The dress I made for the cover for OF NOBLE FAMILY

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.

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.

My Favorite Bit: Danielle Paige talks about DOROTHY MUST DIE

My Favorite Bit iconDanielle 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.
What happened?
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.


DorothyMust Die,

@daniellempaige, twitter

Facebook, Author Page

Facebook, Dorothy Must Die Page,


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.

Okay, no, but really — I actually WAS offline for the past month

So… yesterday’s Alternate Reality Day prank included only four true things.

  1. I did beat Patrick Rothfuss at being Patrick Rothfuss, although I did not take his account over later.
  2. 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.
  3. I recorded Writing Excuses last week.
  4. 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?

Writing Excuses 9.13: Three Pronged Character Development

The new Writing Excuses is up.

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.

via Writing Excuses 9.13: Three Pronged Character Development » Writing Excuses.

I’ve been John Scalzi for the past month, and you didn’t notice.

EDITED TO ADD: For those of you arriving late, this was my Alternate Reality Day prank.


Did you miss me? I took the month of March off from the internet and behold! I have returned triumphant.


Kind of not at all. 

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.

I said, “You should let me take your account over. I got Pat’s verified.”

Scalzi said, “Yeah, during a GAME.”

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.”

Yep. After the Beautiful Game was over, Pat couldn’t get his real actual account verified, despite the fact that Twitter verified my fake account four times during the contest. So, I took his real account over for two days and… verified. Smug? Me? Well, yes.

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.

Again, with the not noticing.

So then, feeling cocky, I asked if I could try the blog. The last two weeks? That’s been me, starting… here. Sorry.  One of the techniques I used was to hang a flag on any inconsistencies in character by pointing out that the online Scalzi is an invented persona. I even listed what my game plan was:  “The online version of me is (usually) friendly and engaging and funny, tells clever stories about his family, friends and pets, and so on.”  After that, I just had fun and tried to be careful about not pissing people off. The Mallet of Loving Correction is not as fun to wield as one might think.

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?”

Continue reading Young Man’s War: First Contact


My Favorite Bit: Mindy Klasky talks about PERFECT PITCH

My Favorite BitMindy 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.

A brief reminder of my Hugo eligible works.

Hello future!

I’m writing this before heading on internet vacation for the month of March. You should be receiving it with one week left to nominate for the Hugo awards. I hope you won’t mind if I remind you that a couple of my things are eligible for consideration.


  • Lady Astronaut of Mars -  (We think the print version of this is eligible but there’s no official ruling. More details at

Short Story


Best Related Work

Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form

Best Dramatic Presentation Long Form

  • 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.

My Favorite Bit: Adam Christopher talks about THE BURNING DARK

My Favorite BitAdam 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.

RIP Grandma 1905-2014

My grandmother, Mary Elois Stephens Jackson, passed away this morning at 109 years. She had a good run and I know that she was ready to go, but I am going to miss her deeply.

She was a wonderful, remarkable woman.

Grandma Jackson

Grandma turns up in my fiction twice. If you want to get a sense of her spirit and gumption, she appears most recognizably in First Flight at That gives just a hint of what she was like. I had the idea for the story while visiting Grandma and realizing that she remembered the Titanic going down, the Great War, getting the Vote, the Spanish Flu. Heck, she knew people who fought in the Civil War. Staggering, huh? She was one of the primary sources when I was researching medicine shows, because she remembered going. 

Grandma in 1920

That was one of the remarkable things about Grandma. She was well over a hundred years old and her memory was remained sharp. She could tell you such stories.

The other time she shows up in my fiction is less happy. In Lady Astronaut of Marsthe scenes where Alma is caring for her husband were written while I was staying with Grandma and saw the dignity with which she handled the indignities of aging. At 102, she could still thread a needle and had always been independent so in the last couple of years when her body started to become unreliable, I think it was doubly hard for her. She was able to “do for herself” for such a long time. She didn’t like to put other people out or be a burden.

Grandma worked at Loveman’s in the women’s sportswear department until she was 82 and only stopped then because she had her second hip replaced. Even that didn’t really slow her down. It was impossible to go anywhere with her, without people saying “Hello Miss Jackson.” It was always “Miss Jackson” even to my dad. Everyone knew her and she remembered them, by name. At her 105th birthday, I remember there was a receiving line out the Fellowship Hall at the church, down the hallway, outside and almost to the parking lot. Over two hundred people came to wish her well and she knew them all. More impressive? She looked at the guest book afterwards and knew who had been there but hadn’t signed it.

