as well, my friend’s comment made me realize that I don’t do so as often, or as intensely, as about a pair of sisters. Why?

The only honest answer: I have no idea. Unlike other writers I know, much of my creative process does not seem to be under my control. I write like a person running past a haunted house at night: get the first draft down as fast as possible and don’t look back. My unconscious does a lot of the composition, and apparently my unconscious is concerned about sisterhood.

The sisters in Flash Point, Amy and Kaylie, have a complicated relationship. In a near-future United States in economic crisis, sixteen-year-old Amy tries to earn money for her dying grandmother by taking a job as a contestant on a new TV reality show. The show invites viewers to predict how the seven teen-aged contestants will behave in various bizarre ‘scenarios.’ The contestants themselves don’t know in advance when these scenarios will occur or what they will be, and initially—and disastrously—Amy often guesses wrong. She finds allies among the other kids as well as enemies. Each scenario on the show becomes riskier than the last as the producers attempt to drive up ratings. Meanwhile, the United States moves toward riots and then revolution by unemployed and desperate citizens. The political situation is exploited by the show.

Amy’s sister Kaylie is a wild card in this mix. Given to shop-lifting, she gets herself on the show, where both her behavior and romances are unpredictable. She is jealous of Amy, yet needs her. Amy attempts to control both their participations in the increasingly desperate scenarios. This does not work well.

My sister, Kate Konigisor, is an actress in New York, a profession even more uncertain than writing.

She is incredibly talented. We see each other whenever we can, and stay in close touch. She is nothing like Kaylie, or Alice, or Beth in “Mithridates.” But in some convoluted way I don’t understand and probably never will, she has influenced what my unconscious throws my way to write about. Kate is my favorite bit, and I’m grateful.

Although not grateful enough to cut her in on the royalties.


Flashpoint:  amazon


Nancy Kress is the author of over thirty books of science fiction and fantasy, the most recent of which (released two weeks ago) is FLASH POINT.  Her work has won four Nebulas, two Hugos, a Sturgeon, and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award (for PROBABILITY SPACE).  She lives in Seattle with her husband, writer Jack Skillingstead, and Cosette, the world’s most spoiled toy poodle.


My Favorite Bit: Blake Charlton talks about opening sentences

Today’s piece is a little unusual, and fantastic. Blake Charlton talks about his favorite bit of fiction in general, the opening line, and in the process gives some darn fine advice. As you can probably guess, I’m sensitive to the subject of opening lines so this one really resonated for me. I think you’ll like it, too.

And now, let me get out of the way and let Blake talk about his Favorite Bit.


“The first sentence of a book is a handshake, perhaps an embrace,” the wonderful Jhumpa Lahiri recently noted. True, sometimes. But sometimes a first sentence is a sucker punch.

Personally, when cracking open a new book, I want it to take a swing at me.

“It’s a new elevator, freshly pressed to the rails, and it’s not built to fall this fast.” That’s my favorite first sentence. It comes from Colson Whitehead’s The Intuitionist, a brilliant speculative novel about race relations.

The supposedly great first sentences lauded in English classes or cocktail parties give me headaches. “Call me Ishmael.” Really? Why don’t I call you Herman, middle name Sleepy Opener, last name Melville. “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Thanks for the un-provable platitude, Tolstoy. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch…” It was, in fact, the epoch of wandering first lines, Chuck.

What I’m after is a jolt, a mixture of confusion and curiosity.  Why, exactly, did you just sock me in the jaw? Perhaps I want an abusive first sentence because of my disability. Being dyslexic, I didn’t learn to read until age 13. And even after I learned, many sentences still felt like they had just pushed me into the deep end…with concrete in my shoes. Maybe I’m odd to love what I used to fear. But I’m guessing you like some of these sentences too. Consider…

“The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.” Gibson’s Neruomancer says BLAMO!  “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” In 1984, Orwell opens with KAPOW! “They shoot the white girl first.” Toni Morrison goes SOCKO in Paradise.

A great first sentence doesn’t mean what follows is great. And, as I hope I demonstrated two paragraphs above, a soggy first sentence can still lead to a captivating read. But, all other things being equal, I’ll take the book with a dynamite first line. I don’t suppose my opening sentences come close to my favorites, but I work hard on them.  The first sentence is, in some ways, my favorite bit of each story. Here they are. I hope one of them hurts you, just a little.

From “Endosymbiont,”  in the Seeds of Change anthology from Wildside press (2008)

The rattlesnake swallowed its tail until it shrank into a tiny knot.


From Spellwright, Tor Books (2010)

The grammarian was choking to death on her own words.


From Spellbound, Tor Books (2011)

Francesca did not realize she had used an indefinite pronoun until it began to kill her patient.


From “The Lasting Doubts of Joaquin Lopez,” in the Unfettered anthology from Grim Oak Press (forthcoming)

The baby girl floated around the water pump as a small, radiant nimbus.


