My Favorite Bit: Juliette Wade talks about MAZES OF POWER

My Favorite BitJuliette Wade is joining us today with her novel Mazes of Power. Here’s the publisher’s description:

The cavern city of Pelismara has stood for a thousand years. The Great Families of the nobility cling to the myths of their golden age while the city’s technology wanes.

When a fever strikes, and the Eminence dies, seventeen-year-old Tagaret is pushed to represent his Family in the competition for Heir to the Throne. To win would give him the power to rescue his mother from his abusive father, and marry the girl he loves.

But the struggle for power distorts everything in this highly stratified society, and the fever is still loose among the inbred, susceptible nobles. Tagaret’s sociopathic younger brother, Nekantor, is obsessed with their family’s success. Nekantor is willing to exploit Tagaret, his mother, and her new servant Aloran to defeat their opponents.

Can he be stopped? Should he be stopped? And will they recognize themselves after the struggle has changed them?

What’s Juliette’s favorite bit?

Mazes of Power cover image


Reading the description above, you might think that Mazes of Power is a story about two noble boys. It is – but that’s not all it is. There’s a third perspective in this book: that of an Imbati-caste servant named Aloran who comes to work for the boys’ mother. He’s important, and he’s my favorite bit. Let me explain why.

The Western literary canon is full of stories about kings, princes, and nobles. These stories train us to feel comfortable with the idea of contests for power, and often, we’re asked to empathize with a noble perspective, while less exalted groups to fade into the background. However, some stories change this pattern. I remember, as a child, feeling inspired by a story called “The Water of Life,” part of a fairy tale collection by Howard Pyle. In this story, the father of a princess asks suitors to complete three impossible tasks in order to win her hand, and the nobleman who admires her asks his faithful servant to complete the tasks… and in the end, the faithful servant is the one who wins the love of the princess. I also love movies, like Gosford Park and The Remains of the Day, that look at the secret lives of servants.

So when I was working on the caste system of Varin, I put a lot of work into the Imbati, the servant caste. They’re third from the top, just beneath nobles and officers. They’re highly educated, and they’re everywhere across the society: in the bureaucracy, in the courts, in the post offices and the prisons. One of the most important things to me, though, is that they are actually real people with childhoods, life experiences, education, and goals. And that means that each Imbati has a different life experience, and grapples with Imbati goals and ideals in their own way.

Like many Imbati in Pelismara, Aloran started at the Imbati Service Academy at age six, and studied hard to learn special skills like waiting, bodyguarding, law, political strategy, and nursing. At twelve, he decided to specialize in the Lady’s Training, choosing nursing over politics. He excelled in these skills, was certified at age 19, and is one of the select few young men and women at the Academy who become manservants. A manservant is an Imbati who vows to serve a particular individual of the nobility, rather than serving the Household, the State, or the Courts. Before swearing loyalty, a young Imbati goes through an adulthood ceremony where they are tattooed on the forehead with the symbol of their vocation.

Aloran is proud of his Imbati identity, and finds silence easy. He will readily give the oath of silence: “My heart is as deep as the heavens. No word uttered in confidence will escape it.” He also believes in the Imbati ideal of selfless loyalty.

When he encounters Tagaret and Nekantor’s family, however, his ideals meet a very complicated reality. He struggles with the depth of his emotional reactions to the conflicts in the house, especially with the fact that, though he has sworn to protect her, his Lady is not safe from her partner. He is constantly torn between his own strong moral judgments and the principles on which the nobility operates – and he also is required, in the name of professionalism, to hide any emotional reactions he has to these events. He has his medical skill, and a deep practicality, which help him in the epidemic, but he also has a fundamental sweetness that I just love. He takes comfort in the domestic routines of life when things get out of control, and he loves hairbrushing, because it’s an act that helps him untangle his thoughts as well as his Lady’s hair.

I can’t wait for you to meet him.


Mazes of Power Universal Book Link






Juliette Wade never outgrew of the habit of asking “why” about everything. This path led her to study foreign languages and to complete degrees in both anthropology and linguistics. Combining these with a fascination for worldbuilding and psychology, she creates multifaceted science fiction that holds a mirror to our own society. The author of short fiction in magazines including Analog, Clarkesworld, and Fantasy & Science Fiction, she lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her Aussie husband and her two sons, who support and inspire her. Her debut novel, Mazes of Power, will come out from DAW publishing on February 4, 2020.

In which I try on an A7-L replica spacesuit, courtesy of Adam Savage

I was recently at a conference and got to try on Adam Savage’s replica A7-L spacesuit. An A7-L is what they wore on the Apollo missions. This was very, very cool. A couple of actual astronauts were there and said that the fidelity of the suit was high.

To begin with, Adam had me sit down to slide my legs into the suit. It’s a back opening, with a zipper and an additional closure after that. Let me tell you, I have never been so happy that I had a camisole on under my sweater.

Sitting down to put legs through spacesuit

From there, he had me reach down and pull the legs up as close to my crotch as I could. I remember saying, “It’s like pulling on pantyhose.” In truth, the legs are snug — which they don’t look like they’ll be — because of the layers of insulation. This generation of suit has 21 layers.

From there, he had me slide my arms into the suit, stick my rump out, and duck through the neck ring.

I expected this to be harder than it was. I suspect that if the suit had been built for me, that would be true, but I’m a little shorter overall than Adam and definitely shorter through the torso.

Adam zipped it up and fastened the back while I grinned like I’d been given a new kitten.

The weight of the suit settled on my shoulders as soon as my head was through the ring. It weighs around 62 lbs but since it was distributed over my entire body, didn’t feel like it was much more than a heavily beaded gown. Okay. A heavily beaded gown with a significant train, but still.

I’ve definitely worked puppets that weighed more, but having read about the weight, I was still surprised. Once I was in it for a bit, I stopped noticing. Granted, there was no Portable Life Support System attached, so with the PLSS it would have been unmanagable.

The gloves were next. They have the interior bladder and the finger tips are made of the same material as the original Apollo suits. Even without being pressurized, they are stiff and clumsy. You’ve got virtually no sense of touch and what’s there is mostly about resistance than anything nuanced.

The shoes were not regulation to be clear. But super cool.

The “snoopy cap” was also very high fidelity. The mic just touched my cheek, which might not have happened if I hadn’t been grinning like a kid in a candy shop.

Then came the helmet! My actual thought process was EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!

Somewhat more helpfully, there’s an immediate aural change. Again, it felt familiar from some of the puppetry or mask work, in that the sound of my own breath was reflected back at me and everyone sounded distant and a little muffled. Where it differed is that with a puppet, I would have discreet ventilation holes hidden below the helmet, and would have had some external noise coming in via that route.

It’s not as muffled as a flight helmet for a T-38, but that’s designed to dampen sound.

I would love to experience this with the comms in the snoopy cap actually hooked up.

I immediately began heating up, because I wasn’t wearing a Liquid Cooling and Ventilation Garment. The LCVG is the long underwear with meters of tubing stitched to it that astronauts wear to control their body temperature on a spacewalk. Even just standing there, it was obvious that exertion would quickly become a problem.