She raised five children, worked hard her entire life, and took care of people around her, even people she didn’t know. I remember a rare occasion of going out to lunch with her — she usually cooked at home for us — and a waitress dropped a tray of glasses. Everyone else in the restaurant looked around. Someone applauded. Grandma just took another sip of her water and shook her head. “I never  look when someone drops something. I wouldn’t want people to notice if I made a mistake and staring at them doesn’t do any body any good.”

Even after she became unsteady on her feet she still would take care of family and friends through prayer.

She’d talk about living through the Depression. “We didn’t have much, but no body else did either so we didn’t realize we were missing anything.”

I think I’m in shock because at a certain point, you start to think that maybe she’s immortal, you know?

Here, let me stop trying to tell you about Grandma. Have a little visit with her. In between songs, Grandma tells a few stories about her father. She’s a mere 107 in this video. (My dad is the one on the fiddle)

I like to think that maybe she’s dancing with Granddaddy right now, while her father fiddles for them.

My Favorite Bit: Anna Kashina talks about BLADES OF THE OLD EMPIRE

My Favorite Bit iconAnna Kashina is joining us today with her novel Blades of the Old Empire. Here’s the publisher’s description.

Kara is a mercenary – a Diamond warrior, the best of the best, part of the Majat Guild. When her tenure to Prince Kythar comes to an end, he wishes to retain her services, but bust accompany her back to her Guild to negotiate her continued protection.

When they arrive they discover that the prince’s sworn enemy, the Kaddim, have already paid the Guild to engage her services – to capture and hand over the prince (who she has grown very fond of).

A warrior brought up to respect both duty and honor, what happens when her sworn duty proves dishonorable?

What’s Anna’s favorite bit?



My favorite bit in the Blades of the Old Empire closely relates to the reasons I like fantasy in the first place. I enjoy secondary worlds, creating kingdoms that never existed but are firmly rooted in reality. But what I enjoy even more is the sense that anything is possible. In the world where magic is a commonplace thing there is really no limit to the kind of trouble you can make your characters face. Watching them deal with it, and overcome it (in most cases) is my ultimate reward in writing, especially when I can achieve a state where the story can be driven largely by my characters, with only minimal help from me.

This state dominated the process of writing Blades of the Old Empire.

Imagine Kara, a superpowerful warrior woman, raised and trained in the notorious Majat Guild. Kara’s weapon skill is so superior that if she was allowed to do whatever she wanted she could definitely upset some serious balance. So, her power comes with a price: absolute obedience. The Majat warriors must always follow the code. And their code dictates that they must hire out their mercenary services to the highest bidder, no judgment involved.

It all goes well until one day Kara receives an assignment to capture and kill a good man. This man is the heir to the throne and the bearer of a rare magic gift that could help the kingdom defeat a powerful enemy. It is also the man she had grown to love, even if she is not permitted to act on her feelings because of her warrior code. All these things make it unthinkable to follow her orders. Yet, she knows that if she disobeys, her own Guild would order her execution–and even with her skill she would not be able to avert it.

I layered this conflict over a traditional fantasy story, where a prince with a magic gift becomes the kingdom’s hope in dealing with evil, and his ability to master his gift in time becomes the key to survival. The story actually starts off in the prince’s point of view, and then drives to the conflict and its aftermath.

This book was very enjoyable to write. The characters came alive for me, and they surprised me many times throughout the book. I was even more amazed by the facets of their personalities that emerged in the process. Watching each of them deal with the magically enhanced worst of my fantasy world was definitely my favorite bit.



Anna Kashina grew up in Russia and moved to the United States in 1994 after receiving her Ph.D. in cell biology from the Russian Academy of Sciences. She works as a biomedical researcher and combines career in science with her passion for writing. Anna’s interests in ballroom dancing, world mythologies and folklore feed her high-level interest in martial arts of the Majat warriors.

In other COMPLETELY UNRELATED NEWS, I’m taking a month off from the internet

In all seriousness, this was a previously scheduled internet vacation, but after the past week? I’m really, really, really happy I already had this scheduled.

Basically, I leave on the Steampunk Cruise tomorrow as one of the guests of honor. The internet is stupid expensive on board ship, so I was going to be offline anyway. I’ve taken internet vacations before, and found it really relaxing so I decided that I’d use the cruise to kick one off.

For the month of March, I’m going to take myself offline and try to remember what being not-busy is like. Granted, this includes recording Writing Excuses, but besides that, I’m going to just spend some time hanging out with Rob. A vacation. I’ve heard other people talk about them.

Which means–

If you want to contact me during the month of March, you’ll have to use postal mail. Again, I know it’s shocking but… if you write me a paper letter, I will write a paper letter back to you.

