I’m particularly excited because I’ll be touring with Marie Brennan whose A Natural History of DragonsI’ve been raving about. Her new book, The Tropic of Serpents, is to die for. We’ll be travelling with period costumes, a tiny puppet show, and dragon fossils. You’ll come see us, right?
Thursday, May 1, 6:00 p.m.
Michael R. Underwood is joining us today with his novella Attack the Geek. For full disclosure, I narrated the audiobook and loved the heck out of it. Ree is smart, snarky and 100% geek. This is a fast-paced adventure, that’s witty and fun.
Here’s the publisher’s description.
A side quest novella in the bestselling Geekomancy urban fantasy series–when D&D style adventures go from the tabletop to real life, look out!
Ree Reyes, urban fantasy heroine of Geekomancy, is working her regular barista/drink-slinger shift at Grognard’s when it all goes wrong. Everything.
As with Geekomancy (pop culture magic!) and its sequel Celebromancy (celebrity magic!), Attack of the Geek is perfect for anyone who wants to visit a world “where all the books and shows and movies and games [that you] love are a source of power, not only in psychological terms, but in practical, villain-pounding ones” (Marie Brennan, award-winning author of A Natural History of Dragons).
What’s Michael’s favorite bit?
MICHAEL R. UNDERWOOD
After finishing Celebromancy, I wanted to change things up. I pitched a stand-alone novella in the Ree Reyes-verse, going off of the idea that we could do a ‘side-quest’ kind of story that would tide readers over until the next full book while I tried on a different world (The Younger Gods, coming at the end of 2014).
Since Attack the Geek was intended to be only 30-40K words (just under half the size of the other books in the series), and since I didn’t have to design as big a story, I wanted to push myself in other areas. I wanted to deliver an action-packed story that would be emotionally engaging through character relationships and to make some statements about fandom and community.
But the thing that ended up being my favorite was the fun of getting the band back together. Attack the Geek is still told from Ree’s POV, but it’s very much an ensemble piece. In addition to Ree and her constant companion-slash-occasional-love-interest , Drake Winters, Attack the Geek features Grognard (Ree’s boss), and Eastwood, her one-time mentor, as well as several regulars at Grognard’s bar (some we’ve met, like “Lieutenant” Wickham or Uncle Joe, as well as some new faces).
I went with an ensemble story because I wanted to focus on the role that Grognard and his bar played in the magical community of Pearson. And if you’re going to talk about community, you should probably actually have a community to talk about. Therefore, Attack the Geek isn’t just two or three heroes going off and having adventures, it’s really about a community of people coming together (imperfectly, and with plenty of disagreements) to fight off an external threat.
Once I decided to go with a larger cast, I thought about my favorite ensemble-driven shows and books – TV shows like Babylon 5, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Leverage, films like Marvel’s Avengers, and books like The Lies of Locke Lamora and The Dragonlance Chronicles, and tried to pull out the lessons learned from those works – characters should have their own abilities and personalities, and those should inform their priorities. I worked to make sure that each of the characters had at least slightly (and sometimes severely) different priorities and allegiances, so that even when they agreed on the big picture (let’s not get dead), that they’d constantly be in conflict about the best way to respond. A well-oiled unit or gaming party where everyone gets along perfectly is awesome to be a part of as a player, but probably isn’t as hilarious to see from the outside as a reader.
Once I’d set up the members of the ensemble to contrast and conflict with one another, the story started moving like it was on rocket fuel. The action structure I’d chosen was enhanced and driven by the character relationships. Each scene that relaxed the tension of the physical fights could ramp up the tension of the interpersonal conflicts, so that each thread of the story built on the other while varying the story so it wasn’t just all fighting or all people yelling at one another.
It’s hard to manage an ensemble cast (you have to keep talking about all of the characters in order to really make it sing, and that’s hard to justify when writing in a tight third-person POV like I do with the Ree Reyes series, but the rewards are really impressive. Writing the ensemble was My Favorite Bit of Attack the Geek, and I hope you’ll enjoy the results.
Michael R. Underwood is the author of Geekomancy, Celebromancy, Attack the Geek, as well as the forthcoming Shield and Crocus and The Younger Gods. By day, he’s the North American Sales & Marketing Manager for Angry Robot Books. Mike grew up devouring stories in all forms, from comics to video games, tabletop RPGs, movies, and books. Always books.
Mike lives in Baltimore with his fiance, an ever-growing library, and a super-team of dinosaur figurines & stuffed animals. In his rapidly-vanishing free time, he studies historical martial arts and makes pizzas from scratch.