I bent down, to see what the range of motion was like. Okay. A little restricted, mostly from lack of stretch, but not much. Think of it like wearing a snowsuit. If it were under pressure? Ugh. It would have taken a significant effort to move.

I wound up asking them to take the helmet off, because I couldn’t hear well when they were continuing to talk about the suit. If not for that, I would have happily stayed in it and played longer.

Best. Day.

Thanks to Adam for letting me try on his beautiful, beautiful spacesuit and to Jacob Matthews for the photos.

My Favorite Bit: Nandi Taylor talks about GIVEN

My Favorite BitNandi Taylor is joining us with her debut novel Given. Here’s the publisher’s description:

Yenni has never been this far from home. With only her wits, her strength, and her sacred runelore, the fierce Yirba warrior princess is alone in the Empire of Cresh. It’s a land filled with strange magics and even stranger people—all of whom mistrust anyone who’s different. But Yenni will prove herself, and find the cure for her father’s wasting illness. She will not fail.

No one warned her about the dragons. Especially not about him.

Yet there is something powerful and compelling about the violet-black dragon known as Weysh. In human form he’s muscular, beautiful—and completely infuriating. What kind of arrogant creature claims a stranger as his Given; as his destined mate? Yenni is no man’s—or dragon’s—plaything. But other magics must be at work here, because Weysh might just be her best hope at finding the answers she seeks.

Only now Yenni can’t tell if she’s fighting an attraction to a dragon . . . or fighting fate itself.

What’s Nandi’s favorite bit?

Given cover image


“Given” is my debut novel and it’s the story of Yenni-Ajani, a princess of the Yirba Island tribe whose father, the Chieftain, is ailing. Desperate to find a cure for his sickness, she goes abroad to the Northen Empire of Cresh, intending to enroll in the top magical academy there in the hope of learning something that will save him. While there she bumps into Weysh, a dragon-shifter who claims the two of them are Given, or destined soulmates. Yenni’s not having it, but Weysh is convinced he’s right. However if Weysh  keeps pushing, he’ll push her away for good.

Of course the slow-burn enemies to lovers romance is a big focus of the book. It was incredibly fun nudging the two main characters together. And to that end I enjoyed subverting some common, and in many cases problematic, romance tropes. But what really got my motor running was examining our existing cultural bias through the use of a secondary world.

I’ll give an example. Yenni comes from a collection of islands known as the Moonrise Isles. There, magic is done through drawing runes on the body and singing wordless rune hymns. In the empire of Cresh, magic is done through incantations bolstered by an ironclad faith in a collection of theories, laws and principles. Yenni is incredibly skilled at runelore, the magic of her home, but when faced with the magical entrance exam for the Creshen academy, she is at a loss, drawing ridicule from the head of the magical department at the academy. This was my metaphor for how we value certain forms of intelligence over others, and how Western standardized testing can fail students from certain backgrounds.

I’m always thrilled when astute readers on Wattpad, where the story was first posted online, identify and point out exactly which cultural bias I’ve critiqued in a certain scene.  Further complicating things for Yenni is the empire’s perception of runelore. Yenni is dismayed to learn that runelore is considered primitive and taboo even, and especially, among the empire’s Island colonies. The rumors go so far as to say that Moonrise Islanders use the blood of infants in their runepaint. Some quick readers saw that this is an analogy for indigenous people’s complicated history with the religions of their colonizers, Christianity in particular.

I love worldbuilding, and one of my favorite parts is using my fantasy cultures to analyse, interrogate and make sense of the world I live in. So using magic systems as a means of pointing out and critiquing cultural bias was definitely my favorite bit.


Given Universal Book Link





Nandi Taylor is a Canadian writer of Caribbean descent based in Toronto. She’s a two-time Watty award winner, and her Wattpad story Given has garnered over one million reads and earned the 2018 Worldbuilders Watty award.

Nandi grew up devouring sci-fi and fantasy novels, and from a young age wrote books of her own. Her books are an expression of what she always wanted more of growing up—diverse protagonists in speculative settings. Common themes she writes about are growth, courage, and finding one’s place in the world.

My Favorite Bit: Kameron Hurley talks about THE BROKEN HEAVENS

Favorite Bit iconKameron Hurley is joining us today to talk about The Broken Heavens. Here’s the publisher’s description:

The bloodsoaked conclusion to Kameron Hurley’s epic fantasy masterpiece – the Worldbreaker Saga – is unleashed.

The Dhai nation has broken apart under the onslaught of the Tai Mora, invaders from a parallel world. With the Dhai in retreat, Kirana, leader of the Tai Mora, establishes a base in Oma’s temple and instructs her astrologers to discover how they can use the ancient holy place to close the way between worlds.

With the connected worlds ravaged by war and Oma ascendant, only one world can survive. Who will be sacrificed, and who will be saved, when the heavens finally break?

What’s Kameron’s favorite bit?

The Broken Heavens cover image


What does it mean to say your favorite part of writing a book was when you knew it was over?

I’ve spent the last five years writing the final book in my Worldbreaker Saga, The Broken Heavens. In truth, I probably rewrote the entirety of the book three times.

Oh, sure, I wrote other books in there as well – in the last nine years I’ve published eleven books – but with this one, well… I kept typing and wailing and drinking and wailing some more until I got the ending right and my agent said it was good. I revised the whole first half again after we’d turned it into my editor, and then again… and then we shipped it.

That was my favorite bit. The shipping part.

It took a long time to figure out how to end a fantasy epic where folks are fighting their doubles from parallel worlds; an epic about genocide and morally gray choices and star magic and small people caught up in events far larger than they can comprehend. I transformed a scullery girl who really is the daughter of nobodies into the driving force of a resistance against genocide and autocracy. I smashed together whole worlds and drove numerous characters to find and fight disparate versions of themselves, all of whom had made different, and often more terrible, choices.

It’s a lot to keep in your head.

Books are tricky pieces of storytelling. Ending a series of books carries with it even more complexity. I wanted this book done right, though, not just on time. No one’s going to remember a book was on time if it’s crap. They will remember that it was crap.

Saying too much about how I ended this book will be giving a lot away, even though the ending is my favorite part. I had set myself up to give my characters two terrible endgame choices. But when I gazed out at the world around me, I realized those were false choices. And I wanted my characters to realize that too. But how I was going to achieve that… I had no idea. It took me years to figure it out.

And now you all get to see what I came up with.

I am pleased I didn’t go with the easy choice. Pleased that I pushed my characters and myself to be smarter than that.

I know a number of people who say they won’t read an epic fantasy series until it’s done. I do not actually believe this, knowing approximately how many books the top folks in fantasy are moving without having finished their final volumes.

But if you were waiting for a fiery, bloody, hopeful, gritty, fantasy saga that’s unlike anything if you’ve ever read before – you can now binge read the whole thing in a go. And rest assured – the ending is worth the wait.