Finally, here’s a teaser from my work in progress: Spellbreaker, the third and last book in the Spellwright Trilogy. In this latest book, I’ve tried to step up my game and write an opening paragraph sucker punch. Here’s how the draft currently reads:

One way to test a spell that is supposed to predict the future is to try to kill the man selling it. If you can, it can’t. That, at least, is what Leandra was thinking when she decided to poison the smuggler’s black-rice liqueur.


Blake Charlton’s website

Novels: Spellwright,  Spellbound


Author of the acclaimed novels Spellwright and Spellbound, Blake Charlton is also a medical student and a dyslexic.

Currently, Blake is working on his last year of medical clerkships and Spellbreaker, the final novel in the Spellwright Trilogy.  The answer to whatever question you’re currently thinking about sleep deprivation is yes.

My Favorite Bit: Brenda Cooper talks about THE CREATIVE FIRE

I have been seriously looking forward to Brenda Cooper’s newest book, The Creative Fire, for a while now. Why? Well, Brenda is smart and she’s a darn fine writer. I’ve enjoyed everything of hers that I’ve read. Take a look at the catalog copy for her new book.

Nothing can match the power of a single voice…

Ruby Martin expects to spend her days repairing robots and avoiding the dangerous peacekeeping forces that roam the corridors of the generation ship The Creative Fire. Her best friend has been raped and killed, the ship is falling apart around her, and no one she knows has any real information about what’s happening to them. The social structure on board Creative Fire is rigidly divided, with Ruby and her friends on the bottom, but she dreams of freedom and equality.

Everything changes when a ship-wide accident reveals secrets she and her friends had only imagined. Now, she has to fight for her freedom and the freedom of everyone she loves. Her enemies are numerous, well armed, and much more knowledgeable than Ruby. Her weapons are a fabulous voice, a quick mind, a deep stubbornness, and a passion for freedom. And complicating it all—an unreliable A.I. and an enigmatic man she met – and kissed – exactly once—and one of them may hold the key to her success. If Ruby can’t transform from a rebellious teen to the leader of a revolution, she and all her friends will lose all say in their future, and nothing will ever change.

Pretty cool, eh? So what’s Brenda’s Favorite Bit?


It has actually been tough picking out a favorite bit; I loved working on this story and there were a lot of fun parts. I think the best was bringing Ruby to life.

I started out researching my historical character model, Eva Peron. I watched video documentaries and the popular film, read books (including one purportedly written by Evita), and did Internet research. What emerged was a complex character full of the contradictions that become the public record of any famous figure. So research only got me part of the way to character. It gave me her youth and her drive and her origins from among the poorest classes of a generation ship. It gave me her sexuality and her success. But the real Eva Peron remains murky, and my character didn’t feel complete yet after that work. I could see her through her people, but not from the inside.

From there I built a setting to would work for a future version of Eva. Ruby needed to be opposed by a strict and somewhat patriarchal enemy. I gave her the officers and peace-keepers of her people. I chose the ultimate closed world. I had her born on the working levels of a generation space ship so long gone from home that no one alive remembers a sky, and so closed off that the lowest levels of humans aren’t sure how big the ship actually is.

Along the way I had my doubts about whether someone so young could actually be as powerful as I needed her to be. And I really wanted Ruby to be real – to be more nuanced and less perfect than many heroines.

Purely by chance, I came across a New York Times article about a college student named Camilla Vallejo, who was leading student protests in Chile. In Camilla, I had a real-life role model for Ruby. I don’t speak Spanish, so I didn’t model her actual protest language, but I tried to capture a similar level of energy and passion. I also watched videos of Severn Cullis-Suzuki, who is a well-spoken young woman from Canada who addressed the UN brilliantly as a young girl and who still speaks out for the environment. That gave me Severn, Camilla, and Evita herself to borrow the “feeling” from to create Ruby. Ruby became none of them, all of them, and yet herself.

So I finished the book, and I had my heroine. Or at least, I thought so.

Then one day I stood in the rain across from the University Bookstore in Seattle, waiting in a line with Nancy Kress to see some Oscar nominated shorts. John Picacio called me.

Stop and contemplate this for a minute. I’ve been a fan of Nancy’s work for years. Now we’re movie buddies. Not just that night, but often. One of my favorite SF artists in on the phone. I know I’m an established writer, but I don’t FEEL that way. So the whole moment is surreal, like I stepped into someone else’s dream.

John wanted to know what Ruby looks like. I didn’t have the manuscript in front of me: I was in a cold rain on a busy street and could barely even hear John. John DOES have the manuscript in front of him, and he’s read it. He couldn’t tell what she looked like from my words. I knew she has red hair and she’s beautiful and looks more innocent than she is. I knew that in the opening scenes she is really pissed off. But I couldn’t tell John what her uniform looks like or how long her red hair is.

This is mortifying. I should know these things.