Of course, we may want to just sit on our hands for a few minutes and think before we poke…
Enough thinking. Let’s talk about talking about things. As 21st-century writers, we often spend time writing the things we think on assorted topics. We might blog these things, tweet them, or post comments to other people’s blogs. And before we do those things, we should consider the consequences, and not just the possible fallout from what we’re saying — all the consequences.
This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t express our opinions, of course. This is just a reminder that choosing to express is also choosing a bunch of other stuff.
And on the outside chance you find yourself needing to apologize for something you’ve said, well, here’s a link to Scalzi’s Whatever regarding Apologies.
I’m going to try a newsletter thingie because people keep being surprised when I’m on book tour. They miss the posts, or the tweets, or the social media what have you and are then sad that they didn’t get to come visit and I’m sad too.
So– I thought I’d try a mailing list/newsletter/digest/occasional short story/thing. Basically, it comes in two flavors — Event notifications and Newsletter.
The Event notifications is totally sporadic and will be confined to things like, “Hey! Me! Near you!”
The Newsletter will be a digest that drops in your inbox on Thursdays, so you don’t have to remember to swing by. It will also contain event notifications as part of the digest but not individual “I’m coming to town!” notices.
Both will get occasional, and totally random, short stories. Some of these will be rough drafts, some will be already published, and occasionally, very, very occasionally, I’ll slip in a Jane and Vincent story just for you. The two lists will get different content and you can sign up for both or just one. In theory. The theories around how this works are glorious.
Glorious is so much better than sad. Yes?
You’ll get a confirmation email and just have to click on the link. It’s supposed to go automatically, so if you don’t see it, check spam. This is so people can’t sign up other people and force them to read my fiction against their will.
Emily Jiang is joining us today with her picture book Summoning the Phoenix. Here’s the publisher’s description.
Every musician knows that learning to play an instrument has its challenges and its rewards. There’s the embarrassing first day of rehearsal, but also the joy of making friends in the orchestra. There’s dealing with slippery concert dress, or simply getting swept up in the music. The twelve children in this book are just like any other musicians practicing their instruments and preparing for a concert. But what sets these music lovers apart is that they all play traditional Chinese musical instruments in a Chinese orchestra. Including both flights of fancy and practical considerations, lively poems capture each child’s musical experience with a different Chinese instrument, while sidebars provide more information about each one. Vivid illustrations depicting each fascinating instrument bring you along on this musical journey. And then you are invited to the grand finale!
What’s Emily’s favorite bit?
One of the great joys of being a picture book author is seeing the artwork inspired by my words. I’m so grateful that the amazing April Chu agreed to illustrate my first picture book Summoning the Phoenix: Poems & Prose about Chinese Musical Instruments. April is an artist and professional architect, and I admire her whimsical aesthetic, her attention to detail, and her ability to realistically illustrate pretty much anything, including the mythical phoenix.
With April’s permission, I’d like to share her gorgeous artwork that inspired the title of my book Summoning the Phoenix. But first, let me share the companion poem “Magical Melody” in its original format.
This poem is a simple list poem, which is great for children. I specifically chose to format the poem with careful indentations and line breaks to evoke the shape of a bird’s wing on the page. When I wrote “Magical Melody,” I kept in mind the Chinese myth about a man who could play a xiao, a long bamboo flute, so beautifully that he could control clouds and summon phoenixes. Yet at the same time, I was aware I was writing a poem spoken by a contemporary American child.
While writing this poem, this is what I envisioned. A little girl, maybe about five of six years old, is sitting on her bed, alone in her room. She’s playing the xiao, and one by one, a different bird flies through her open window to land right in front of her bed. The phoenix is the last to arrive, and it’s perched on the open window sill, its fiery wings tucked under as it listens to the magical melody.
As a picture book author, I knew not to explain this image in my head to the illustrator because I wanted the illustrator to bring her own personality and imagination to the book. Explanations to the illustrator might work for comic book scripts, but not for picture book manuscripts. When I saw April’s artwork, I was absolutely blown away.
What April drew was a thousand times more amazing than my original vision because:
Instead of a little girl, it’s an older boy
up in the sky (instead of a bedroom)
standing in a basket under a hot air balloon (instead of a sitting on bed)
surrounded by all the birds in flight (instead of sitting on the floor).
I remember staring at amazement at this boldly serene boy playing the xiao in a hot air balloon decorated with a Chinese dragon. The Wizard of Oz has nothing on this kid. Soon after I received the artwork for my book, I showed this illustration to a professional ornithologist and he accurately identified each and every bird, even the phoenix.