The Broken Heavens Universal Book Link






Kameron Hurley is the author of  The Light Brigade, The Stars are Legion and the essay collection The Geek Feminist Revolution, as well as the award-winning God’s War Trilogy and The Worldbreaker Saga. Hurley has won the Hugo Award, Locus Award, Kitschy Award, and Sydney J. Bounds Award for Best Newcomer. She was also a finalist for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the Nebula Award, and the Gemmell Morningstar Award. Her short fiction has appeared in Popular Science Magazine, Lightspeed and numerous anthologies. Hurley has also written for The Atlantic, Writers Digest, Entertainment Weekly, The Village Voice, LA Weekly, Bitch Magazine, and Locus Magazine. She posts regularly at

My Favorite Bit: Rod Duncan talks about THE FUGITIVE AND THE VANISHING MAN


My Favorite BitRod Duncan is joining us with his novel The Fugitive and the Vanishing Man, the concluding chapter in the “Map of the Unknown Things” series. Here’s the publisher’s description:

Ladies and gentlemen, for the very final time, Elizabeth and Edwin Barnabus will perform the grand illusion of the Vanishing Man.

Elizabeth Barnabus is a mutineer and a murderer. So they say. The noose awaits in Liverpool as punishment for her crimes. But they’ll have to catch her first.

Disguised as a labourer, Elizabeth flees west across America, following a rumour of her long-lost family. Crossing the border into the wilds of the Oregon Territory, she discovers a mustering army, a king who believes he is destined to conquer the world, and a weapon so powerful that it could bring the age of reason crashing down.

In a land where politics and prophecy are one and the same, the fate of the Gas-Lit Empire may come to rest on the perfect execution of a conjuring trick…

What’s Rod’s favorite bit?

The Fugitive and the Vanishing Man cover image


My favourite part of this book is, without question, a conjuring trick. My protagonist, Elizabeth Barnabus, learned how to perform The Vanishing Man when she was growing up in a travelling show run by her parents. Years have passed. But when she is reunited with a fellow performer from the show, she finds herself having to stage the trick one more time.

Much rests on the outcome. Persuade the right people that their magic is real and they’ll be able to shape the future of the world. Fail and they’ll be unmasked as mere conjurors. Death would follow.

I’ve had this trick in my mind for more than six years. You’ll find clues to it in The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter, which was the very first novel set in the Gas-Lit Empire. Not that I’d worked out the precise mechanism at that time. My notion was something like this: Note to self – devise a spectacular disappearing act as the grand finale at the end of the second trilogy.

Writing it, however, proved a challenge. A conjuring trick in a novel follows the same storytelling pattern as a heist. It works like this:

  • First, the significance of the trick or crime caper must be established. A heist cannot be merely for money. Nor can a conjuring trick be for entertainment alone. Something extra must be at stake.
  • Next, the near-impossibility of the task must be understood. But there will be an elegant, one-in-a-million chance of it being achieved.
  • All the people must be gathered, each with a unique part to play, dependent on their individual skills.
  • The details of the plan will then be laid out. There could be a dress-rehearsal. Perhaps a map or a model. However it’s done, we need to understand how things are supposed to happen.
  • There will be a ticking clock – our awareness that time is running out. The point of no return is approaching, when our thieves or conjurors will have separated and begun their allotted tasks.
  • That’s when something unforeseen will happen. The plan goes wrong. It always does. We expect it. Yet it must also be a surprise. Perhaps an enemy intervenes. Or a chance event will push the plan off course. It is a disaster.
  • This is when our protagonists must show their quality. They improvise. And through a coming together of things we knew about already but hadn’t considered relevant, they snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Or perhaps they fail and suffer the consequences.

In order to write a fictional heist or conjuring trick, it must be worked out backwards. Everything is so intricately connected that the writer needs to start by figuring out what happens at the end. Then, step by step, they reverse through the story until the starting point is revealed. Meticulous planning is needed to make it all seem unplanned. In that way, the writing itself becomes like a conjuring trick.

Watch carefully. Elizabeth walks the length of a banqueting table, kicking away plates and wine goblets as she goes, pistol in hand. Three hundred pairs of eyes are watching, from the king and the courtiers down to the kitchen boys.

Now you see her. And now you… don’t.


The Fugitive and the Vanishing Man Universal Book Link





ROD DUNCAN writes alternate history, fantasy and contemporary crime. His novels have been shortlisted for the Philip K Dick Award, the East Midlands Book Award and the John Creasey Dagger of the Crime Writers’ Association. A dyslexic with a background in scientific research, he now lectures in creative writing at DeMontfort University. Some might say that he is obsessed with boundary markers, naive 18th Century gravestones and forming friendships with crows. But he says he is interested in the way things change.

My Favorite Bit: Parker Peevyhouse talks about STRANGE EXIT

My Favorite BitParker Peevyhouse is joining us today to talk about her novel Strange Exit. Here’s the publisher’s description:

Seventeen-year-old Lake spends her days searching a strange, post-apocalyptic landscape for people who have forgotten one very important thing: this isn’t reality. Everyone she meets is a passenger aboard a ship that’s been orbiting Earth since a nuclear event. The simulation that was supposed to prepare them all for life after the apocalypse has trapped their minds in a shared virtual reality and their bodies in stasis chambers.

No one can get off the ship until all of the passengers are out of the sim, and no one can get out of the sim unless they believe it’s a simulation. It’s up to Lake to help them remember.

When Lake reveals the truth to a fellow passenger, seventeen-year-old Taren, he joins her mission to find everyone, persuade them that they’ve forgotten reality, and wake them up. But time’s running out before the simulation completely deconstructs, and soon Taren’s deciding who’s worth saving and who must be sacrificed for the greater good. Now, Lake has no choice but to pit herself against Taren in a race to find the secret heart of the sim, where something waits that will either save them or destroy them all.

What’s Parker’s favorite bit?

Strange Exit cover image


As the youngest of five, I can safely say that younger sisters are worth their weight in books. My original idea for my latest novel, Strange Exit, was that it would be set in a simulation and would follow a 17-year-old and her younger sister. Sometimes I envisioned the older sister, Lake, searching a broken sim for her sister. And sometimes I envisioned Lake searching with her sister, an indispensable partner who simultaneously annoys and encourages Lake. In the end, what most excited me about writing the story was that it could be about both: Lake could search the sim for Willow with the help of… Willow.

Strange Exit takes place decades after a nuclear apocalypse, when survivors live in a simulation meant to prepare them for life after nuclear winter—but they’ve forgotten that the sim isn’t reality. Lake is one of the few who realizes the truth, and she searches the sim for “sleepers” to wake with the help of a computer-generated version of her sister Willow.

Lake and Willow’s partnership was my favorite element of the book to write, because I got to draw from my own experience with the contentious, hilarious, helpful, and totally steadfast bond of an older and younger sister. A younger sister myself, I know what it’s like to chafe at not being taken seriously, to long to capture an older sister’s attention—and to settle for mutual exasperation. At one point in the story, Willow complains, “You think everything I do is annoying,” a grievance no doubt voiced by little sisters the world over. Lake replies, “Good thing I’d rather be annoyed by you than entertained by anyone else,” which is the kind of concession I imagine my older sisters giving me and meaning with all their hearts.

