I’m in the studio this week to record Of Noble Family. I’ve been wanting to show you what the recording process is like, but that requires getting permission from the author. Since I wrote this book…
So, Dustin Anderson, my engineer/director, and I set up a Google On Air and recorded us doing the first chapter of the book, starting from getting the mic set with some commentary about what we’re doing and why. This recording is a little odd because it’s a multiple narrator book.
Usually my books are a single narrator, just me. Because a lot of this one is set in an Antigua, there’s a high number of African-Carribean characters. No matter how hard I worked on the dialect, it would sound like a caricature. Also, frankly, if I hadn’t written the books I would be entirely the wrong narrator.
Harry Connolly is joining us today with his epic fantasy series The Great Way. Here’s the publisher’s description.
BOOK ONE OF THE GREAT WAY: The city of Peradain is the heart of an empire built with steel, spears,and a monopoly on magic… until, in a single day, it falls, overthrown by a swarm of supernatural creatures of incredible power and ferocity. Neither soldier nor spell caster can stand against them.
The empire’s armies are crushed, its people scattered, its king and queen killed. Freed for the first time in generations, city-states scramble to seize neighboring territories and capture imperial spell casters. But as the creatures spread across the land, these formerly conquered peoples discover they are not prepared to face the enemy that destroyed an empire.
Can the last Peradaini prince, pursued by the beasts that killed his parents, cross battle-torn lands to retrieve a spell that might—just might—turn the battle against this new enemy?
BOOK TWO OF THE GREAT WAY: Having lost the prince to the madness of The Blessing, Tejohn and Cazia are the only people who know of his plan to retrieve a secret spell that might, just might, turn the tide of battle against the grunts.
But Tejohn’s body is broken, and Cazia has been stripped of her magic. Worse, both are being held captive: Tejohn faces charges of treason in the lands where he was born. On the other side of the continent, Cazia is a prisoner of the Tilkilit queen, a creature with a desperate, deadly plan.
While they struggle for their freedom, The Blessing continues to spread across Kal-Maddum, their numbers growing more numerous as the human population shrinks. What had started as a race to restore an empire has quickly become a mission to save humanity from extinction.
BOOK THREE OF THE GREAT WAY: What was once the Peradaini Empire is now a wasted landscape of burned, empty cities and abandoned farmlands. The Blessing, now more numerous than ever, continues to spread across the continent, driving refugees to the dubious safety of the city walls. Unharvested crops mean that few strongholds have enough provisions to last the winter, although most know the grunts will take them before starvation will.
But hope survives. A piece of stolen magic just might halt the spread of The Blessing if Tejohn and Cazia can find a scholar with the skill to recreate the spell. If such a person still lives.
Unfortunately, they are nearly out of time. The few remaining human enclaves are isolated and under siege. Worse, The Blessing has spread to other sentient creatures. If Cazia and Tejohn are going to strike back at their monstrous enemy, they can not delay.
And there’s another, deeper question left unaddressed: where did The Blessing come from, and why have they invaded Kal-Maddum?
The Way Into Darkness is the final book in The Great Way, wrapping up the story begun in The Way Into Chaos and continued in The Way Into Magic.
Author Harry Connolly’s first book, CHILD OF FIRE, was listed to Publishers Weekly’s Best 100 Books of 2009.
What’s Harry’s favorite bit?
I suspect this will surprise my regular readers, but in the whole 375,000 words of my new epic fantasy trilogy, my favorite bit is a single line of dialog.
Having written and released ten books, what I’m known for (to the extent that I’m known at all) is that my stories are like thrillers: desperate violence, twisty plots, a fast pace, and weird supernatural elements. I enjoy reading page-turners, and I try to write them, too.
But writing an exciting story isn’t enough. I need to poke at the format, too. I like to play with readers’ expectations, and not just in a “who will live/who will die” way. Making readers worry about the characters is easy. Making them rethink the characters is fun.
That’s why the first book of this trilogy starts with many the tropes of the genre: a bright and shining city, a festival, a school for magic, a good-hearted prince, and the worries of his royal family.
Then all of it gets wiped away.