Over time, John and I worked through the myriad details, and he came up with the beautiful cover art that’s on the book today. From the first draft I saw, I knew John had captured the thing I had been working for – Ruby’s force of character. I had to keep the beautiful art secret, but as I did final revisions on the book, I put a window with the art in it next to the window with my work in it. Having her image helped make the work more powerful. I could be in the middle of a scene, and ask myself what Ruby would really do, and look at the art, and know. It almost felt as if she were talking to me – not in a crazy way, but in the way that all creative endeavors seem to tap parts of us that aren’t in the easy access level of our brains.

So, creating Ruby was my favorite part. She’s wild and strong, and a bit of a schemer. She’s both selfish and selfless, and has an innocent streak that borders on the naïve but is born of her age and the depth of her hopes. I created her to be extraordinary and imperfect, and I hope that you enjoy reading about her revolution aboard The Creative Fire.

As a side note, you can enjoy the artwork in John Picacio’s 2013 Calendar, which he is doing as a Kickstarter. See and click on Calendar for more information. I think at the moment Ruby will be July. And for more information about this series, or my other work, see or visit


The Creative Fire:  amazon | B&N | indiebound

Brenda Cooper writes science fiction and fantasy novels and short stories. Her most recent novel is THE CREATIVE FIRE, which came out in November, 2012 from Pyr. The sequel, THE DIAMOND DEEP, will be available in late 2013. Brenda is also a technology professional and a futurist.

See her website at

Brenda lives in the Pacific Northwest in a household with three people, three dogs, morethan three computers, and only one TV in it.

My Favorite Bit: L.A Kornetsky talks about COLLARED: A Gin & Tonic Investigation

When I’m not reading SF or Fantasy, I tend toward mysteries so I’m very happy to introduce you to a new mystery series. What’s it about?

They rely on animal instincts…
Meet “Gin” and “Tonic.” She’s a dog person. He’s a cat person. But when these two friendly rivals team up to solve a mystery, you can bet their pets aren’t the only ones getting collared…

Ginny Mallard and her shar-pei, Georgie, are about to run out of kibble and cash, unless she digs up another client for her private concierge business. So she heads to her neighborhood Seattle bar, Mary’s, to sniff out an opportunity. Or a gimlet or two. The bartender, Teddy Tonica, is usually good for a round of challenging banter, and Georgie is oddly fond of his bar cat, Mistress Penny.

Before she can say “bottoms up,” Ginny lands a job tracking down some important business papers that have gone missing—along with the customer’s uncle. If Ginny hopes to track him down, she’ll need more than her research skills: she’ll need a partner with people skills—like Tonica.

This is one dangerous case that’s about to go to the dogs—unless man, woman, cat, and canine can work together as one very unconventional crime-solving team.

I’ll let L.A. Kornetsky tell you about her Favorite Bit..


“Hey. You ever think about writing a mystery?”

When my editor at Pocket asked me that, I was slightly floored. I’ve been writing mystery-in-my-fantasy for a long time now, but actually writing a ‘straight’ mystery? That was… well, it was the kind of terrifying that sounded like a lot of fun, actually. The idea came together almost as though I’d been waiting for someone to ask me. Only this wasn’t just a mystery: it was a mystery with animals in it. And thus came Collared: A Gin & Tonic Mystery.

W.C. Fields warned, “never work with animals or children” for a reason. He might also have warned against writing them. Because, damn, it’s hard.

Or rather, it’s really easy to do it wrong.

The challenge for me in writing COLLARED was to make the animal characters full participants in the story – without losing any of their realistic aspects. There are mysteries out there where the animal is the detective, or is an actual partner in solving the crime. I didn’t want to go there. I didn’t want an animal that “talked” or was aware of what was happening, on a human level. Humans were humans, and companion animals were animals, and the meeting ground between the two had to be written carefully, to avoid the dreaded twee, or overly-cute, characterizations.

[Friends opined that I am constitutionally incapable of writing twee. I showed them the trunked work that disproves this. Apparently, twee burns your eye sockets out. Apply carefully]

So…how to do it? Humans, I knew. How to create four-legged characters who were both functional members of the plot, and believable as actual animals?

First: I read a lot of pet-training books, reading what the professionals had to say about canine and feline psychology. Then I read a lot of books with animal characters, trying to mark down what I didn’t want to do.

But my main source of research? I freely admit that I spent a lot of time studying both my own companions and animals of other households. Yes, with a notebook in hand, jotting down details, seeing the different ways they use body language and vocalizations, and how we as humans react to those cues, often without ever realizing it. I felt a little like Jane Goodall, if she were doing her research sprawled on the floor of various living rooms and kitchens…

And from that, I started to see who my animal characters would be, and how they matched with their human counterparts.

Ginny Mallard, my main character, was easy – Ginny is exactly the sort to fall helplessly in love, utterly against her will, with a puppy in need of rescue. And there came Georgie: sweet, eager, and far smarter than anyone gives her credit for.

Ginny’s partner, Teddy, was a harder sell; he wasn’t the sort to own a pet. But, I thought, a pet might well decide to own him.… Enter Penny-Drops, mistress of her own fate, and manipulator of others. Not only a cat, but a tabby-cat, and a stray-by-choice.