One of my favorite bits of this favorite image is how April brought in the dragon on the right to balance the phoenix on the left. In traditional Chinese culture, the dragon is a symbol of good luck, not a dastardly monster who kidnaps maidens and kills knights. In China, the dragon and the phoenix are often depicted together, a fact I learned when I was thirteen and touring the Forbidden Palace in Beijing. I remember wondering at so the dragons and phoenixes carved next to the stone steps. The tour guide explained that the dragon is a symbol for the Chinese emperor and the phoenix is a symbol for the Chinese empress. So by pairing these two mystical creatures the the illustration above, April evokes that ancient Chinese tradition.
But her clever incorporation of Asian culture doesn’t stop there. If you look at the clouds in the artwork, you might notice that most of them are a pale blue that blends into the sky background. The exception are the clouds underneath the phoenix. Those clouds are drawn in an Asian style and colored a brighter yellow-orange, as if they are the smoke that results from the fire of the phoenix. Note that these Asian-inspired clouds also appear in the balloon right next to the dragon’s head.
I could go in more detail about April’s artistic brilliance, how she reserved the large splashes of color for the mystical Chinese animals and designed the artwork to draw the eye from the phoenix to the kid to the dragon, how she cleverly overlapped the birds so that their focus is the empty space in the middle, how the empty space represents the true artist’s soul via negative capability ala Keats, but how really that concept has existed in Chinese culture thousands of years before. Ultimately, I’m thrilled that the artwork is stunningly gorgeous and true to the poem.
As an author, my only concern was how was my poem going to fit in that amazing artwork? My editor and book designer discovered a way to fit my words in that small central circle, underneath the owl. While my poem no longer looks like a bird’s wing, it still preserves the spirit of my poem. But don’t let me be the only judge. What do you think?
Emily Jiang is the author of Summoning the Phoenix: Poems & Prose about Chinese Musical Instruments, illustrated by April Chu and published by Shen’s Books, an imprint of Lee & Low Books. Emily holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Saint Mary’s College of California and a BA in English from Rice University. She is also a graduate of the Clarion Writers’ Workshop, the Chautauqua Writers’ Conference, the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference, and the VONA/Voices of Our Nation Workshop. Her fiction has won several awards, including Top Prose Prize in The Binnacle’s Ultra Short Competition the Sue Alexander Award for Most Promising New Manuscript from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Her writing has been published in Apex Magazine, Stone Telling, Strange Horizons, Goblin Fruit, Interfictions, and The Moment of Change anthology of feminist speculative poetry. She wrestles with words everyday. Sometimes she wins. Other times, it’s a draw.
“What are the parts of the job that nobody told you about?”
Or, you know, WARNED you about…
It’s a question somebody sent to us, and we all had different answers, so Brandon put together a list, and we made a whole episode out of it! We talk about reviews, physical pain, dietary excitement, deadline-driven interruptions, and not having leisure reading time.
But this isn’t just us whining. We also talk about our solutions to these problems. You know, in between the whining.
Those of you following me on Instagram or Twitter have seen me posting process shots of the dress I’ve been working on for the past couple of weeks. This will be on the cover for Of Noble Family, which is the fifth book in The Glamourist Histories. What? The 5th book? How is that possible. Book four, Valour and Vanity, doesn’t hit the stores until the end of the month.
And yet, Larry Rostant is photographing the cover for book 5 in London this week. It gives you an idea of how far ahead these things happen since Of Noble Family won’t be out until 2015, but… I thought you’d like to see what I was making.
It began life as a wedding sari. I based the design on a dress from 1818, when the book is set.
The white dress on the right was the source of my inspiration.
This dress will appear on the cover for Of Noble Family, but worn by a model.
The original wedding sari
I removed beads from excess cloth to reuse them.
The placket across the bosom was intended to be a sleeve cap for the sari. I repurposed it and added the beading over the shoulder to tie the pieces together
It ties in the back with silver tassles, inspired by the original dress
The sleeves are stiffened with scraps from my wedding veil.
So how did I wind up making this dress?
I asked if I could. My editor and Tor’s art director have both seen me, in person, in my Regency gowns so knew I was a little obsessed devoted to authenticity. Irene pitched the idea to Larry Rostant and he agreed so– I got to make a pretty, pretty dress. Now, the model is smaller than I am, so the back of the dress is unfinished. It has to be pinned shut. One of the things I love about Larry’s covers is that he has the models face the camera. None of this backside nonsense. Oh– and look! They all have heads!
He also, and I adore him for this, gets dresses that are close to what I actually describe in the books. So we figured, why not have me make the dress I describe.