That’s not a spoiler; I’ve been describing this book as “A sentient curse causes the collapse of an empire” for months now. The king and queen are killed, the prince flees for his life, and, in the aftermath, the characters mourn everything that’s been destroyed.
Because it’s not just the citizens of the largest city on the continent that has been lost, it’s also the learning, the culture, the arts, the writing, the traditions. The small group of characters who escape the city (people that I as the author have worked to make sympathetic) is mourning lost family, lost friends, a lost home.
But when the refugees reach the safety of a military outpost and, having arrived in the dead of night, they’re challenged at the point of a spear and told to identify themselves. Then this:
“Lar Italga,” the prince said as he stood, “prince of Peradain and heir to the Throne of Skulls.”
After seven chapters of fantasy tropes coded to indicate “good guys,” I had to drop in this one, which is most definitely not good guy terminology, because it’s the first moment when we see the other side. Yes, most of the characters are good people. They try to be kind to each other. When they’re in conflict, it’s because of misunderstanding or clashing value systems, not vanity, greed, or malice.
And yet, this likable prince is about to ascend to something called “the Throne of Skulls” and he doesn’t even blanch at the name. It doesn’t even occur to him that he should, because he’s heard the term his whole life and doesn’t think twice about it. And this bright and shining city that he loves so much is the center of an empire that has almost pushed its frontiers to the coasts… an empire that was built on the points of thousands of spears.
That’s why this is my favorite bit in this trilogy: in a story designed to be an exciting, page-turning adventure, this is the first substantial hint that there’s more going on underneath. This is the moment when the point of view characters fall out of their privileged place in society (which didn’t even feel privileged to them) and begin to see their society from other perspectives.
It also creates a framework for readers to view other characters. There’s more than one invasion in this trilogy, and more than one type of invasion.
Which I realize many readers won’t notice or care about amidst the monsters, chase scenes, fights, etc. And that’s fine. I’m sure some readers thought that line was misstep on my part, that the jarring effect it had was a mistake. That’s okay, too. But still, that one line of dialog is My Favorite Bit because, for me, it’s where things start to get interesting.
Harry Connolly’s debut novel, Child Of Fire, was named to Publishers Weekly’s Best 100 Novels of 2009. For his epic fantasy series The Great Way, he turned to Kickstarter; currently, it’s the ninth-most-funded Fiction campaign ever. Book one of The Great Way, The Way Into Chaos was published in December, 2014. Book two, The Way Into Magic, was published in January, 2015. The third and final book, The Way Into Darkness, was released today. Harry lives in Seattle with his beloved wife, beloved son, and beloved library system. www.harryjconnolly.com
What you have here is a drawing that I did on my new tablet. It’s actually been a really long time since I’ve drawn. I mean I was an art major, back in the day, but that was 25 years ago. But this new tablet, see, it has a touch sensitive stylus. So… I started doodling and now I have this thing.
My question for you is, what is outside the window?
Also? This entire blog post is written by voice. Kind of neat, huh? I so love living in the future.
Anyway, make suggestions on what should be outside the window. I’ll pick one and draw it.
Everyone has a story they want to tell, whether that’s from fiction or from part of your life.
As I’ve been watching the news roll out from Ferguson and then in waves across the nation, I’ve been struck by how much grass-roots reporting has differed from the mainstream media narrative.
While facts and data are important, we respond most to the anecdote, to the personal story. This is why, anytime someone says, “But it’s just fiction” I want to laugh and laugh at their naive little brains. Stories are what shape the world.
For some people, getting a story out is more difficult than for others. This isn’t about talent, it’s often about opportunities and privilege. Because of the intersection of class and race in the United States, many of the people whose stories are the ones we most need to hear, are also not in a position where they can afford the time and money to take a writing class. So, I’m partnering with the Ferguson Municipal Public Library to offer a free writing workshop.
When: Saturday, January 24th 12:00-4:00pm CST
Where: Ferguson Municipal Public Library
35 N Florissant Rd
Ferguson, MO 63135
What: In this 4 hour workshop, I’ll use a combination of lecture and in class exercises to walk you through how to write short stories. The session will cover economical prose, effective use of point-of-view and how plot works in short form.
An interest in writing and a willingness to learn are all you need to participate in this class. Bring your preferred writing tools, whether that’s a laptop computer, notepad and pen, or a typewriter. If you don’t have anything handy, paper and pens will be available.