Writing them, especially in scenes when they discuss the evidence as they see it, was a constant balancing act between voice and instinct, behavior and plot-requirements. But the more I wrote, occasionally going back to stare at my ‘volunteer’ cats and dogs, the more Georgie and Penny took form, eager to help, but in their own way and manner and voice….


A shar-pei’s face fell into wrinkles naturally, but Georgie managed to add a few, scrunching her eyes up with worry even as she settled back onto the sidewalk. “Alone? She’s going alone?”

“Not alone. Teddy’s going with her.”

“Oh.” Georgie didn’t seem quite satisfied by that, and Penny twitched her whiskers. “They’ll be fine, Georgie. They go outside every day, and they’re fine.”

“But… you said the slick-smell man was bad. And something upset her. I don’t like any of this, Penny. And I’m supposed to protect her. We need to stop them.”

Penny reached up with her paw and pulled Georgie’s head down so that she could groom the dog’s ear, her rough tongue barely making an impression on the shar-pei’s plush coat. The action, as expected, calmed the dog down. “No, we don’t. Humans do what humans do. This is good, not bad. And we can help them, like you wanted. You just need to stop worrying. You can do that, right?”

George considered the question seriously. “No.”

Penny sighed. Dogs.


COLLARED: A Gin & Tonic Investigation — amazon | B&N | indiebound


L.A Kornetsky is a former editor-turned-writer who, under the name Laura Anne Gilman, writes SF/Fantasy and horror, including the Nebula-nominated Vineart War trilogy.  COLLARED is her first mystery novel. She lives in NYC with two cats and a time-share dog, none of whom could catch a mouse, much less a criminal.

Learn more at or follow her on Twitter: @LAGilman


My Favorite Bit: John Picacio talks about THE 2013 JOHN PICACIO CALENDAR

 It’s no secret that I think John Picacio is an amazing artist. I’m very pleased to have him on to talk about his newest project, which has an associated Kickstarter with it. If his art turns you on, which it will, make sure you swing by the Kickstarter to see the very cool backer rewards he’s offering. As a side note, the music for his Kickstarter video is by John Scalzi. Yeah… that level of cool.

And now… let’s see what his Favorite Bits are.


It’s tough to pick a favorite bit when you’re dealing with a calendar. I have at least twelve favorite bits I could share — an insider’s story for each featured artwork.

How ’bout instead I share three of them with you?

The 2013 John Picacio Calendar is is a ‘greatest hits’ collection of twelve of my favorite book cover artworks that I’ve created (except December, which is a magazine cover work), and it’s the debut offering from Lone Boy.

*FAST FORWARD 2 / January 2013*

This one was originally created for the anthology of the same name, edited by Hugo Award-winning editor Lou Anders.

Lou had a vision for a book of provocative stories about the near-futures we were creating, intentionally or not. He gave me a quote by Paul McCauley, and it fired me up. “(Science fiction) not only shows us what could happen if things carry on the way they are, but it pushes what’s going on to the extremes of absurdity. That’s not its job: that’s its nature. And what’s happened to science fiction lately, it isn’t natural. It’s pale and lank and kind of out of focus. It needs to straighten up and fly right. It needs to reconnect with the world’s weather, and get medieval on reality’s ass.”

I liked that. I loved the revolution burning in those words.

It was 2008, and I was tired of my country’s government pandering to ignorance, and fostering fear. I was disgusted by rising religious extremism, and attempts to demonize science — and namely, evolution. Conversely, I was amazed at how fast technology was launching us toward a very uncertain future, full of singularity-level breakthrough possibilities — which could be fully realized, if only we could temper our crack addiction to easy convenience at-the-expense-of-all-else.

At the same time, Dave Stevens, the creator of the Rocketeer, had just died at the way-too-young age of 52. Stevens was not a huge influence upon my art career, but his integrity toward his craft was something that made an indelible mark on me as a teenager. His death hit home in a surprisingly profound way.

All of these things merged with my love for FF2’s story lineup, such as Paolo Bacigalupi’s “The Gambler”.

And from all of these disparate parts — a cover identity formed.

People often try to boil cover art down to a purely commercial directive, and that’s the short road to mediocrity. I think the best stuff doesn’t just try to sell, but actually evokes the hopes and aspirations of the story inside. It’s the convergence of those two vectors. I think my best cover artworks happen when I’m in touch with not just the manuscript, but what’s happening in our world, and that gets reflected (however subtly) in the cover art. Those kind of covers seem more resonant, emblematic of a book’s soul, but also connecting an audience to a book in a more genuine way, rather than just an endless hard-sell of the latest visual cliches. I’m not going to sit here and say that I succeeded, but I will say that this cover’s unapologetic pursuit of that ambition is my favorite bit.


If you recognize this cover art, that’s because it’s the cover of Brenda Cooper’s latest novel — THE CREATIVE FIRE: BOOK ONE OF RUBY’S SONG, available now from Pyr.