Edited to add: Some folks have asked over on FB if I will be wearing the dress on the cover. No. The character who wears the dress in the book is a woman of colour and they have a wonderful model to represent her on the cover. But for that… you’ll have to wait.
Danielle Paige is joining us today with her novel Dorothy Must Die. Here’s the publisher’s description.
I didn’t ask for any of this. I didn’t ask to be some kind of hero.
But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado—taking you with it—you have no choice but to go along, you know?
Sure, I’ve read the books. I’ve seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little blue birds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can’t be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There’s still the yellow brick road, though—but even that’s crumbling.
Dorothy. They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.
My name is Amy Gumm—and I’m the other girl from Kansas.
I’ve been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked.
I’ve been trained to fight.
And I have a mission:
Remove the Tin Woodman’s heart.
Steal the Scarecrow’s brain.
Take the Lion’s courage.
Then and only then—Dorothy must die!
What’s Danielle’s favorite bit?
Dorothy Must Die is the story of Amy Gumm, an outcast in her hometown of Mission, Kansas who wants more than anything to beanywhere but there. She gets her wish, where her trailer is picked up by a tornado and she is dropped in Oz. But Oz is nothing like the one in the books or the movie, it’s darker and twist-ier. Gone is the Technicolor, instead there is crumbly faded, Yellow Brick Road! And Dorothy is no longer Kansas sweet. She’s kind of super-evil and ruling Oz with an Iron fist and those magical shoes of hers.
Her friends have changed, too, but they are still just as loyal to her. The very things that they once travelled a Yellow Road to get are now the things that corrupt them. The Scarecrowuses his brain to conduct inhumane experiments on the winged monkeys, the Tin Woodmanis a trained killer whose “heart” justifies his every action, and the Lion’s “courage” has jumped the shark –he’s terrorizing Oz, hyped up on the fear of others like a drug.
Upon arriving, Amy is immediately inducted into The Revolutionary?Order of the Wicked, a group of not-so-wicked witches that are?determined to rid their land of Dorothy.
There are a lot of bits that I love in my book, Dorothy Must Die. But my favorite bit is when Amy meets Indigo, a Goth munchkin on the crumbly Yellow Brick road. She has tattoos that move and tell the story of Oz. Indigo’s sassy and foul mouthed and a heck of a lot of fun.
Indigo’s tattoed body tells the story of Oz. But since she’s not going to strip down for Amy, she uses her words. When Amy asks what happened to Oz, Indigo gets to say, “Dorothy happened.”
There are other moments that define character and build the world, that expire themes and challenge who Amy is and who she will become. But I picked this one because itis the moment that Oz becomes real for Amy. And it’s the moment that Oz became real for me.
When I first story any project, the beginning is about plotting and world building and characters sketching. And the first few days of writing mean getting down the bones, but there’s always that moment where the work comes to life.
ReimagingOz was a little daunting for me. The Wizard of Oz series of books were some of the first I loved. And the movie cast a spell that literally made me stop whatever I was doing and watch it every time it came on.
So as a fan, The Yellow Brick Road was a bit of sacred ground for me. And as a writer, I had written more realistic fare (daytime television, a TV pilot.) So taking on magic and witches was new for me, too. But when I could see indigo in all her tattooed glory the world clicked into place for me. I wanted to know what she was going to do next; I wanted to hear what she had to say. And what happens to her and Amy in the first few chapters sets up what Amy will face throughout the series.
From her presence to the winking witch on her skin, Indigo is Amy’s first guide into my Oz. Dorothy is evil, the world of Ozis upside down. Welcome to Oz.
Danielle Paige is a graduate of Columbia University. Before turning to young adult literature, she worked in the television industry where she received a Writers Guild of America award and was nominated for several Daytime Emmys. She currently lives in New York City.
I did beat Patrick Rothfuss at being Patrick Rothfuss, although I did not take his account over later.
I wrote a short story trying to match the style of Scalzi, for kicks, which I presented as the first chapter of Young Man’s War: First Contact.
I recorded Writing Excuses last week.
I really was offline for the last month.
Sometimes, I just need to step away from the internet to get some work done, or just to clear my head. This time was a little odd because, for family related reasons, I had to spend a couple of days in the middle of the month online. It was… disorienting and made it hard to break the internet habit again. One of the things that I find when I do this is that I spend the first week feeling lost and not remembering how to get in touch with people by non-internet methods. Paper letters are great, but not for timely matters. These days, if you call someone without an appointment, they seem likely think it’s an emergency.