Why do I need to register if it’s free?
It tells us how many chairs to set up. But if you don’t know until the last minute, that’s okay.
We can do fiction or non-fiction stories? Really?
Yes, with one caveat. This workshop is focused on stories, not journalism or articles. So if you want to tell a story that is based on real life, (narrative non-fiction) the tools are the same as those for things that are made up.
Can people who aren’t from Ferguson come?
Yes, of course. While this was created for the community, the people of Ferguson are not the only ones who have stories to tell.
Mary Robinette Kowal is the author of The Glamourist Histories series of fantasy novels. She has received the Campbell Award for Best New Writer, three Hugo awards, and the RT Reviews award for Best Fantasy Novel. Her work has been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula and Locus awards. Her stories appear in Asimov’s, Clarkesworld, and several Year’s Best anthologies. Mary, a professional puppeteer, also performs as a voice actor, recording fiction for authors such as Seanan McGuire, Cory Doctorow and John Scalzi. She lives in Chicago with her husband Rob and over a dozen manual typewriters. Visit maryrobinettekowal.com
Kristi Charish is joining us today with her novel Owl and the Japanese Circus. Here’s the publisher’s description.
Fans of Kim Harrison, Jim Butcher, and Linda Hamilton will flock to the kick-ass world of Owl, a modern-day “Indiana Jane” who reluctantly navigates the hidden supernatural world.
Ex-archaeology grad student turned international antiquities thief, Alix—better known now as Owl—has one rule. No supernatural jobs. Ever. Until she crosses paths with Mr. Kurosawa, a red dragon who owns and runs the Japanese Circus Casino in Las Vegas. He insists Owl retrieve an artifact stolen three thousand years ago, and makes her an offer she can’t refuse: he’ll get rid of a pack of vampires that want her dead. A dragon is about the only entity on the planet that can deliver on Owl’s vampire problem – and let’s face it, dragons are known to eat the odd thief.
Owl retraces the steps of Mr. Kurosawa’s ancient thief from Japan to Bali with the help of her best friend, Nadya, and an attractive mercenary. As it turns out though, finding the scroll is the least of her worries. When she figures out one of Mr. Kurosawa’s trusted advisors is orchestrating a plan to use a weapon powerful enough to wipe out a city, things go to hell in a hand basket fast…and Owl has to pick sides.
What’s Kristi’s favorite bit?
This is my very first novel. The first novel I ever finished, ever submitted to an agent, and had accepted by a publisher.
It still shocks me to write that. In part it’s because the situation is unusual. First novels aren’t supposed to get published. But mostly it’s because my main protagonist, Alix (AKA Owl), isn’t always…well… likeable. I should know. I wrote her that way. And Owl’s voice is My Favorite Bit.
“I can’t make normal friends,” I told Nadya. “I am not physically or mentally capable of connecting with people who aren’t as fucked up as I am.”
I’ll be the first to admit it. Owl is a very flawed character.
A lot of urban fantasy out there stars a knock-out, diamond in the rough, mercenary-like femme fatale with a conflict and plotline that centers around a love interest.
Owl is not that female protagonist and this isn’t that urban fantasy.
Owl is geeky, insecure, socially awkward, moderately addicted to an online RPG, probably drinks too much Corona, and to top it all off hates admitting she’s wrong. She is most definitely not the head turner when she steps into a room. Her friends fill that role. She doesn’t have super powers either. She relies on her wits, resourcefulness, and sheer guts to get herself out of tight situations…many of which, admittedly, she’s gotten herself into.
He smiled and flashed me those black dragon teeth again. “You’re rather famous in my circles now. Accidently bathing a vampire superior in sunlight during an excavation will do that. Though I still haven’t decided yet whether you’re brilliant or miraculously stupid for managing to deliver the sarcophagus and collecting your pay.”
…It should also probably be mentioned Owl has an uncanny knack for making bad situations worse. But Owl’s poor decision making skills aren’t from stupidity or lack of forethought. It’s because following her conscience has steered her wrong before and the results were spectacularly catastrophic. She’d be the first to tell you keeping your morals intact is expensive, and most people when called upon have no interest in paying up. Especially when it means giving up a working fridge and cable TV.