Mary Robinette Kowal
P.O. Box 221298
Chicago, IL 60622

On why I accepted the apology and on the role of apologies in general

So, Sean Fodera apologized and I accepted it.

In the vein of continuing to use this experience as a representative example, I’m going to address things I’ve seen floating around the internet.

“Why would you accept it?”

I think he was sincere.

If it had been a fauxpology, then, no. But, again, I think it was sincere. Was it a perfect apology? Well… no. But if you’re grading apologies on their technical merit, then there are very, very few perfect apologies. It’s like getting a perfect score in figure-skating. Sometimes, people try to apologize and trip over the same things, even though they are totally sincere about the apology.

“There was still [problematic language/defensiveness/points missed].”

It is hard to step back. Expecting someone to step back from a mistake, magically learn everything about the issue before they apologize — including high level discussion about embedded societal problems — incorporate all of that, and admit fault without screwing something up, is unrealistic. My mentor back in my puppetry days used to say, shoot for 100%, learn to be happy with 80%. His point was that it’s easy to beat yourself up about the things you got wrong. But 80% right? That’s still good. So what I look for in an apology is the direction it indicates. Did the person step back from the mistake, even if it’s not 100% back? Then good.

The other thing is that, if the topic is controversial and highly visible, there are probably people who are quietly emailing the person and saying, “Hey. Sorry they bullied you into apologizing,” or actively angry that the apology happened.

So what happens is that the person who screwed up gets slammed by both sides. Now, you might say, “Good. They screwed up.” But…

But there’s this thing I talk to my writing students about. Every line  exists to drive the narrative and shape the audience experience. So when an apology is offered, what narrative do I want to participate in? The one where the step back is a first step or the one where the person is so burned they never participate again?  Thank you, I’ll take the first step.

And that means accepting the apology.


“But he was forced to make the apology.”

We don’t actually know that, but for the sake of argument, let’s say that he was. There are many, many different forms a wake-up call can take. It does not matter if that call takes the form of the HR department sitting you down, or the internet falling on your head, or your best friend taking you out to drinks and saying, “Dude, WTF?” What matters is that the wakeup calls comes and you step back from the mistake.

I mean…what you want next is a lot of introspection and learning, but the first thing is that step back. Mistakes like this has been the crux point for a lot of people, where they’ve taken the first step into becoming an informed ally. More importantly, there are people watching this who have probably made the exact same mistake, just not so visibly. It’d be unfortunate if one of the things they learned was that apologizing is pointless.

Now, this isn’t to say that people shouldn’t have conversation about problems with an apology. Particularly when it involves something that is really deeply embedded in the societal structure.  Those conversations should absolutely occur, because that’s the way we unpack the problems, so the next person who screws up doesn’t have so far back to step.

And you know that there will be a next person. So refer back to this representative example the next time something happens and look at how we shaped the narrative from here.

That’s a wrap! OF NOBLE FAMILY is a completed draft

Hurrah! I just finished the last chapter in Of Noble Family, book 5 in The Glamourist Histories. Those of you reading along, can go check out chapter 36. At 143,000 words it is the longest of the books and stupidly long at that.

I say, stupidly because I was about two-thirds through when I realized that my original ending would not work. Not in a bajillion years. I stopped, rejiggered the outline and kept going, making notes about what I was going to need to restructure earlier. This means that I have some early plot threads that have absolutely no function in the novel and need to go back to yank them out. When I’m finished, the novel will still be longer than the other Glamourist Histories, but not this ginormous.

For comparison Shades of Milk and Honey is 75,000.

But– but, I like the general shape of the book and the changes that I need to make aren’t onerous. Once I do that, I send it off to Joanne Hillhouse, a novelist in Antigua, who is going to rewrite the dialect for me.  This is a trick I’ve used with other books where I’m not a native speaker. In Without a Summer, Paul Cornell rewrote dialogue in London and in Glamour in Glass, Aliette de Bodard rewrote the French dialogue. In each case, I really think of it as translation. I write the intent of the lines and the attitude of the speaker, and then get someone who is a native speaker to make it not sound stupid or insulting.

Because of that, I will be looking for readers on one other pass of this. If you think you might be interested, you can register to be notified when I’m ready for readers. I will also add that I am particularly looking for readers of colour on this one. While it’s always important to have a wide range of eyes, this novel is set in Antigua and I am fully aware that I’m writing outside my experience area. Research only gets you so far.

So– Want to read the next draft?

Eventbrite - Beta-read Of Noble Family

Chapters 33-35 are up

No, I didn’t write three chapters today, just one. But there’s only one chapter left and I want to see how these play when you aren’t waiting a full day between them.

So for those of you reading along… Here’s Chapter 33, and the links to 34 and 35 are waiting for you.