Anyway– The point being that I’m wondering what I missed. No… Wait. That’s not quite right. What I’m wondering is what’s the thing that happened in March that you think I’ll be sorry not to know about?
We talk about characters a lot, which is fitting since character are what make things go in most of our favorite books. Brandon introduces a new model for examining characters in which three primary attributes – Competence, Proactivity, and Sympathy – are contrasted. We treat each one as if controlled by a fader or slider, like on a mixing console, and we look at what the relative positions of those sliders do to a character.
It’s only a model, obviously, and it’s not how we go about starting a character, but it has proven useful in troubleshooting characters who aren’t accomplishing the story purposes we want them to accomplish.
It happened like this. John Scalzi, Pat Rothfuss and I were sitting around in the bar at a con, and Scalzi was kvetching about how he couldn’t get his twitter account verified. Like, seriously, the man has nearly 60,000 followers and Twitter won’t verify him.
Pat cleared his throat and looked a little sheepish (which is totally adorable, by the way) and made a very thorough study of his drink. “Actually…. Funny thing about that. See, after the game was over I still couldn’t get my account verified so I let Mary take it over again and…. well.”
So I bet Scalzi that I could get his Twitter account verified. As you do.
I am sorry to report that I could not. I suspect someone at Twitter hates him. But none of you noticed, even when I got blatant. So, you know, it only seemed natural for me to take over his Facebook account. Just to see. For science.
Want some irony? Here. I wrote about the “epic literary feud with Brandon Sanderson” while actually sitting in Brandon Sanderson’s basement, because I was out there to record Writing Excuses. I laughed and laughed and laughed.
Now, I’ll grant that biggest thing that I had going for me was that, unlike the Rothfuss game, no one was looking for an impostor here. I just had to be plausible. Part of the key, honestly — sorry, in Scalzian, that’s “I’m not gonna lie”– but part of the key, I’m not gonna lie, is to OCCASIONALLY use all caps for EMPHASIS just because John tends to rant a WEE SMALL TINY LITTLE BIT WITH A SIDE OF HYPERBOLE more than I do.
Also, Scalzi was feeding me Ghlaghghee photos. By the way, spelling his cat’s name right consistently? The hardest part.
But then… just to see how thoroughly I could pull off writing like him, I wrote a sample chapter of a novel, which made him laugh. The differences in our styles are really interesting. He uses dialog tags all the time and I almost never use them. I actually had to go back and add them in.
Anyway, Scalzi was sooooooo sure that his editor would know that he emailed Patrick my sample with just, “What do you think?”
Again, with the smug.
Although, to be fair, I don’t think I can take much credit for that one, because it was coming from John’s official email address. This was, by the way, a serious miscalculation. John and I both forgot that Patrick and Teresa were on vacation in Italy until the 9th. So Patrick got the sample chapter but it was a day or so before he got the “No, really. Not a John Scalzi novel” email.
He thinks it’s funny now. But, this is toooootally not a stunt I recommend trying with just any editor.
Ahem. So! I’m sorry to report that there will be no Young Man’s War: First Contact.
But you can read the opening chapter the Scalzi novel that never was.
I hung my EVA suit up in my locker, checking over it to make sure there were no new signs of fraying. The far end of the locker room had a group of newbie passengers crowded around Brokedown Sal.
“Reliable,” Sal said and nodded his head ominously. “That’s what we all thought of Starky. When the dude missed last night’s roll call, there was more than panic, there was fear. You see…”
“Oh, what utter bullshit,” I said and slammed my locker door a little harder than strictly necessary. I had to hold a handstrap so the momentum wouldn’t push me across the room. The clang echoed through the room. “You aren’t going to start the newbs out on the station with a goddamn ghost story are you?”
One of the newbs had drifted free of his footholds and was pawing at the suit of a friend, trying to pull himself back down to the floor. The station wasn’t zero g, but it was close enough this far into the hub that it would take him a long ass time to fall back down.
Sal folded his arms the way he always did when he got stubborn. He said, “Dude. Not a ghost story, Chet.”
“Dude. Starky is in his bunk nursing a hangover,” I said, pushing off and aimed my long leaps for the door. “Teach your passengers how to hold on instead of trying to scare them.”
I should not let Brokedown Sal get on my nerves. I know I shouldn’t. The man couldn’t help being a chronic liar and it didn’t interfere with his skills as a shuttle pilot, but still, it made me crazy. Especially when rotation put Sal in charge of giving newbs the tour. I hop-floated through the corridor until I got to the down tube. Snagging a rung, I started climbing down to the next level. I wanted some real gravity and a drink.