People are real happy to make friends with you when a two-thousand-year-old mummy knocks off half their team, but returning the favor always pisses them off. No one likes to pay up out of the goodness of their heart; that’s why I usually get cash up front.
Owl isn’t forgiving when it comes to people, and why should she?
Being nice and playing by the rules is what got her kicked out of grad school in the first place. The first law of not ending up a scapegoat? Make damn sure someone else is standing ahead of you in line. Morals and ethics are nice and all but don’t mean much when you’re on the run from a pack of vampires who want you dead. Knowing that if she could do it all over again she might not make the same decisions hurts, though you’ll never hear it from her.
Yeah, Owl has some anger issues to work through.
Oh…and then there’s her cat, Captain.
He feinted back and pulled on the leash in an attempt to break my hold and get back to Charles. Nope, not desensitized. Getting better at manipulation.
Owl has her faults but she also has a lot of redeeming qualities hidden under there; she’s independent, loyal to a fault, tries to do the right thing (though her interpretation of the ‘right thing’ is often a little out of the box), is determined, and hell bent on digging herself out of her own messes- be they her fault or not. Owl is not the girl who pines after the guy or waits for someone to rescue her- she’ll handle the rescuing on her own, thankyouverymuch. She tries desperately to make the best out of her bad situations while trying not to wallow in her past- a struggle I’m hoping will resonate. There’s an element of survival in Owl’s attitude as she tries to forcefully cut out an unconventional place in an unconventional world.
But make no mistake about it. This isn’t the UF heroine who confronts the corrupt institution, brings the bad guys to their knees, and otherwise redeems herself, her career, and probably the corrupt institution. This is the woman who when faced with those odds tells the institution and everyone else involved they can all go to hell. There’s something that really appeals to me about that kind of character- the one who’s no longer afraid to say exactly what she wants because the worst has already happened.
I think that’s why I love writing Alix so much- her lack of a filter means she finally has the freedom to say the things no one else can or will. The things ‘nice women’ aren’t supposed to say or do. For better or worse she’s unapologetically herself. There’s something really freeing about writing a female protagonist like that.
My favorite bit is Owl’s voice, and I’m hoping you guys will love her- faults and all- as much as I do.
Kristi is the author of OWL AND THE JAPANESE CIRCUS (Jan 13th, 2015, Simon and Schuster Canada/Pocket Books), an urban fantasy about a modern-day “Indiana Jane” who reluctantly navigates the hidden supernatural world. She writes what she loves; adventure heavy stories featuring strong, savvy female protagonists, pop culture, and the occasional RPG fantasy game thrown in the mix. The second installment, OWL AND THE CITY OF ANGELS, is scheduled for release Jan 2016. Her second urban fantasy series, KINCAID STRANGE (Random House Canada), about a voodoo practioner living in Seattle, is scheduled for release mid 2016.
Kristi is also a scientist with a BSc and MSc from Simon Fraser University in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry and a PhD in Zoology from the University of British Columbia. Her specialties are genetics, cell biology, and molecular biology, all of which she draws upon in her writing. She is represented by Carolyn Forde at Westwood Creative Artists.
If you are reading this post, right now, it is because I promoted it. There is another copy of this post on my site, nearly identical, except that I didn’t promote it other than just posting it. It doesn’t take looking at the traffic numbers to figure out which one more people will read. [Edited to add: half an hour after posting both. This is at 261. The other is at 11]
Part of your job, as an author, is to promote yourself and your work. I wish that it was just to write the words, and it’s true that there are some people who can do that. Very few. The vast majority of the books that you have read, you know about because the author promoted them.
But wait! Some of you will point out that you are here because someone else pointed at this post. Someone else promoted it, not the author. Okay… how do you think they heard about it?
Grassroots, word of mouth, has long been the most effective form of promotion. That starts with the author.
Last year, I published:
- Valour and Vanity – (novel)
- “Water Over the Dam” — Spectrum (short story)
- “Expensive Taste” — Popular Science (short story)
- “A Matter of Endurance” — Defense Grid 2 (audio play)
- “Fire in the Heavens” — Shadows Beneath (novelette)
And one other.