It’s a futuristic story that evoked thoughts of METROPOLIS and EVITA, and I thought it was very much a coming-of-age story about a young girl in a revolutionary time. She’s a singer, and while that seemed like an obvious visual riff to play upon, I resisted playing it overtly.

This artwork has another title — “Girl With Microphone: You Say You Want A Revolution”. And that title reveals my favorite bit — this cover is definitely more than meets the eye. It’s my Birth-of-Venus response to politicians that think governments should control a woman’s right to her own body. It’s a poster for my two-year-old daughter that says strength doesn’t necessarily come from firepower. It’s my attempt to find a way to bring Rosie the Riveter into the 21st century, but this time, she’s not necessarily waiting around for her man to come home.

Happy Independence Day.

*AWAY FROM HERE / December 2013*

I’m proud of this one because it won the Chesley Award for Best Magazine Illustration in 2010, but that’s not my favorite bit. Originally created as a cover response to Lisa Goldstein’s “Away From Here”, it was the cover art for the September 2009 issue of ASIMOV’S SCIENCE FICTION. The story is about hotels, circus people, and wanderlust.

No spoilers here, but a quirk in the story inspired not only the subject, but also my favorite bit about the solution.

A little art history for you — Coles Phillips was a popular American illustrator of the 1910’s and 20’s. His work was all the rage in advertising. He’s famous for his “Fadeaway Lady” illustrations where he juxtaposed foreground and background elements of the same color, and thus elements of the figure would “fade away”. The results caused readers to look twice and complete the pictures with their imaginations.

It was fun to see how much I could subtract from an image and still have it “read.” And it’s something that I continue to pursue when opportunity invites.

I’ll share some more notes like this in a possible sketchbook that will be produced, if the Kickstarter campaign achieves its next funding goal.

Somebody tell the Mayans to give us back the 2012 that flew by so fast, and let’s see if we can all finish this year stronger than how we began it. Onward and upward in 2013, everyone.


The Kickstarter for the 2013 John Picacio Calendar


JOHN PICACIO is the 2012 Hugo Award winner in the Best Professional Artist category. He’s best known as one of the most prolific American cover artists for science fiction, fantasy, and horror of the last ten years, including the best-selling 2012 calendar for George R. R. Martin’s A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE (Random House/Bantam).

He recently launched Lone Boy, a media company that will house his forthcoming creator-owned art ventures. His accolades include the World Fantasy Award, the Locus Award, five Chesley Awards, and two International Horror Guild Awards, all in the Artist category.

My Favorite Bit: Lev AC Rosen talks about ALL MEN OF GENIUS

I’m going to let Lev AC Rosen talk about his book All Men of Genius, which is wonderful. But I want to tell you a little story about how he sent this post to me. I ask my guests to get the posts to me a week in advance. Lev wrote this on his iPad in the middle of Hurricane Sandy, after having to evacuate his apartment three days after getting married. That’s right. On his honeymoon, in the middle of the storm of the century, he met his deadline.
I blurbed All Men of Genius in part because his main character is exactly as fearless and determined as Lev is. Today is the paperback release day. I’m not normally this direct, but do me a favour and go buy a copy of All Men of Genius as a wedding/storm damage present for Lev and his delightful newly-wed husband.
Of course, All Men of  Genius being my first published novel, I have many favorite bits: getting published, many very nice reviews, getting to meet and befriend authors I adore, such as Mary Robinette Kowal, and discovering them to be as  delightful as I’d hoped.  But I’m supposed to talk about my favorite part of the book,  or at least to focus in on one favorite part, so  I’m going to go with a character.  Specifically the character who was cut out the most: Fiona.
I love Fiona. One thing I really wanted to do in All Men was make sure  it  wasn’t just  focused on a rich white lady.  Violet, being a woman in Victorian London,  has  problems, to be sure.  But she’s not the only one.  Ashton is queer, Miriam is middle-eastern and Jewish, and Fiona is poor. Not just not-super-rich, but genuinely struggling, just one step away from sleeping in the streets.  She’s prostituted herself, lost a child and as an actress, she knows her age is killing her career, and will take whatever jobs she can get, no matter how demeaning.
But she’s still clever and funny and ambitious.  And she’s the one Violet turns to when she needs to learn how to act “like a lady.” I love  that social strata reversal; rich girl who has been living as a man asks lower-class actress to teach her how to behave like the rich girl she is; it’s a fun and twisty inversion and it demonstrates how the constructs of gender and class are so performance based.  That was the argument I made to keep Fiona in at all. But I did have to give in to both my agent and editor and cut  one big scene for her (where she sets things on fire and yells at some robots) and cut down another  (where she  spelunks  down a chimney).  The scenes were actively distracting from the  main storyline, but I still miss them; they gave Fiona a chance to be outrageous and  fun in away I really enjoyed. But they may have been a little too over the top.  They may have taken Fiona from outrageous to caricature.
I think I should let you decide.  Both these scenes are  on my website, under deleted scenes. Specifically, scenes 1 and 4.  You need passwords to read  them, and I’m going to give  them to you, cause any friend of Mary’s  has got to be awesome. So the password for scene 1 is  chimney, and for scene 4, matches.
Like I said, I love Fiona, not just because of what she does in the  book, but for how fun she is, how she finds love so surprising, and how she is simultaniously artful and artless. She is surprised when sneaking down stairs with exaggerated motions like she uses to sneak on stage cause noise.  She mourns the baby she didn’t want and who died after only a few days, but she’s strong, too, fearlessly blackmailing the wealthy, seducing younger men, and in these cut scenes, adventuring down dark hallways.  In the grand finale scene of the book, she even takes control of a robot with a… well, I’ll let you read that bit.  It wasn’t cut.
But cutting the scenes I did was probably for the best.  What do you think?  After you’ve read  them, comment here – I’m curious to see your thoughts.
All Men of Genius: amazon | B&N | indiebound
Lev AC Rosen is the author of the critically acclaimed All Men of Genius, which was an Amazon Best of the month, on over a dozen best of the year lists, and has been nominated for multiple awards. Publisher’s Weekly says it “puts a steampunk spin on the Victorian comedy of manners while sneakily critiquing the gender biases of both genres.”  The Onion’s A.V. Club declares that it “slyly examines the psychology and the aesthetics behind the act of human invention,” and Locus Magazine says it “mixes genres with fearless panache.”