Crammed into a single room on level 4, the Sheltered Fish had tried to create the ambiance of a down-planet bar through a clever use of paint. If you didn’t look too closely, the plasteel counter gave the impression of a fine oak grain and the ducting overhead could pass for brass. They’d painted the airlock dog wheels to look like giant gears so the whole thing almost, almost looked like it was an early twenty-first century bar.
I sidled up to the bar and ordered a wetpack of brandy. They couldn’t do anything to disguise the serving containers. Even in the gravity portions of the station, everything came in low-grav packaging, just in case they lost spin. I hated drinking beer with a straw, so brandy had long ago become my drink of preference.
Drink in hand, I turned to see who else was holed up here. Across the room, Mbali stood at one of the bar tables talking to Gerhardt. Even from here, the way the slender black woman leaned back, arms crossed, obviously meant that she wanted to escape Gerhardt’s company, but on a station with a population of 352, you couldn’t risk alienating anyone. Not even a sixty-year old physicist who would hump a water line.
“Howdy, folks,” I said, sliding between Mbali and Gerhardt as unobtrusively as I could.
Mbali latched onto me like a shuttle to a loading door. “Chet! Gerhardt was just telling me that Starky saw an alien last night,” she said.
“Been talking to Brokedown Sal, huh?” I asked and sipped my brandy, trying to pretend that I could smell it.
Gerhardt shook his head. He said, “Heard it from Starky.”
I squeezed the wetpack in surprise, spraying my drink in my face. Damn waste of brandy and stung like the blazes. When I finished sputtering, I said, “You’re kidding me.”
“Nope.” Gerhardt said, and put his hand on my chin, delicately wiping the brandy off. He licked his fingers, smiling at me the way he does. “Come back to my bunk and I’ll tell you all about it.”
At least the man was equal opportunity. I exchanged glances with Mbali and said, “You know I wish I could, but seeing Mbali has reminded me that we need to prep for the influx of newbs. When you have time?”
“Now’s good.” Mbali said, pushing away from the table with a tad too much eagerness for subtlety.
I capped the straw on my drink, slid it into my pocket and said, “Great. Come on.”
“Anything I can help with?” Gerhardt said and rested his hand on Mbali’s shoulder. “You let me know.” He just brushed her breast as he pulled his hand away.
She smiled tightly and said, “Great. Thanks. I’ll keep that in mind.”
The moment they were in the corridor, Mbali let out her breath in a long string of curses. I raised my eyebrows with deep admiration and asked, “How many languages was that?”
“Six. If you count Middle English and Early Modern English as separate languages,” she said, running her hand over her cropped hair. “Which you should.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” I said. “That’s the second time I’ve heard Starky’s name today.”
“Where’ve you been? It’s all over the station,” she said.
“I was out doing EVA repairs on the solar panels for most of the morning. First I heard was from Brokedown Sal,” I said.
“Yeah, well, he’s telling the truth for once. Probably. What did he say?” she asked.
“Just starting to tell a bunch of newbs that Starky didn’t show last night,” I said.
Mbali’s eyes lit up and she said, “I’d forgotten they were coming on board today. Sam Brooke is supposed to be in this batch.”
“And he is?” I asked.
“She. She is the other prog–”
A klaxon sounded and the hall jolted under us. I grabbed for a handrail, but inertia hurled me away before I could snatch hold. Thank God, Mbali grabbed my foot as gravity faded and died otherwise I’d have bounced off the ceiling. Up and down the corridor, people cursed and shouted questions.
The intercom cut in with a buzz of static. “All hands. All hands. Unidentified boarders. Recommend full EVA gear. This is not a drill. Repeat. This is not a drill.”
Mbali hauled me in so I could grab the handrail. I clenched it, palms sweating and asked, “You said aliens?”
Mindy Klasky is joining us today with her novel Perfect Pitch. Here’s the publisher’s description.
A hot, contemporary short novel by best-selling author Mindy Klasky.
Reigning beauty queen Samantha Winger is launching her pet project, a music program for kids. All she has to do is follow the pageant’s rules—no smoking, drinking, or “cavorting” in public.
That’s fine, until D.J. Thomas—God’s gift to baseball—throws her a wild pitch. He slams her in an interview, and the video goes viral. Sam’s no shrinking violet. She parlays D.J.’s apology into a national T.V. appearance—and a very unexpected, very public kiss.
Soon, paparazzi catch the couple in a steamy make-out session, and Sam’s music program is on the block. The blazing hot relationship is threatened even more when D.J.’s son begs to trade in Little League for music class.