Any idea what that was without me telling you? Do you even know what type of fiction it was?
So when awards season rolls around, or when you have a book come out, or a short story, or you win an award… If someone tells you that it’s tacky to tell people about it, they are naive.
You are doing your job.
Edited to add: Two hours in, this post has 852. The other has 61.
Also, worth noting that this post is about why it’s okay to self-promote. I have another on how to do it without looking like an ass.
The latest chapter is up, and I was right about splitting the one I was working on in two. Which means I’m still two chapters from the end. Y’all are four chapters from the end, because of how far ahead of you I write.
Meanwhile, for everyone else, here’s Sadie and Marlowe.
I know you’re really just here for the cat pictures.
David B. Coe is joining us today with his novel Spell Blind. Here’s the publisher’s description.
Book #1 in The Case Files of Justis Fearsson, a new contemporary fantasy series from fantasy all-star David B. Coe. A hardboiled, magic-using private detective hunts a serial killer in Phoenix, Arizona.
Justis Fearsson is a private investigator on the trail of a serial killer in Phoenix, Arizona. Justis is also aweremyste—a person with a wizard’s gifts and the ability to see into the paranormal world. Unfortunately, weremystes also tend to go crazy on the full moon—which is why Justis is no longer a cop. Hard to explain those absences as anything but mental breakdown. But now an old case from his police detective days has come back to haunt him, literally, as a serial killer known as the Blind Angel strikes again. His signature stroke: burning out the victims’ eyes with magic. Now the victims are piling up, including the daughter of a senator, and Justis must race to stop the Blind Angel before he, she, or it kills again. There’s only one clue he’s got to go on: the Blind Angel is using the most powerful magic Justis has ever encountered, and if he doesn’t watch his own magical step, he may end up just as dead as the other vics.
What’s David’s favorite bit?
DAVID B. COE
Mary has been kind enough to host me on “My Favorite Bit” several times before, so that I might promote the books of the Thieftaker Chronicles, a historical urban fantasy series that I write as D.B. Jackson. The book I’m writing about today is quite different, and so is this “Favorite Bit.”
Spell Blind, the first book in a new contemporary urban fantasy, the Case Files of Justis Fearsson, which I am publishing as David B. Coe, comes out today from Baen Books. My lead character, Justis “Jay” Fearsson, is a private detective and a weremyste. What is a weremyste? A fine question. Imagine a blend of Jekyll and Hyde and the wolfman. As the moon waxes full, weremystes lose control of their minds. At the same time, the strength of their magic deepens, so that when they most need to control the powers they wield, they are least able to do so. Over time, these moon phasings exact a permanent toll on the sanity of runemystes. Eventually all of them wind up mad.
In this first novel, Jay investigates a series of murders which (shockingly!) involve dark magic, and the approach of the full moon serves as the proverbial “ticking clock” that drives the narrative and pacing. I love the magic system for this series. I love the plotting and my characters. I could write a Favorite Bit piece about several elements of the novel.
But the truth is, my favorite thing about this book is its history, and the very fact that it is finally being published.
I first wrote a novel about Justis Fearsson in 2005 and I sold it to a small press that soon went out of business. We managed to get the rights back and tried to sell the series to another publisher. But the books didn’t re-sell, and it soon became clear to me that the reason the series wasn’t selling, and perhaps (thinking symptomatically) the reason this publisher went under, was that my book wasn’t very good. But I still loved the characters, and I wasn’t ready to give up on the series.
So I went back to the beginning. I reimagined the entire series, coming up with a new magic system, several new characters and character dynamics, and new plots for all the books. I tore apart the first book and rebuilt it piece by piece. And when that still didn’t yield the results I wanted, I tore it apart and rebuilt it a second time and a third.
Why put myself through all of this? Because, as I said, I loved the characters, my point of view character in particular. I loved his interactions with the core characters surrounding him. And I was determined to make the series into something commercially and critically viable that also preserved those elements of the original idea that first drew me to the story. It took a tremendous amount of work and time. My rewrites of this first book spanned a total of about six years, and by the time I was done the book was different in just about every way from that first incarnation. It even had a different (better) title. I received a ton of rejections along the way, but I also received invaluable critical feedback from my agent, from editors, and from friends who read the manuscript in various incarnations.
