Journal

My Favorite Bit: Ruthanna Emrys talks about WINTER TIDE

Favorite Bit iconRuthanna Emrys is joining us today with her novel Winter Tide. Here’s the publisher’s description:

Winter Tide is a weird, lyrical mystery — truly strange and compellingly grim. It’s an innovative gem that turns Lovecraft on his head with cleverness and heart” —Cherie Priest

After attacking Devil’s Reef in 1928, the U.S. government rounded up the people of Innsmouth and took them to the desert, far from their ocean, their Deep One ancestors, and their sleeping god Cthulhu. Only Aphra and Caleb Marsh survived the camps, and they emerged without a past or a future.

The government that stole Aphra’s life now needs her help. FBI agent Ron Spector believes that Communist spies have stolen dangerous magical secrets from Miskatonic University, secrets that could turn the Cold War hot in an instant, and hasten the end of the human race.

Aphra must return to the ruins of her home, gather scraps of her stolen history, and assemble a new family to face the darkness of human nature.

Winter Tide is the debut novel from Ruthanna Emrys.

What’s Ruthanna’s favorite bit?

Winter Tide cover image

RUTHANNA EMRYS

Ron Spector is among the core supporting characters in Winter Tide. One of the few FBI agents to specialize in matters eldritch, he kicks off the plot by asking Aphra to help him out with an investigation… that just happens to coincide with her own desire to retrieve her family’s stolen books from Miskatonic University… that just happens to coincide with his own desire to prove Aphra’s worth to his bosses. I never intended to base him on my great-uncle.

Ron is a gay Jewish man, working for the US government in a time when closets are mandatory and unthinking antisemitism rampant. This all seemed perfectly organic to a book about the intersection of real and fantasaic oppression. My Cthulhu-worshipping Deep Ones were never intended to stand in for any real-world race or religion, but to hold up a funhouse mirror to real-world prejudices. In a world (ours) where any minority will be treated ill and subject to assumptions, what’s universal? How will a bunch of long-lived aquatic humanoids be treated just like Jews or African Americans or Nikkei or QUILTBAG folk, and how will their experiences be unique? And what happens when they start interacting with those other groups and comparing notes?

Spector, who willingly serves a state in which he’s only marginally accepted, felt like a natural foil to Aphra, who reviles that same state for destroying her family. I didn’t notice from what corner of my subconscious he’d arisen until I was trying to figure out hats. The late 40s fall on the boundary of modern propriety, you see, one aspect of which is that some men still wore hats everywhere, and others had set that bit of fashion aside. Hats are great, offering all sorts of little character moments. You can doff your fedora to show respect, or leave it on inside when distracted. But would Spector wear one? Well, says my wife, why don’t you look at pictures of your Great Uncle Monroe?

Right. My great-uncle, a New York Jew of about Spector’s vintage, who spent time as a diplomatic aide. The one who traveled the world with his “business partner” years after their retirement, lived with him his whole adult life, and left him all his worldly possessions. “But we don’t know that he was gay by modern standards,” my mother said, in her letter accompanying the packet of photos, along with the revelation that Great-Uncle’s hubby was responsible for my family’s obsession with fondue. Uh-huh. It’s true; according to the tenets of cosmic horror, nothing about this world is truly knowable.

So Spector wasn’t based directly on Monroe, but he gained an extra dimension from his real-world equivalent. And that became important as I got further into the book, and saw more ways that he could be a foil for Aphra. One of the things I had fun with, while I wrote, was how all the characters are experiencing their own book—all slightly different genres. Aphra’s book is the one in the blurb, a historical fantasy about building community and trying to put off human extinction for a century or two. Her foster sister Neko is having a bildungsroman about growing into your freedom and figuring out what you really want.

And Ron Spector? He’s stuck in a Lovecraftian cosmic horror story. He’s learning that the universe is larger and stranger and more dangerous than he thought, and trying to come to terms with forces so large and inhuman that merely brushing against them risks life and sanity. But he isn’t Lovecraft’s standard narrator, and that changes his story. He’s strange enough himself that he willingly acknowledges the humanity of anyone he can talk to, and is willing to push that boundary outward even when it’s a struggle. At the same time, the awe-inspiring, brain-breaking scope of a Mythosian universe is a direct challenge to his mostly-assimilated, semi-secular Judaism. He’s fine with the idea that his own religious canons are really just stories written by people, meant as allegorical guidance. He’s less fine when Aeonist texts turn out to be pretty accurate descriptions of what’s out there…

The best cosmic horror is psychological study, a close-up look at what happens when someone’s worldview is turned completely upside down. Winter Tide is about how many ways there are to up-end a worldview. For some people, that upheaval takes horror from beyond the stars. For others, all it requires is a closer look at humanity itself. The whole cast of Winter Tide, whatever kind of book they think they’re in, are right in the thick of both.

LINKS:

Book page

Author website

Twitter

BIO:

Ruthanna Emrys lives in a mysterious manor house on the outskirts of Washington, DC with her wife and their large, strange family. She makes home-made vanilla, obsesses about game design, gives unsolicited advice, and occasionally attempts to save the world. Her stories have appeared in a number of venues, including Strange HorizonsAnalog, and Tor.com. Winter Tide is her first novel.