My Favorite Bit: Kameron Hurley talks about RAPTURE

Kameron Hurley joins us today to talk about Rapturebook three in her Bel Dame Apocrypha series.

After years in exile, Nyxnissa so Dasheem is back in action in service to the bel dames, a sisterhood of elite government assassins tasked with eliminating deserters and traitors. The end of a centuries-long holy war between her country, Nasheen, and neighboring Chenja has flooded the streets of Nasheen with unemployed – and unemployable – soldiers whose frustrations have brought the nation to the brink of civil war.

Not everyone likes this tenuous and unpredictable “peace,” however, and somebody has kidnapped a key politician whose death could trigger a bloody government takeover. With aliens in the sky and revolution on the ground, Nyx assembles a team of mad magicians, torturers,and mutant shape-shifters for an epic journey across a flesh-eating desert in search of a man she’s not actually supposed to kill.
Trouble is, killing is the only thing Nyx is good at. And she already left this man to die…


Folks often ask writers where ideas come from, because when we finally set them down in an iconic way, it looks like magic, like it came from nowhere, and we look like super-brilliant people who just tumble over Great Ideas all the time.

But when I took my former government assassin-turned-bounty-hunter, Nyx, out of exile in my new novel, RAPTURE, and gave her the unenviable task of retrieving a politician on the other side of a blood-sucking wasteland, it wasn’t something that just tipped out of my brain over brunch one morning. That flesh-eating desert and I have been friends for a long, long time.

I have loved this bit of bloody desert craziness for years… but had no clue what to do with it.

Twelve years ago, I wrote a short story about a rebel leader who sacrificed her people to a red desert. It made the rounds at all the major magazines, but just never worked for anybody. I couldn’t believe it, because, hey, rebel leaders and bloody deserts! But nobody liked it. So I trunked the story, and held onto the idea of this world-weary woman trekking across a blood-eating desert.

A few years later, I wrote about half a novel about a nomadic warrior named Nalah. She bled all over the desert to satisfy it, and aligned herself with some nefarious foreign men who sought to conquer the churning wasteland. Surely this was such a cool thing that everybody would love it, right?

But nobody wanted that novel, either.

So I took out the desert bit and hung onto it. For later. I was sure I had something here, and was just failing to employ it properly.

The bloody desert sat there on the backburner for a good long while. Right up until the end of my second book, INFIDEL, when I realized I could do some cool stuff with flesh-eating sand. Sand… sand… where would one find flesh-eating sand?

Why, in a flesh-eating desert, of course.

When I sat down and started writing RAPTURE, I realized I finally had the perfect story for that flesh-eating desert. And the perfect heroine to cross it.

Instead of simply setting the desert down as a single set piece, it was actually just one part of a much larger world and much bigger story, one I’d already created for the first two books. It just so happened that this idea was a seamless fit for the sort of story I was telling. Now the “cool” factor of the story didn’t *rely* on the desert. It was part of a greater whole. That was the key. The concept itself wasn’t strong enough to build a compelling story around. It had to be just one part of something greater than itself.

When my characters finally cross over the Wall that separates their country from the contaminated desert, I got to write – finally, after more than a decade – my favorite bit of bloody nastiness: a seething, hungry desert that lives on the blood of the people that inhabit it.

In this world, in this novel, it finally works. And it was bloody fun to write.


Rapture: amazon| B&N | indiebound


Kameron Hurley is an award-winning, Nebula nominated author. Her personal and professional exploits have taken her all around the world. Visit for details on upcoming projects, short fiction, and meditations on the writing life.