The person Lake most wants to rescue from the sim is, of course, the real Willow. But in moments when Lake succumbs to the dream-logic of the sim, she forgets that the computer-generated version of Willow isn’t her real sister. And in moments when Lake is most lucid, she remembers an even more painful truth: Willow never survived the nuclear apocalypse, and so Lake will never find her. One day, Lake hopes to rescue all the sleepers and get out of the malfunctioning sim before it swallows her along with them—but that day will also be the last Lake can spend with the “figment” of Willow, the only version of her sister left in the world. It’s this dilemma that most intrigues me about the story; it makes me wonder which I’d rather have—a simulated version of my sisters or no sisters at all.

One of my older sisters reads all of my stories before they ever get to publication (and many stories that will never see publication). I dedicated Strange Exit to her, not only because she’s a trusted reader but also because I figure I owe her for modeling the dynamic I tried to achieve in the book—that of an older sister letting a younger one tag along, not out of kindness, but because she might secretly enjoy the company. Or at the very  least, because she’s desperate for someone to tell her a good story.


Strange Exit Universal Book Link




My Favorite Bit: Niki Smith talks about THE DEEP & DARK BLUE

My Favorite BitNiki Smith is joining us to talk about her graphic novel The Deep & Dark Blue. Here’s the publisher’s description:

The Witch Boy meets The Legend of Korra in this breathtaking, epic graphic novel.
After a terrible political coup usurps their noble house, Hawke and Grayson flee to stay alive and assume new identities, Hanna and Grayce. Desperation and chance lead them to the Communion of Blue, an order of magical women who spin the threads of reality to their will.

As the twins learn more about the Communion, and themselves, they begin to hatch a plan to avenge their family and retake their royal home. While Hawke wants to return to his old life, Grayce struggles to keep the threads of her new life from unraveling, and realizes she wants to stay in the one place that will allow her to finally live as a girl.

What’s Niki’s favorite bit?

 The Deep and Dark Blue cover image


I devoured stories that played with gender as a kid. Mulan, disguising herself as a male soldier to keep her father safe. Tamora Pierce’s Alanna, eager to serve as a knight, even if she had to take a new name to do it. Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night— the trope goes back centuries, and I love it in all its forms. But what I never saw was the reverse: it was always a character yearning to live the life of a boy. The life of a girl was full of boring needlework: tedious and something to escape.

But what if it weren’t? What if “women’s work” wasn’t just something to dread? The more I researched, the more I wanted to write a system of magic with its roots deep in fiber and textile arts… so I did! The Deep & Dark Blue is about twins on the run, disguising themselves and joining a sisterhood of women who weave living bloodline tapestries, healers who use cat’s cradle to knit bone— all powered by a mysterious, deep blue dye. Grayce, a young trans girl who finds a family in this sisterhood, becomes a spinner, using a small, carved drop spindle to control the wind and manipulate the world around her.

Spindles have been around for thousands of years, back to Neolithic times. Small enough to fit into a pocket and simple enough for a child to use, spinning was ingrained in every part of life: it gave us thread, rope, and cloth, and it’s not at all surprising that the spindle found its way into religion and mythology around the world.

In ancient Greece, the three Fates, the Moirai, assigned destinies to every mortal at birth. One goddess spun the thread of life, the next measured its length, and the third severed it. In Norse mythology, you’ll find the same three goddesses, the Norns, spinning the threads of mortals’ lives at the base of Yggdrasil. I moved to Munich a few years ago and my favorite tourist spot is the incredibly gaudy and Baroque Asam Church— and there, again, I found the spindle and thread of life.

Spindle in Asam Church

The conclusion of Plato’s Republic describes the orbit of the celestial bodies revolving around the Earth, a model of the workings of the then-known universe. At the heart: the “Spindle of Necessity.” Held by Ananke, the primordial deity, and spun by the three Fates: the cosmos exists on a spindle.

Spindles show up in folklore and fairytales everywhere. Disney tells us that Sleeping Beauty pricked her finger on a spinning wheel, but the tale is from an era before spinning wheels— her curse was the sharp point of a drop spindle. Witches may ride broomsticks nowadays, but in medieval Europe they rode distaffs: the wooden staffs that held their wool for spinning…

Spindle of cosmos (left), witch riding spindle (right)

Working as a spinster meant a woman could support herself without needing to marry— a wild concept! And one not generally appreciated by the rest of the folks in town.

I wove that into The Deep & Dark Blue: a self-sufficient enclave of women, working a mysterious magic through fiber arts. A tight-knit sisterhood that a young girl yearns to be a part of, and when the chance comes, she seizes it.


The Deep & Dark Blue Universal Book Link




My Favorite Bit: Derek Künsken talks about THE QUANTUM GARDEN

My Favorite BitDerek Künsken is joining us to talk about his novel The Quantum Garden. Here’s the publisher’s description:


Days ago, Belisarius pulled off the most audacious con job in history. He’s rich, he’s back with the love of his life, and he has the Time Gates, the most valuable things in existence. Nothing could spoil this…

…except the utter destruction of his people and their world. To save them, he has to make a new deal with the boss he just double-crossed, travel back in time and work his quantum magic once again.

If he can avoid detection, dodge paradox and stay ahead of the eerie, relentless Scarecrow, he might just get back to his own time alive.

What’s Derek’s favorite bit?

The Quantum Garden cover image


I’m a sense of wonder junkie. I think the universe is vast and marvelous and too strange to really comprehend. Its weirdness can only be appreciated, considered from all angles, turned over like a pebble in restless fingers.

So my stories gravitate to hard, icy worlds, tragically genetically-engineered people, the metallic clouds sailing through the upper atmospheres of brown dwarfs, and the interior of wormholes. My characters often have strange perceptions and see the world off-angle, living through a kind of insightful disorientation, sometimes with Québécois swearing.

I have all this in The Quantum Garden, my second novel, a kind of space opera Back to the Future story. But if we’re getting to brass tacks about my favourite bit, I have to pick the heart of the time travel story. Time travel stories do lots of exciting things, but in my favourite ones the dislocation in time is a lens magnifying who we are and where we come from.

Each of us at some point in life asks why we are the way we are, what influences added together to make us. Sometimes we ask those questions many times. I do. That kind of questioning is at the core of the novel for Ayen Iekanjika, whom we first met in The Quantum Magician. What separates her from me is that she’s obliged to go back in time, to the events around her birth, and those around the birth of her nation and its myths. She finds things very different from her present, in ways that she both anticipated and didn’t anticipate.

Time travel literature is the ultimate lens for looking into causality. It obliges us to think about what causes are and where our personal strengths and weaknesses come from. Occasionally and unnervingly, self-knowledge tells us that some very deep, important things are fragile, and have no causes at all.

The Quantum Garden was a deep dive into this for me. I only realized afterwards that the questions in the novel are obviously bothering me in some way, even if I don’t know where they came from. So, even though there are AIs and sub-zero alien plant intellects and weird physics and biology, my favourite bit is the deeply personal story I got to explore in Ayen’s past. 