I should also make clear that I did other work besides this. While working on the Fearsson rewrites I also wrote and published the Blood of the Southlands trilogy and the first two novels of my Thieftaker Chronicles. But always Jay Fearsson remained in the back of my mind, waiting his turn. Late in the summer of 2013, we finally resold the series in its current form to Baen. And Baen wasn’t the only publisher interested in the books.
Many might wonder why this would be my favorite thing about the book. It was at times a painful and discouraging process, and I was delighted to see my struggles with the series finally end with last year’s sale. But I believe the tale of this series says a lot about what it takes to be a professional writer.
This is not an easy profession, and our careers don’t always progress in a linear fashion, with ever greater success awaiting our next release. My struggles with this book and series came after I had published eight novels. I was an established, award-winning author with a history of critical success and commercial viability. And that really didn’t matter at all.
Not all books need to be rewritten as many times as this one did. We don’t always need to respond to rejection with a complete reimagining of the project in question. But by the same token, writers do need to understand that rejection is not a final judgment; it is one step in a creative negotiation. Revision is as much a part of the writing process as that original composition of the manuscript. We have to be open to editorial criticism, and yet there is also something to be said for stubbornly clinging to our faith in a project, even in the face of the kind of difficulties I encountered.
To me, Spell Blind is more than just a new release. It represents both determination and flexibility, my passion for a creative notion and the realization that sometimes we as artists need to grow into our creative ambitions. In other words, the book embodies for me both the challenges and rewards of being a professional writer. And that is why the tortured history of the book itself is My Favorite Bit.
David B. Coe is the award-winning author of more than fifteen fantasy novels. His newest series, a contemporary urban fantasy called The Case Files of Justis Fearsson, debuts with the January 2015 release from Baen Books of Spell Blind. The second book, His Father’s Eyes, will be out in the summer of 2015. Writing as D.B. Jackson, he is the author of the Thieftaker Chronicles, a historical urban fantasy from Tor Books that includes Thieftaker, Thieves’ Quarry, A Plunder of Souls, and Dead Man’s Reach (also coming in the summer of 2015). He lives on the Cumberland Plateau with his wife and two teenaged daughters. They’re all smarter and prettier than he is, but they keep him around because he makes a mean vegetarian fajita. When he’s not writing he likes to hike, play guitar, and stalk the perfect image with his camera.
For those of you reading along, I’ve posted the next chapter in Ghost Talkers. I just finished chapter 20 and am two or three chapters from the end.
The reason I’m not quite sure is that the next chapter might split into two. We’ll see as I write it. If it gets unwieldy, I’ll find a break point. I use chapters to control pacing, so sometimes I revise my guesses about where those breaks will be.
Actually, I’m almost certain the next chapter will unpack into two, but I’m not quite sure where it will break yet.
Meanwhile, for those of you not reading along, here is a picture of Sadie. I’m sure you can see how helpful she is.
Jim C. Hines is joining us today with his novel Unbound. Here’s the publisher’s description.
For five hundred years, the Porters have concealed the existence of magic from the world.
Now, old enemies have revealed the Porters’ secrets, and an even greater threat lurks in the shadows. The would-be queen Meridiana, banished for a thousand years, has returned in the body of a girl named Jeneta Aboderin. She seeks an artifact created by Pope Sylvester II, a bronze prison that would grant her the power to command an army of the dead. Michigan librarian Isaac Vainio is powerless to stop her, having been stripped of his power and his place among the Porters by Johannes Gutenberg himself. But Isaac is determined to regain his magic and to rescue his former student Jeneta. With no magic of his own, Isaac must delve into the darker side of black-market magic, where he will confront beings better left undisturbed, including the sorcerer Juan Ponce de Leon.
With his loyal fire-spider Smudge, dryad warrior Lena Greenwood, and psychiatrist Nidhi Shah, Isaac races to unravel a mystery more than a thousand years old as competing magical powers battle to shape the future of the world. He will be hunted by enemies and former allies alike, and it will take all his knowledge and resourcefulness to survive as magical war threatens to spread across the globe. Isaac’s choices will determine the fate of his friends, the Porters, the students of Bi Sheng, and the world.