Can Sam and D.J. sizzle past the sour notes and find their perfect pitch?
What’s Mindy’s favorite bit?
My favorite bit of Perfect Pitch, my hot, contemporary romance novel, is the locker room.
Okay, not the room itself, which is smelly, crowded, and hot (and not in a tingly way). My favorite bit is actually the guys who workin the locker room, the baseball players who hang out, talking frankly about the women they love, the game they play, and the day-to-day hell of a grueling season that lasts nine long months (if they’re lucky enough to make it to the playoffs.)
Believe me: I’m the last person in the world anyone thought would be writing with fondness about locker rooms.
Growing up, I dreaded them. I hated everything: the cold cinderblock walls, the dented lockers, the smelly showers… Most of all, I hated the despair that swamped me every time I walked into a school gym and had to confront the immutable fact that I was an absolute failure at sports.
I was the last person chosen for every team in every phys ed class in every school I attended. I regularly scored in the bottom quintile of all students nationwide in the dread Presidential Physical Fitness Award. I loathedeverything about gym class from the horrible polyester uniformsto the cruel taunts from bullies. The locker room was a daily reminder that I was a total and complete incompetent. (I actually psyched myself into crippling stomach aches, attacks that were ultimately treated with placebo pills—medication approved by my parents but kept secret from me for years.)
So what the hell am I doing writing the Diamond Brides Series, about the baseball players on the (imaginary) Raleigh Rockets and the women who love them?
Ultimately, I fell in love with a man who eats, drinks, and breathes baseball. (I’ll spare you the long, rambling story about my conversion to being a fan of this one sport, among all the other sports out there.)
As I learned about baseball, I realized that the men on the major-league roster are the 750 most skilled men in the entire world at what they do. As a group, they’re young, dedicated, determined, physically fit, (and wealthy!)
And by those terms, they started to sound like awfully intriguing heroes for romance novels.
Prior to writing the Diamond Brides Series, I wrote eighteen other novels, from traditional fantasy to humorous paranormal to middle grade fantasy. About 90% of those books were written from a female point of view. With the Diamond Brides, I’ve been “forced” to write half of each novel from the hero’s perspective.
And I love playing with that voice. My heroes have a completely different worldview from my own. Their athletic prowess is as magical as any spell I ever created for a fantasy novel. They’re as alien to me as creatures in my science fiction stories.
My baseball players are confident in their physical bodies. They view their athletic achievement as a reasonable, expected result from a predictable, improvable process. These men befriend each other, they goad each other, they joke around in language a lot cruder than I usually use around the house.
And all of that happens in the locker room.
Through my Raleigh Rockets baseball players, I’ve exorcised some of the ghosts of my non-athletic past. And for that reason, my players’ locker room has become my favorite bit of Perfect Pitch and all the Diamond Brides Series.
Mindy Klasky learned to read when her parents shoved a book in her hands and told her she could travel anywhere in the world through stories. She never forgot that advice.
Mindy’s travels took her through multiple careers – from litigator to librarian to full-time writer. Mindy’s travels have also taken her through various literary genres for readers of all ages – from traditional fantasy to paranormal chick-lit to category romance, from middle-grade to young adult to adult.
In her spare time, Mindy knits, quilts, and tries to tame her endless to-be-read shelf. Her husband and cats do their best to fill the left-over minutes.
Forest of Memory - Metatropolis: Green Space - (Audible) Please note, that even though it is a novelette, it is in audio format only and has a running time of one hour and forty-four minutes. The Hugo rules say that anything over ninety minutes is Long Form. I don’t actually think it’s got a chance in hell of making the ballot, but I’d incorrectly put it in BDP short form on my previous eligibility post, so this is really just here as a correction.
Adam Christopher is joining us today with his novel The Burning Dark. Here’s the publisher’s description.
Back in the day, Captain Abraham Idaho Cleveland had led the Fleet into battle against an implacable machine intelligence capable of devouring entire worlds. But after saving a planet, and getting a bum robot knee in the process, he finds himself relegated to one of the most remote backwaters in Fleetspace to oversee the decommissioning of a semi-deserted space station well past its use-by date.
But all is not well aboard the U-Star Coast City. The station’s reclusive Commandant is nowhere to be seen, leaving Cleveland to deal with a hostile crew on his own. Persistent malfunctions plague the station’s systems while interference from a toxic purple star makes even ordinary communications problematic. Alien shadows and whispers seem to haunt the lonely corridors and airlocks, fraying the nerves of everyone aboard.