The Quantum Garden Universal Book Link






After leaving molecular biology, Derek worked with street kids in Central America before finding himself in the Canadian foreign service. He now writes science fiction in Gatineau, Québec. His short fiction has appeared in Asimov’s, Analog, Clarkesworld and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. His first novel, The Quantum Magician, was nominated for the Locus, Aurora and Chinese Nebula awards, and has been published in English, Mandarin and Japanese, with French and Russian translations forthcoming. He also writes a fun girl-mercenary-jetpack-Flash-Gordon adventure comic called Briarworld at

My Favorite Bit: Cynthia Hand talks about THE HOW AND THE WHY

My Favorite BitCynthia Hand is joining us today to talk about The How and the Why. Here’s the publisher’s description:

Today Melly had us writing letters to our babies. I can’t imagine you as an actual baby, let alone an eighteen-year-old person reading this letter. I’m not even eighteen yet, myself. -S

Cassandra McMurtrey has a family. One with a loving mother and a father too full of cheesy dad jokes for his own good. They’re the best parents a girl could ask for, and they’ve given Cass a life she wouldn’t trade for the world. She has everything she needs—except maybe the one thing she wants.

Like to know who she is. Where she came from. Questions that her adoptive parents, no matter how much they love her, can’t answer. Mysteries she feels she must solve.

Cass can’t stand the thought of hurting the family she has by searching for a woman she’s never met. But eighteen years ago, a teenage girl wrote Cass a series of letters. Letters that have been sealed up in the Idaho Bureau of Vital Records since the day she was born. Letters that might just hold the answers Cass has been searching for. Clues, waiting to be found.

What’s Cynthia’s favorite bit?

The How and the Why cover image


I was a theatre nerd in high school. Over the four years that I spent at Bonneville High School, (in Idaho Falls, Idaho) I acted in fifteen plays, and helped with dozens more. Theatre was my life. It was a way for me for explore who I wanted to be through playing other people. I was (and still am) an introvert, but being on the stage allowed me to come out of my shell. There was no better feeling for me than being up there under the lights.

I kept doing theatre in college, but once I graduated that part of my life abruptly ended. I poured all of my creative energy into writing. So at the point when I started working on The How & The Why, my eighth novel, I hadn’t been in a play for (gulp) almost twenty years.

The How & The Why is primarily a story about adoption. Half of it is told from the point of view of a pregnant teenager writing letters to the unborn baby she intends to place for adoption. The other half of the story is told by Cass, the eighteen-year-old girl that adopted child grows up to become.

Cass is a senior at Bonneville High School, in Idaho Falls, Idaho. She’s also a theatre nerd.

Getting to write about the theatre again was definitely one of my favorite parts of working on this novel, and the best part was that Cass gets to try out for, rehearse, and perform one of my all-time favorite musicals: Into The Woods. There was a movie version a few years ago that was pretty good, but the play itself, live on the stage is absolutely magical.

I’ve always wanted to be in Into the Woods, but never got the chance back in the day. So, in a way, I got to live vicariously through Cass. I watched as many different versions of the musical as I could get my hands on: the movie version, the Broadway version (which is the best one, in my opinion—Bernadette Peters is the best!) and a half dozen student versions. I figured out what character Cass would be best cast as, along with her best friend, Nyla, and her new love interest, Bastian (who obviously had to play Prince Charming). I designed the set that Cass would perform on, and chose the costume she would wear. I thought about how she would feel, rehearsing song after tricky Sondheim song. I waited in the wings with her, while she was waiting to go on stage for her big solo.

And finally her “Moment In The Woods” arrived. Cass stood on the stage, under the lights, feeling the eyes of the audience, her heart pounding, her nerves zinging, and she sang.

And for just a fleeting moment, I got to go back and be up there with her.

It really was my favorite bit.


The How and the Why Universal Book Link





Cynthia Hand is the New York Times bestselling author of several books for teens, including the UNEARTHLY trilogy, THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE, MY LADY JANE and MY PLAIN JANE (with fellow authors Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows), THE AFTERLIFE OF HOLLY CHASE, and the upcoming novels THE HOW & THE WHY (November 5, 2019) and MY CALAMITY JANE (June 2, 2020). Before turning to writing for young adults, she studied literary fiction and earned both an M.F.A. and a Ph.D. in fiction writing. She currently resides in Boise, Idaho, with a husband who’s addicted to buying typewriters, two kids, two cats, one crazy dog, and a mountain of books. Find her online at




My Favorite Bit: Andi C. Buchanan talks about FROM A SHADOW GRAVE

Favorite Bit iconAndi C. Buchanan is joining us to talk about their novel From a Shadow Grave. Here’s the publisher’s description:

This is no ordinary ghost story

Wellington, 1931. Seventeen-year-old Phyllis Symons’ body is discovered in the Mt Victoria tunnel construction site.

Eighty years later, Aroha Brooke is determined to save her life.

Urban legend meets urban fantasy in this compelling alternate history by award-winning author Andi C. Buchanan.

What’s Andi’s favorite bit?

From a Shadow Grave cover image


“In this story, you save yourself.”

This sentence begins the fourth and final part of From A Shadow Grave. It was the point at which my whole messy first draft came together, and is a sentence that for me still encapsulates not just the story I was trying to tell, but the person I wished I could bring back to life.

From A Shadow Grave is based on a true story: a murder that took place in my home city of Wellington. The murdered teenager, Phyllis Symons, the protagonist of the story, was buried – likely still alive at that stage – in a road tunnel construction site. To this day, almost ninety years later, motorists toot as they drive through the tunnel, and while some say it’s just because of the acoustics, plenty others will tell you it’s to ward off her ghost.

The fact people were trying to ward off a young woman who died in such tragic circumstances seemed so casually cruel. Not that they had malicious intent, of course (except possibly to the unfortunate pedestrians who share the tunnel) but it seemed to be such a sad way for someone to be remembered. I wanted to instead ask the question: what if things had been different? What if Phyllis Symons had been saved – or if she had saved herself? What were the lives she could have lived, the lives that were taken from her?

“In this story, you save yourself.”

It’s my favourite line of the book, but it’s also one I realised I had to handle with care. In opening up alternative futures I did not want to pass judgement or victim blame. To suggest that if only she had made different decisions, if only she had tried harder, things would have been different, is a long way from the message I wanted to send.

And yet the more I developed the character – a characterisation I have to add is a fictionalisation, and perhaps I have gleaned her personality accurately, perhaps not – I wanted to give her the opportunity to save herself. To rescue as well as be rescued.

I went back. I realised that giving her autonomy wasn’t about whether she survived this attack and why. It was about the whole life she had, the life she should have had, the myriad of relationships and decisions and choices and events in the decades she had ahead of her.

Phyllis Symons saving herself was not the story. It was just one possible start.