Only one thing is certain: even if he finds a way to restore his magic, he can’t save them all….
What’s Jim’s favorite bit?
JIM C. HINES
I waited three books to get to this scene.
While librarian Isaac Vainio is the protagonist of the Magic ex Libris series, pulling toys out of books and shooting sparkling vampires with Star Trek disruptor pistols, in many ways it’s his companion Lena Greenwood who’s changed the most over the course of the series.
I talked about Lena in my previous Favorite Bit piece here, back in August of 2013. She’s one of the most difficult characters I’ve ever written, but I’ve also felt she’s one who has some of the most potential for awesomeness…if I could pull it off.
Lena is a hamadryad. A nymph. A creature originally created as a sexual object, shaped by the desires and fantasies of her lovers. Over the first two books, we see some of her history. We see her struggle to take control of who she’s going to be, and to move beyond the limitations of her nature.
We also see her kicking a fair amount of ass over the course of those two books.
By the time UNBOUND comes along, Lena has grown into her own person. And now, just like Isaac works to bend the rules of libriomancy and find new ways of using magic, Lena has done the same with her own power as a dryad. We see bits of this over the course of the book, but my favorite moment comes near the end, when Lena reveals just exactly what a being who’s as much oak as flesh can do.
As our heroes make their way toward the climax of the book, a winged creature, a servant of the Big Bad, swoops out of the sky and slams Lena to the ground. They tussle a bit, and he manages to get the upper hand…
Binion cinched an arm around Lena’s neck. The other pinned her arms to her sides, preventing her from drawing her weapons. He pressed Lena’s head sideways, straining to crack her neck.
Lena wedged her chin down, trying to force it into Binion’s elbow to create a gap so she could breathe. She bent her knees and sank lower, then rammed her elbows backward.
It shouldn’t have worked. Binion was as strong as Lena. Probably stronger. But he gasped and released his grip. His hands went to his sides, where blood darkened his robe.
Lena spun to face him. Six-inch wooden spikes had grown from her elbows. Binion drew his sword and swung at her head. She blocked the blow with a forearm now covered in thick bark. The thunk of steel hitting oak echoed over the grass.
Part of why I love this scene is for the sheer badassery Lena gets to display over the course of the fight. There’s something fun and cathartic about watching the good guys finally get to cut loose and kick some butt.
But this scene also marks a turning point in Lena’s growth. She’s levelled up, learning to move beyond some of the physical and mental limitations she always believed were unbreakable. She’s discovering strength and power I’ve been waiting to write about since before I ever started writing LIBRIOMANCER.
I’m really excited about who Lena—who all of these characters—have become over the past three books. And I can’t wait to share them with everyone.
Jim C. Hines is a level 7 geek, multiclassed as a writer and customer support person. He generally wears leather thieves’ armor (with 39 hidden pockets for everything from bookmarks to a sonic screwdriver) that gives him a +2 armor class bonus. He took blogging as a bonus feat and recently spent some skill points in Sanchin-Ryu karate, earning a black belt that gives +3 to roughhousing with his children. He also put points into juggling and yo-yo tricks, because juggling and yo-yos are cool. He gets an automatic penalty to all encounters with goblins, who still haven’t forgiven him for everything he put them through in his GOBLIN QUEST trilogy. Jim is worth 350 XP. Roll on Treasure Chart F to determine what he will be carrying. For complete character stats or excerpts from his work, please check out www.jimchines.com.
This week on Writing Excuses, we’re kicking off a new structure, a masterclass in fiction. Here, I’ll let you read the description.
Season 10 begins!
We wanted to do something different this year. Something special. As we brainstormed we kept returning to something a listener said years ago: “Writing Excuses is like a master class in writing genre fiction.”
That’s a generous remark, as anyone who’s taken an actual master class can attest, but it inspired us to ask ourselves what Writing Excuses would look sound like if it were formatted like an actual master class.
The answer? It would sound like Season 10 is going to sound. This year we’re going to go to school! Each month will focus on a specific bit of the writing process, and each podcast will drill down on one of those bits. We’ll still have some “wildcard” episodes with guests, but for at least three weeks out of each month we’re going to stay on topic. If you’re new to the podcast, this is where to start! If you’re an old hand, don’t worry — this isn’t a return to the 101-level stuff.