Isolated and friendless, Cleveland reaches out to the universe via an old-fashioned subspace radio, only to tune into a strange, enigmatic signal: a woman’s voice that seems to echo across a thousand light-years of space. But is the transmission just a random bit of static from the past—or a warning of an undying menace beyond mortal comprehension?
What’s Adam’s favorite bit?
The Burning Dark is my first foray into space opera. As a science fiction fan, I grew up with a love of spaceships, and planets, and aliens, so it’s perhaps surprising that it took so long for me to actually write something in that direction.
Space opera requires world building—a lot of world building, because the genre itself is defined at least in part by its scale. Space opera should be as epic as its name suggests.
I’ll be the first to admit: I’ve cheated a little with The Burning Dark—this book is space opera, but not as you know it. Okay, humanity has expanded into space, forging a vast federation of colonies that has now united into a single political-industrial-military complex simply called the Fleet, in order to wage war against an implacable, relentless machine gestalt intelligence, the origins and motivations of which are obscure at best. That’s about as big as you can get. The Burning Dark is set against this background of interstellar conflict. The scope of the world is huge. There are many stories to be told in the universe of this novel.
But in The Burning Dark, that epic scale is collapsed down to a single space station. The station is large, but the situation is tense, claustrophobic—and very, very scary. This book might be a space opera, but it’s also a ghost story. The action is close, the cast of character initially large, before events whittle the station’s population down and down…
We do see glimpses of the larger world throughout, however. The station is staffed by a bunch of marines suffering from a severe case of cabin fever. One in particular, Charlie Carter, is having a tough time coping—he has a secret history, memories he would rather forget keeping him up during the stations night-cycle. He’s seen a side to the Fleet that many suspect, but few have experience of. Because before being assigned to the backend of nowhere to help with the demolition of the decommissioned station, Carter was in the Fleet Black Ops.
And Black Ops missions are very, very black.
My favorite bit of the book is Charlie’s interlude—one of several flashbacks that occur during the course of the novel. Charlie’s is of his last Black Ops mission, with the rather euphemistic title of The Situation On Warworld 16 Has Been Resolved.
“Resolved”. Yeah, right. Maybe it has, as far as the Fleet is concerned, but for Carter, that mission had a very personal price, his own actions the root of his smouldering hatred, not just of the Fleet, but of himself.
Carter’s story is sad, a tragedy, an example of how the Fleet uses people and can twist facts to suit its own purpose. Of course, the Fleet is fighting a war, a difficult one. There’s a more than fair chance they might lose. Desperate times require desperate measures. But for Charlie Carter, maybe there is a price that is just too high to pay.
I think Carter might be my favourite character in the book, and his backstory is one, I suspect, I may write about again in future instalments of the Spider Wars series.
Adam Christopher is a novelist, the author of Empire State, Seven Wonders, The Age Atomic, and Hang Wire. In 2010, as an editor, Christopher won a Sir Julius Vogel award, New Zealand’s highest science fiction honour. His debut novel, Empire State, was SciFiNow’s Book of the Year and a Financial Times Book of the Year for 2012. In 2013, he was nominated for the Sir Julius Vogel award for Best New Talent, with Empire State shortlisted for Best Novel. Born in New Zealand, he has lived in Great Britain since 2006.
The magical book that might result if Jane Austen’s Emma were set against the Luddite uprising in the Year Without a Summer Up-and-coming fantasist Mary Robinette Kowal enchanted fans with award-winning short stories and beloved novels featuring Regency pair Jane and David Vincent. In Without a Summer the master glamourists return home, but in a world where […]
C2E2: Opening the Clubhouse Doors: Creating More Inclusive Geek Communities on April 25, 2014
Time: 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm
Description: Speakers: Jeffrey Smith, Karlyn Meyer, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Mary Robinette Kowal, Michi Trota, Scott Snyder
As visibility of Fans, creators and organizers from marginalized communities increases, geek communities are having more discussions about diversity, tokenism and re-examining just how “welcoming” geek spaces are. This moderated panel will discuss what “diversity” in geek culture means, what it looks like and why it’s necessary. Sponsored in part by the Chicago Nerd Social Club.
Description: Speakers: C. Robert Cargill, Colleen Lindsay, Douglas Hulick, Katherine Addison, Mary Robinette Kowal, Simon Green, Steve Bein
Heroes and villains, wizards and goblins, fairies and demons...stories told in another realm are full of characters and creatures that stretch the imagination and these authors populate their novels with a host of magical and otherworldly beings. Join Katherine Addison, Steve Bein, C. Rogert Cargill, Simon Green, Douglas Hulick and Mary Robinette Kowal as they discuss all things fantastic.