From a Shadow Grave link




Andi C. Buchanan lives among streams and faultlines, just north of Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand. Winner of a 2019 Sir Julius Vogel Award in the Best Short Story category, their fiction has been published in Apex, Kaleidotrope, Glittership, and more. You can find Andi on Twitter @andicbuchanan or at

My Favorite Bit: Wendy Nikel talks about THE CAUSALITY LOOP

My Favorite BitWendy Nikel is joining us today to talk about the final novella in this series, The Causality Loop. Here’s the publisher’s description:

Dodge Greenley is tired of being the go-between for his time-traveling family. All he wants is for them all to be able to live together peacefully in one era—is that too much to ask? But after breaking all the Rules of time travel in a desperate attempt to retroactively free his parents from the threat of the secret organization his father worked for a hundred years earlier, Dodge makes a startling discovery. It turns out there’s someone else stalking his family up and down the timeline, and this time, the menace may be coming from within the Place in Time Travel Agency itself.

Enlisting the help of his 22nd century coworker, Dodge sets off to the year 1915 to rescue his sister from a threat that might have originated at any point in their past, present, or future, proving once again that the greatest threat to time travelers is other time travelers.

What’s Wendy’s favorite bit?

Causality Loop cover image


THE CAUSALITY LOOP is the fourth book in the Place in Time novella series, which wraps up the stories in the three previous books about a multi-generational family that gets tangled up with a travel agency specializing in trips through time. The protagonist, Dodge Greenley, was initially introduced as a young boy, and now, we get to see the man he becomes and how the events of THE CONTINUUM changed him, which was an exciting challenge.

But a lot has changed since the first book (which is bound to happen when you travel a hundred years into the future). For one thing, the employees that were at the Place in Time Travel Agency (PITTA) in THE CONTINUUM are long gone, and the office is now populated with completely new Jump Specialists, Retrievers, Researchers, Technicians, and a new boss. One of these new characters – a receptionist in her late twenties, named Nell – surprised me by becoming my favorite bit of this story.

Whereas our main character, Dodge, has grown up with time travel being a “normal” part of his family’s life and heritage, one reason Nell was so fun to write was because for her, it’s still a completely new experience. She’s worked for PITTA for longer than Dodge, but keeping track of the administrative side of a time travel agency is… well… not as exciting as you’d think. For years, she’s been hearing about other people’s adventures, scheduling their jumps, and watching amazing things happen all around her, without an opportunity to experience any of it for herself. But she’s smart and observant and isn’t afraid to say what she thinks – even when it gets her into sticky situations. So when Dodge approaches her to ask for her help with a task that he doesn’t want their boss to find out about, Nell knows just what to demand in return: her own chance to travel into the past.

She embarks on this adventure with great enthusiasm, her anachronistically dyed hair tucked hastily under her hat. But Nell lacks the training, the knowledge, or the caution that most of PITTA’s professional time travelers usually have, which makes her an interesting foil for Dodge and presents him with a unique outsider perspective as he attempts to untangle his family’s messed-up chronology. In return, he finds in her an unlikely ally and friend – something we all can appreciate, no matter the time or place.


The Causality Loop Universal Book Link






Wendy Nikel is a speculative fiction author with a degree in elementary education, a fondness for road trips, and a terrible habit of forgetting where she’s left her cup of tea. Her short fiction has been published by Analog, Nature: FuturesPodcastle, and elsewhere. Her time travel novella series, beginning with The Continuum, is available from World Weaver Press. For more info, visit

My Favorite Bit: Dawn Vogel talks about THE BOILING SEA

Favorite Bit iconDawn Vogel is joining us today to talk about The Boiling Sea, the final book in the Brass and Glass series. Here’s the publisher’s description:

In the turbulent skies of the Republic, it’s not always easy to outrace the storm …

With their destination determined, Captain Svetlana Tereshchenko and the crew of The Silent Monsoon are in pursuit of the Last Emperor’s Hoard and the fabled Gem of the Seas. Or they will be, once they rescue their pilot, make a deal with a notorious scoundrel, and outfit themselves for their plunge into the Boiling Sea. When they realize what the Gem of the Seas is capable of, they must struggle with their loyalties, morality, and unforeseen complications to choose the right path. With alliances tested and rivalries resurfacing, Svetlana must lead her crew and associates on their most dangerous mission yet!

What’s Dawn’s favorite bit?

The Boiling Sea cover image


When I wrote the short story that inspired the Brass and Glass series, I had no idea that I would someday be poking at old patent drawings and other sketches as I tried to figure out how to send my protagonists to the bottom of a superheated ocean in search of a lost treasure.

I’m a historian by training, so research is in my blood. I love getting to dig up obscure facts and weird occurrences and work those into my writing. When it comes to my steampunk stories, I often find myself checking to see if there’s something close to the technology I want that existed in the late nineteenth century. Even if I’m writing a piece that isn’t set on our Earth, I can still use realistic technologies with a slightly different flavor to suit my purposes.

My research started with diving bells, which could be used to explore the ocean, but only from within the confines of a tiny amount of space. Diving bells were in use by the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, so it absolutely made sense to have my characters have access to one of those. They had to rig up a system for air exchange, of course, so they could breathe inside the diving bell as they descended. I also needed to give them some way to communicate with their ship, which I accomplished with a bell and a length of string that ran through the tubing for the air.

However, I quickly realized that not only were my protagonists going to have to reach the bottom of the ocean, they were going to have to leave the diving bell. Diving suits, too, were in existence prior to the nineteenth century, so those were also viable for my story. This meant I got to dress two of my protagonists in horribly awkward and clumsy canvas suits with giant fish-bowl style helmets, and then throw all sorts of problems at them because of their suits, like a lack of weaponry that the stiff and oversized gloves could handle. Coupled with the fact that my main character, Captain Svetlana Tereshchenko, is blind in one eye, the diving suits provided a wealth of complications.

While there are certainly aspects of the science that I glossed over heavily in writing Brass and Glass 3: The Boiling Sea (like: how does a planet survive if the sea is literally boiling? And how deep are these oceans, exactly?), I loved getting to figure out the details of how characters with the equivalent of nineteenth century Earth technology could engage in deep sea diving and survive the experience. It scratched just the right amount of research itch for concluding my steampunk series.


The Boiling Sea Universal Book Link






Dawn Vogel’s academic background is in history, so it’s not surprising that much of her fiction is set in earlier times. By day, she edits reports for historians and archaeologists. In her alleged spare time, she runs a craft business, co-edits Mad Scientist Journal, and tries to find time for writing. Her steampunk adventure series, Brass and Glass, is available from DefCon One Publishing. She is a member of Broad Universe, SFWA, and Codex Writers. She lives in Seattle with her husband, author Jeremy Zimmerman, and their herd of cats. Visit her at or find her on Twitter @historyneverwas.

My Favorite Bit: Tim Pratt talks about THE FORBIDDEN STARS

Favorite Bit iconTim Pratt is joining us today to talk about his novel The Forbidden Stars, the conclusion of this Axiom trilogy. Here’s the publisher’s description:

The ancient alien gods are waking up, and there’s only one spaceship crew ready to stop them, in this dazzling space opera sequel to The Wrong Stars and The Dreaming Stars.