In January we’ll cover the very beginning — coming up with cool ideas, and wrapping them up into something that we can turn into a story. And for this first episode we’ll answer the dreaded “where do you get your ideas” question quite seriously. We’re not going to tell you about the Idea Factory in Schenectady (Harlan Ellison’s stock answer,) nor are we going to eye-roll. Nope. We’re going to tell you how we get our brains to think stuff up, and then we’re going to give you homework in the writing prompt.
Now… As part of this, I’m going to do my level best to play along with the writing exercises each week so that you also have concrete examples to look at, in addition to the podcast.
This week’s writing exercise is:
Writing Prompt: Write down five different story ideas in 150 words or less. Generate these ideas from these five sources:
- From an interview or conversation you’ve had
- From research you’ve done (reading science news, military history, etc)
- From observation (go for a walk!)
- From a piece of media (watch a movie)
- From a piece of music (with or without lyrics)
From an interview or conversation you’ve had: – So I do this podcast…
[This one, I’m showing you a little of the brainstorming I do, too.]
Nobleman who wants to hire her
Fashionable city… I use London a lot and don’t want to go there again, but am also sufficiently lazy that I want to avoid heavy research… Okay, so this is going to be a secondary world Venice, but in the Venetian Republic sense, not just in the city.
Milliner assassin is hired by a nobleman to kill a woman who has the power to destroy him. In the process of carrying out the assignment, the assassin realizes that the woman is guilty of nothing more than refusing his advances. Annoyed and angered, she takes steps to deliver the hat to him “for approval.” He dies in his gondola, seemingly alone. The only clue is an artificial orange. The assassin’s secret is that the hats do not kill, they simply mark the target and provide a portal through which the assassin can enter. The woman who was her original target reaches out to her and says that there are other women who may be in need of assistance. The milliner is only too happy to help.
From research you’ve done (reading science news, military history, etc) — The 1st Russian Woman’s Battalion of Death
In an mosttly women, and historically accurate WWI story, we follow [name] as she enlists in the Russian Army under the famous Maria Bochkareva. The lady soldiers are mocked. They go to the front lines, go over the top and take three German trenches with very few loses. The men, however, are too frightened to follow them. [name] returns, victorious, with her comrades to mock the men who failed to take even a single trench.
From observation (go for a walk!) — It’s snowing! I kept finding dropped gloves and saw a boot. Who loses a boot?
In the bitter cold of Chicago winter, a young woman finds a pair of boots standing upright in the fresh snow, as if they were in mid-stride. A trail of footprints leads to them, but nothing leads away. It looks as though someone simply vanished from their boots. She takes a picture and posts it to Instagram as #MysteryBoots. To her surprise, she is contacted by a man who has seen the same phenomenon no less than three times. They meet over coffee. Discussing various theories, including performance art, eventually leads to tracking other instances of the vanishing walker. She sees footage of herself on a viral video talking about the boots and confronts him. He confesses that he’s actually an artist creating these as installations and has been creating a secret documentary about the people who find them.
From a piece of media (watch a movie): We watched Slings and Arrows tonight
Police detective [name] is in the audience for a production of Hamlet, when the theater loses power. Rather than stopping the show, the cast continues as though it is a radio play. When the lights come back up, the actor playing Hamlet is dead in the middle of the stage. Someone had been delivering his lines in the dark, so no one knows exactly when he died. [name] investigates and eventually finds the culprit.
From a piece of music (with or without lyrics): Unwoman’s The Bridge
While on a steampunk cruise, a solo cellist is caught up in solving a murder when a guest is found dead with the end pin shoved through his heart. She has to solve the murder, and clear her name, before they dock. In a thrilling climax involving the salsa lounge and a live band, she corners the real murderer and gets his confession broadcast through the ship.
So… that’s basically how I do it. Usually, at this point, I’d come up with names for the characters but I figured it would be more useful to you to see a slightly rawer version.
For those of you reading along, Chapter 17 is up.
For everyone else, here is an entirely unrelated photo of Sadie’s pawprint in the snow. She headed for the front porch, put one foot down, and then thought better of it.