My Favorite Bit: Lee Moyer talks about LITERARY PINUPS 2013

When I met Lee Moyer, I was fairly new to the convention circuit and he was delightful and helped me meet people. He also showed me his portfolio which was staggering and made me drool just a little. At some point, he showed me his Literary Pinup calendar, which didn’t have a home at that time. I adored it. His new project is an updated calendar that subverts the old meme of pinups to make literature being smart look undeniably sexy.

It’s also a fundraiser for Worldbuilder’s.


In 2010, I was a Guest of Honor at Baycon with author Peter S. Beagle. By the end of that Memorial Day weekend, I had showed him my collection of recently completed literary pin-ups. I had been working on them for several years as a side project, but had been repeatedly informed that calendars were a dead market. Deader than the authors I was representing. I sent Peter home with one of those pin-ups and by the time you read this, I hope I will have presented him with another pin-up, one that is truly his. 
But it was a meal with author and charity founder Patrick Rothfuss (and his beautiful assistants) that proved to be the breakthrough. Last year, his brilliant charity Worldbuilders published my first Literary Pin-up Calendar: CHECK THESE OUT! The calendar made it’s debut at the 2011 World Fantasy Convention where it was espied by Neil Gaiman’s glamourous and alert assistant, Cat Mihos. (Take note: assistants are powerful and magical creatures.) The calendar made it’s way into the hands of Neil Gaiman, who was our first volunteer to be pinned up, and from him back to Peter S. Beagle, then on to Ray Bradbury, Patricia Briggs, Jim Butcher, Jacqueline Carey, Charlaine Harris, Robin Hobb, N.K. Jemisin, George R. R. Martin, and Sir Terry Pratchett.
I’ve been holding off on writing about my favorite bit because it is simply so hard to pick. Was it doing a pin-up for my hero, Ray Bradbury? Painting a character for Robin Hobb that there isn’t even fan-art of? Doing a proper garage calendar for Mercy Thompson? But for all that, and for all my dealings with splendid authors and their amazing assistants, my favorite thing surprises me a little. It’s the month of November. Not the pin-up of the beautiful Clare Grant caught infiltrating the Unseen University, but the page of dates below it. Dates. What’s wrong with me?
The line-up was so spectacular that alphabetical order was the only solution to pairing authors with months. This led to many happy coincidences in the designs of the date pages: Nora Jemisin got her pin-up of Oree on the month of her birth, Neil Gaiman ended up with a month that accommodates a 6 panel comic strip, and Sookie Stackhouse has that perfect quote for July – all to the good. But above all there is the accident of Sir Terry Pratchett ending up with the month of November…. well, Ember.
As every impatient child of the Discworld, waiting endlessly for the Hogfather knows, Ember comes before December and Ick. This not-quite penultimate month is like the other months on Discworld in that it features weeks of eight days in duration, Sunday through Octday.
On Pratchett’s spectacular and wildly-entertaining Discworld, science and magic are the same thing. Or maybe they’re different things. No, yes. Whatever they case, they’re two great tastes that taste great together. To solve the problem of Ember, I knew I needed a solution in the style of Pratchett, the wily old Arch-Chancellor himself. Having tried and discarded several unworkable approaches and having consultated with brighter practitioners, I hit upon the notion of detailing the month on the sides of a double-helix, allowing me to show the full week while hiding Octday as the spiral turns. And if a helix, why not show it draped around the Tower of Art itself? And drape it across the rooftops of the Unseen University? I tried it and it worked!
But what then for the dates? Since the days didn’t line up, I couldn’t expect a reader to guess whether the 21st was a Wednesday or Thursday. I’d have to fill each date with a designation of its day. Tricky. But what if I only used 2 letters for the day? Like a periodic table….
It took some 14 major revisions before it truly worked, but it all seems so simple and obvious in retrospect. And for all I hope it doesn’t drive anyone else to distraction, I was delighted by the challenge and the solution.
2013 Calendar: The Tinker’s Packs 
Heifer International:
Lee Moyer is a Chesley Award-winning Illustrator, Designer, and Art Director from Portland, Oregon whose curious penchant for bizarre Kickstarter projects has, of late, been much remarked upon (and indeed quoted in Forbes and elsewhere). His work has been featured in many annuals and compendia (Spectrum, Sci-Fi Art Now, et al.), magazines (Communication Arts, Design Graphics, et al.), and institutions (Society of Illustrators, and the Natural History Museum of the Smithsonian, where he was a docent for a decade). His work is found on many a book cover (Michael Swanwick, Caitlin R. Kiernan, et al.), DVD (Laurel & Hardy, HP Lovecraft -Fear of the Unknown, et al.), Poster (Call of Cthulhu, Stephen Sondheim, et al.), and Game: (13th AGE, The Doom That Came to Atlantic City,et al.). Examples of his work are at He has recently joined the throng of tweeters @LccMoyer.