Aliens known as the Liars gave humanity access to the stars through twenty-nine wormholes. They didn’t mention that other aliens, the ancient, tyrannical – but thankfully sleeping – Axiom occupied all the other systems. When the twenty-ninth fell silent, humanity chalked it up to radical separatists and moved on. But now, on board the White Raven, Captain Callie and her crew of Axiom-hunters receive word that the twenty-ninth colony may have met a very different fate. With their bridge generator they skip past the wormhole, and discover another Axiom project, fully awake, and poised to pour through the wormhole gate into all the worlds of humanity…

What’s Tim’s favorite bit?

The Forbidden Stars cover image


The Forbidden Stars is the third in my space opera Axiom trilogy about a crew of human, posthuman, and alien do-gooders trying to stop a species of ancient slumbering malevolent might-as-well-be-gods from waking up and murdering all other intelligent life in the galaxy.
But really, the series is about the characters. In the first book I focused on the love story between the captain of the White Raven, Callie Machedo, and biologist Elena Oh, awakened from centuries of cryo-sleep (timeslip romance! Sort of). Book two dug deeper into the character of the ship’s XO and doctor, Stephen Baros, and his membership in the Church of the Ecstatic Divine (devoted to community-building and experiencing the presence of god by taking really good psychedelic drugs).
For the third book, I wanted to highlight two characters who were more enigmatic in the first volumes: Drake and Janice, the pilot and navigator/comms specialist. Drake is easygoing and optimistic, while Janice is acerbic and believes in preparing for the worst, and while they provide a lot of enjoyable commentary, their histories were a bit mysterious. In earlier volumes I revealed that Drake and Janice were in a terrible shipwreck in an asteroid field years before the series began. They were horrifically injured, and would have certainly died in the bleakness of space… but they were discovered by a group of unknown aliens, who picked them up and put them back together again. In a way.
The aliens saved their lives… but Drake and Janice were so badly hurt there weren’t enough viable body parts left for one body, let alone two. As a result, Drake and Janice were combined into a single body, pieced together from bits of their former forms and augmented with technology far beyond anything humans understood. The result doesn’t look much like other humans do. The aliens, who couldn’t (or wouldn’t) communicate with Drake and Janice in any meaningful way, put them a ship and sent them on their way once the procedures were done.
Drake and Janice disagree about the intent of the aliens: Janice thinks they were mad scientists, sadistic butchers who decided to play with the nearly-dead humans they found like toys. Drake thinks they were benevolent healers, their good intentions hampered by the fact that they’d never seen a human before, and had no idea how to repair them properly — he thinks the aliens didn’t even realize Drake and Janice started out as two individuals.
Drake and Janice share a body, but maintain their own separate personalities and ability to communicate as individuals (they do experience a little bit of bleed-through in terms of emotional states, though). The trauma of their experience has, of course, changed them immensely.
In The Forbidden Stars, I decided to reveal how much it changed them. When my crew encounters the same aliens who rescued/tortured Drake and Janice, I took the opportunity to write an extended flashback that almost works as a self-contained story, revealing Drake and Janice as they once were. We get to see them bantering as friends, surveying an asteroid field, encountering tragedy, and even get to see their experiences (as garbled and fragmented as they were) on the alien ship. In so doing, I got to reveal some pretty cool things about their history and how their experiences transformed them, beside the obvious physical changes… and I answered the question once and for all about whether the aliens they encountered were sadists or saints. That section is my favorite part of the book — it’s story I waited three years to tell, and one I hope my readers will find moving and illuminating.


The Forbidden Stars Universal Book Link





Tim Pratt is a Hugo Award-winning SF and fantasy author, and has been a finalist for World Fantasy, Sturgeon, Stoker, Mythopoeic, and Nebula Awards, among others. He is the author of over twenty novels, most The Forbidden Stars, and scores of short stories. His work has been reprinted in The Best American Short StoriesThe Year’s Best FantasyThe Mammoth Book of Best New Horror, and other nice places. Since 2001 he has worked for Locus, the magazine of the science fiction and fantasy field, where he currently serves as senior editor. He lives in Berkeley, CA with his wife and son.

My Favorite Bit: Lisa Goldstein talks about IVORY APPLES

Favorite Bit iconLisa Goldstein is joining us today to talk about her novel Ivory Apples. Here’s the publisher’s description:

Ivy and her sisters have a secret: their reclusive Great-Aunt is actually Adela Martin, inspired author of the fantasy classic, Ivory Apples. Generations of obsessive fans have searched for Adela, poring over her letters, sharing their theories online, and gathering at book conventions. It is just a matter of time before one fan gets too close.

So when the seemingly-perfect Kate Burden appears at the local park, Ivy knows that something isn’t right. Kate has charmed the entire family, but she is suspiciously curious about Ivory Apples. And Ivy must protect what she and her Great-Aunt share: magic that is real, untamable, and—despite anyone’s desire—always prefers choosing its own vessel.

What’s Lisa’s favorite bit?

Ivory Apples cover image


A long time ago I wrote a story about a man whose mother died.  Like a lot of people, my own mother had trouble with the difference between fiction and non-fiction, and she was worried that the story meant that I wanted her to die.  I spent a lot of time trying to explain to her that of course that wasn’t true, that stories didn’t work that way.  I told her that the man and his mother were made up, not based on anyone I knew.  I told her that the point of the story — the point of every story — was to give the main character a problem to deal with, and that the man’s problem was so terrible because he had loved his mother very much.  Even after all of that, though, she wasn’t convinced.

It was only years later that I realized I had never written about a problematic mother, and that part of the reason was that I worried about what she would think.  (She read everything I wrote.  Well, everything I showed her, anyway.)  After she died, though, I started a novel about the worst mother figure you could imagine.

That sounds bad, doesn’t it?  I didn’t run to the computer the day we buried her, really.  I started the book several years later, and even then I didn’t completely understand why I felt free to write it.

It’s true that this person, Kate Burden, shared some characteristics with my mother, but she was far, far worse, something out of nightmare.  She was based on other scary people in my life as well: an ex-boyfriend, a particularly bad baby-sitter, liars and hypocrites I’d known, people who enjoyed inflicting emotional pain.  She was the product of something that had bothered me all my life, that if someone is charming and delightful, at least superficially, they can get away with a lot, especially if they prey on the marginalized, on people who aren’t as popular as they are.  That even if you point out their lies — that they said one thing yesterday and the exact opposite today — most people will shrug and say that you must have misunderstood, or that it isn’t important anyway.

It turned out that I flat-out loved writing this character.  I had a great time coming up with malicious things for her to do.  A lot of people have pointed out that evil characters are more interesting than good ones, that, for example, Paradise Lost moves faster when Lucifer shows up, and slows down in the scenes with that boring God character.  What I didn’t know was that they’re a lot of fun to write, too, maybe because your subconscious is let off the leash and can come out to play.  When I described the book to a friend of mine he called the her “evil Mary Poppins,” which is a perfect description of what I wanted to do.

Another reason I liked writing this part is that I got to tell these shadowy figures from my past that I’d understood what they’d been up to.  I’d lost track of most of them and there’s no chance they’ll ever hear of the book, let alone read it, but I still enjoyed getting it all down.  That boyfriend I mentioned earlier, who had once said that he couldn’t see me because his grandfather was dying, and then a month later told me about the great day he’d had with his grandfather — did he really think he’d gotten away with it?  It wasn’t the lie that offended me as much as the fact that he couldn’t even keep his story straight.

Ms. Burden seduces her way into a family and gains more and more control over the four children, especially the oldest, Ivy.  To write this part I had to go back to the helplessness I felt at that age, the sense that the adults around you have outsized power, that you have to trust them because you have no choice.  I thought about the things that would have angered or upset or embarrassed me, and I had Ms. Burden visit them on Ivy and her younger sisters.  She buys Ivy new clothes, but they’re just slightly too small.  She drops Ivy off at a dentist in a decaying, unfamiliar neighborhood, and then leaves her there with no way to get home, and only comes to pick her up after they close, after Ivy has almost given up hope.

Ms. Burden also uses magic to help her, but what she doesn’t know that Ivy has her own magic.  And here, using fantasy, I got to take old childhood traumas and rewrite them.  I didn’t make them “better” — Ivy still goes through horrors before the end — but I gave them the shape of a story.  I made more sense of them, for myself and I hope for the reader.  So it was — well, I wouldn’t say “fun,” but there was even something helpful about this part as well.


Ivory Apples Universal Book Link



Lisa Goldstein’s latest novel, Ivory Apples, has just come out from Tachyon Press.  Her other novels include The Red Magician, which won the American Book Award for Best Paperback, and The Uncertain Places, which won the Mythopoeic Award. She has also won the Sidewise Award for her short story “Paradise Is a Walled Garden.”  Her stories have appeared in Ms.Asimov’s Science FictionThe Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and The Year’s Best Fantasy, among other places, and her novels and short stories have been finalists for the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards.  She lives with her husband and their irrepressible Labrador retriever, Bonnie, in Oakland, California.  Her web site is

My Favorite Bit: E. L. Chen talks about SUMMERWOOD/WINTERWOOD

My Favorite BitE. L. Chen is joining us today to talk about her novel Summerwood/Winterwood. Here’s the publisher’s description:

Pray you never find your Summerwood, Grandfather had said. I’d found something worse. I’d found his.

In Summerwood, twelve-year old Rosalind Hero Cheung can’t wait to spend the summer in Toronto with her teenaged sister Julie and their famous author grandfather. Years ago Walter Denison wrote a series of bestselling children’s novels about a magical land called the Summerwood. But to Hero’s dismay, Walter is cold toward his granddaughters and Julie derides Hero’s hope that the Summerwood is real.

Nevertheless, one day she and Julie stumble into the Summerwood. Ruled by the beautiful and enigmatic Lady of Summer, it is the idyllic fantasy land out of Walter’s books, complete with quaintly dressed talking animals. However, Hero discovers the Summerwood is far more sinister than Walter had ever let on. Julie is abducted and, to save her life, Hero must find the Summerwood’s sacred winter stag. Hero quickly learns that setting out on a fantasy quest is far more prosaic—and terrifying—than she’d ever imagined, and there is a steep and bloody price to pay for being the hero.

In Winterwood, three years have passed since Lindy Cheung went into the Summerwood and emerged changed and broken. Now she’s getting into trouble—starting fights, skipping school, dating unsuitable boys. After her mother grounds her—again—she runs off to Toronto to her sister, the only person who knows what really happened three years ago. But Juliet has moved on from the trauma, and Lindy finds herself back in the Summerwood, where an old enemy tells her: The stag must die again.

What’s E.L.’s favorite bit?



Anyone who knows me personally will be able to pick out my favorite bit from Summerwood/Winterwood right away: the rabbits. The first characters that Hero, the protagonist, meets when she stumbles into the magical Summerwood are a family of anthropomorphic rabbits, and Thaddeus Cottontail quickly becomes her best friend.

Some people are dog people, others are cat people. I’m a rabbit person. Do you remember that Twitter meme in which people listed everything they could talk about for 30 minutes without prep? I only had one thing on my list: rabbits.

It all started when I volunteered at the Toronto Humane Society in my twenties. They didn’t need any more cat groomers, but would I like to start as a Bunny Cuddler? I said yes, and soon adopted two rabbits of my own. Lenny was a surly Dutch mix, and Otis was a beautiful fawn rex who was full of beans. Easy to litter-train, they had free rein of my apartment although Lenny’s distrust of hardwood floors kept him confined to a rug. They both lived over 10 years. I didn’t adopt any more after they passed away because I’d just had my son. (He was born in the Year of the Rabbit, so he’s my bunny now.)

Rabbits are not the docile children’s “starter pets” you see in pet shop cages beside the hamsters and gerbils. Those are often babies, and like us when they hit puberty they develop major attitude–or rabbitude, as we bunnyhuggers say. (Sadly a lot of pet bunnies are abandoned at this point.) They’re social creatures that observe hierarchies, like dogs, and if they think they’re the alpha rabbit they will boss you around, head-butting your shins for food and nose rubs.

If you’re lucky enough to be favored by one of these lordly lagomorphs, they’ll rub you with their chin, marking you as theirs with the scent gland beneath it. Piss them off and they’ll run away from you, flicking up a back foot. “It’s the pet that can give you the finger,” an ex-boyfriend once observed when he’d inexplicably offended Otis.

Friends think I love Easter because of all the bunny knickknacks that show up in stores. I don’t. Those rabbits are often wearing homespun outfits–like Thaddeus Cottontail in his overalls–and holding carrots. A rabbit would claw your eyes out before you could get a costume on it–as a prey animal, anything clinging to the body will slow it down–and contrary to popular belief, carrots are actually bad for rabbits.

I could go on and on.

So it was natural that in Summerwood/Winterwood I build in real domestic rabbit behavior into Thaddeus Cottontail and his family. Fellow bunnyhuggers will recognize the binkies, the angry ears, and yes, the eating of poop and the mounting. Behavior incongruous with a child’s fantasy of adorable animals that walk and talk and dress like people. To me, rabbits in clothes implies a terrible dystopia, not a twee pastoral paradise. The rabbits’ repressed natural behavior is the first clue that the Summerwood is not what it seems.

Of course this meant I got to invent some creative rabbit cursing too. “Cecals and celery!” is the most common expression the Cottontails use, cecals being the kind of poop they eat, and celery because it was the vegetable Otis would grudgingly accept if there wasn’t anything better available. And my favourite: “What in the name of Great-Aunt Clementine’s dewlap…?”

If you’d like to learn more about Summerwood/Winterwood, visit the ChiZine site. If you’d like to learn more about how awesome rabbits are, visit the House Rabbit Society website. Always adopt from a shelter, and in the name of Great-Aunt Clementine’s dewlap, please don’t give your young child a pet rabbit for Easter.


Summerwood/Winterwood Universal Book Link





E. L. Chen’s short fiction has been published in anthologies such as The Dragon and the Stars and Tesseracts Fifteen, and in magazines such as Strange Horizons and On Spec. Her first novel, The Good Brother, was published by ChiZine in 2015 and her next, Summerwood/Winterwood, is out now. She lives in Toronto, Canada with her son.