My Favorite Bit: M. K. Hobson talks about THE WARLOCK’S CURSE

THE YEAR IS 1910. Eighteen-year-old Will Edwards has landed a prestigious apprenticeship at Detroit’s Tesla Industries, the most advanced scientific research center in the United States. It’s a plum prize for a young man who dreams of a career in the new science of Otherwhere Engineering.

But his father doesn’t want him to go. And he won’t tell him why.

Determined to get there by any means necessary, Will finds unexpected support along the way. His old friend Jenny Hansen—daughter of a San Francisco timber baron—is eager to help him for reasons of her own. And so is his estranged brother Ben, who he hasn’t seen in over ten years.

But running away turns out to be the easy part. On the first full moon after his eighteenth birthday, Will is stricken by a powerful magic—a devastating curse laid upon his ancestors by the malevolent sangrimancer Aebedel Cowdray. Will must find a way to control the magic that possesses him—or the vengeful warlock’s spirit will destroy everything and everyone he loves.


One of my pet fascinations is money. In my office I have a whole bookshelf of tomes on the history of currency and monetary theory, interspersed with several exceptionally ripe volumes of conspiracy literature on the Federal Reserve, fiat money, and Roosevelt’s gold grab of 1933. I was even an Economics major in college … that is, before I decided I could never be happy in a career that involved actual math and switched my major to that wretched refuge of scoundrels and slackers: Marketing.

But, despite having thus consigned myself to such an ignominious fate, I never lost my fascination with topics economical. And in The Warlock’s Curse I was able to put much of this fascination into the character of Jenny Hansen, a budding entrepreneur. Which leads me to my favorite bit in the b00k. Through Jenny, I was able to shoehorn in a disquisition on particular bit of wonkery that has always intrigued me—Gresham’s law. Here’s how Jenny explains it to Will Edwards, the book’s protagonist, when he hands her a silver dollar from 1876:

“Don’t you know what this is?”

Will shrugged. “It’s just an old silver dollar.” 

“No, it’s more than that. It’s more than just what a dollar can buy, or the silver in it, or the beautiful engraving of Liberty enthroned beneath thirteen stars. It’s a trade dollar.”


She tilted her head and looked at him. “Haven’t you ever heard of Gresham’s law, William?” It was a purely rhetorical question, for she continued on immediately: “It refers to the tendency for bad money to drive good money out of circulation. Gold and silver fluctuate in value depending on how much of them are on the market at any given time. In the 1870s, we had all those big silver strikes in Nevada, and silver flooded the market. That made silver into bad money … because there was more supply than there was demand. Because there was less gold and more silver, people spent silver and kept gold. Do you follow me?”

“Sure,” said Will, though he wasn’t entirely sure why they were taking the journey in the first place. 

“Now this coin,” Jenny continued, holding it up to the light, “was created by a man named John Jay Knox—a San Francisco banker. He knew that there was a great demand for silver coins in Asia, especially China. So Mr. Knox created these—purely for export, mind you. Trade dollars.”

“But they started to show up in circulation here in the States, because silver producers—who still had far too much silver on their hands—could have their silver minted into trade dollars. And they didn’t bother sending them overseas, they just dumped them into the market. Over time, as more and more silver was found, and the price of silver decreased, their value just kept going down. At one point, the value had fallen so far you couldn’t get even eighty-six cents for this dollar! And employers, wise to this opportunity for arbitrage, began buying them at a discount and using them to pay their workers—Gresham’s law at work!” 

After this, she fell into a silent contemplation of the coin, so entranced that Will finally had to snap his fingers in front of her face to get her attention. When her blue eyes rose to meet his, they were sharp and bright.

“So the point of your story,” he summarized, with a wry smile, “is that I should like this coin because it was created out of greed and became less and less valuable over time?” 

“No,” she said. “I’m saying that you should respect it because it is fascinating. Because it makes you think about everything money really is. Money is the ability to do things—but only if you believe in it. And more importantly, if other people believe in it. What makes a silver dollar with eighty-six cents of silver in it worth eighty-six cents … when a pennyworth of paper printed by the United States Treasury is worth an actual dollar? Why will one give you more power to do things than the other?”

“I have no idea,” Will said. “Hey, weren’t we going to go find a hotel or something? Or are we going to spend our wedding night talking about John Jay Knox and the price of silver in China?” 

There you have it! Not only did I get to explain Gresham’s law, I got to use the word “arbitrage.” Now, the only thing that stands between me and dying happy is writing scene explaining how the Bretton-Woods agreement of 1944 was an Illuminati conspiracy. But living that dream will just have to wait until my ongoing historical fantasy series finally gets to the 1940s, I guess.


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M.K. Hobson’s debut novel, The Native Star—the first book in her Veneficas Americana series—was nominated for a Nebula award in 2010. She lives in the first city in the United States incorporated west of the Rockies. Her favorite writers are Theodore Dreiser, Sinclair Lewis, Booth Tarkington, Gore Vidal, and William S. Burroughs. The Warlock’s Curse is her third novel. You can find out more at her website,