My Favorite Bit: K. Bird Lincoln talks about DREAM EATER

Favorite Bit iconK. Bird Lincoln is joining us today with her novel Dream Eater. Here’s the publisher’s description:

Koi Pierce dreams other peoples’ dreams.

Her whole life she’s avoided other people. Any skin-to-skin contact—a hug from her sister, the hand of a barista at Stumptown coffee—transfers flashes of that person’s most intense dreams. It’s enough to make anyone a hermit.

But Koi’s getting her act together. No matter what, this time she’s going to finish her degree at Portland Community College and get a real life. Of course it’s not going to be that easy. Her father, increasingly disturbed from Alzheimer’s disease, a dream fragment of a dead girl from the casual brush of a creepy PCC professor’s hand, and a mysterious stranger who speaks the same rare Northern Japanese dialect as Koi’s father will force Koi to learn to trust in the help of others, as well as face the truth about herself.

What’s K. Bird’s favorite bit?

Dream Eater cover image

K. BIRD LINCOLN

When Joseph Campbell Isn’t Enough: Or why I hunger for Baku

There’s this memory I have of being in my elementary school library during lunch hour, running my fingers over the spines of books in the 398.2 area of nonfiction (folktales and myths) and being thrilled with the cornucopia of Red Riding Hood tales, Changelings, Greek Heroes, Baba Yaga, and Babe the Blue Ox.

Through them I discovered a hunger for the stories we tell ourselves as a people.

In high school I discovered Joseph Campbell and delved into those tales. Stories which evoked the psychic unity of mankind as manifested in the Hero’s Journey or Creation Myths.

For a while, that satisfied my hunger.

But I was hungry again by college—just when I had to choose a language to study to meet graduation requirements—and met a boy. A very, very cute boy who was also a Japanese Studies major. So I started to study Japanese language, history, and psychology. It began to dawn on me that Joseph Campbell, while certainly including myths from Asian countries in his writing, was as bound by the same white, Euro-centric cultural upbringing in the interpretation and focus on myths as I was.

And I realized that my hunger for making sense of the stories meant I had to not only unify and categorize, but also delve into the weird, obscure (this was before Neil Gaiman’s American Gods or the TV show Grimm) and not-oft-mentioned stories.

If you’re a manga or anime fan, you probably know about Kitsune. Kij Johnson’s The Fox Woman, Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: The Dream Hunters, MTV’s Teen Wolf, Pokemon, Disney’s Robin Hood—the trickster fox is one of those easy-to-plug-into Euro-centric culture myths. What really fed my hunger to find meaning in a true diversity of human experience and thought, were the other kinds of myths: the dream-eating baku, the turtle-esque kappa with their polite fanaticism, bowls of water embedded in their heads, and propensity for rape or murder, and the avian-demon tengu that evolved from fierce and violent protectors of the forest to amiable bumpkins easily duped by humans.

Reading tales of the kappa and the tengu challenged me to wrap my mind around the interaction and seeding of religion and culture that occurred from India to China through Korean and into Japan. They forced me to realize a broader view of what civilization was (476-800 BCE was by no means “dark ages” for India, China, and Japan) and understand my own cultural viewpoint was quite narrow. Kappa and Tengu were exotic, they tickled my fancy for far-off flavors and stories of people I could easily label “other”, “different”, “strange”.

But then I married a Tokyo boy and had daughters—and all of a sudden I became hungry again to seek that which unifies rather than that which makes of us “the other.” (Because my daughters’ future psychotherapy bills depended upon it.) How could these freaky tales, these monsters, from the very primitive depths/hindbrains of such different cultural minds be incorporated into a psychically whole being?

Baku are ungainly. Awkward chimaeras of tiger and elephant, possibly inspired by sightings of ancient tapir.

baku image 1 baku image 2

Commonly known from 18th and 19th century Japanese netsuke (a miniature sculpture originally developed as a closure for small sacks used as pockets in yukata and kimono ) carvings like these.

netsuke image 1 netsuke image 2

Baku eat bad dreams. Although, if they are called upon too often and remain hungry after digging into a nightmare, they may stay to eat your hopes, aspirations, and ambitions as well. A chancy helper. But it was to baku I was drawn. Baku are just strange enough to have no real parallel in European culture that I could easily identify, yet they tap into a universal human vulnerability—our psyche as we sleep, the most primitive and meaningful images of our dreaming, and the ways our brains organize and incorporate information.

What would it mean to have one foot in the waking and one foot in the dream world? What does it mean to come from two very distinct cultures like Japan and America? Baku appeal to me because of their very disjointedness, the chimerical nature that attempts to incorporate disparate pieces into a whole. (Here’s where my daughters would roll their teenage eyes and tell me they are not chimaeras but people, and stop drawing parallels between bicultural identity and myths).

But it’s too late. My hunger for the obscure tales, coupled with my desire to find unity in diversity, have already lead to making Koi, my Dream Eater protagonist, both half-baku and half-Japanese. I can’t promise Koi discovers any Joseph Campbell- style universal truths in her journey, but she does get to wrestle with trickster kitsune, Armenian dragons, and Pacific Northwest ice hags and trickster bluejays.

LINKS:

Official page

Goodreads

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

iBookstore

Kblincoln.com

Facebook

BIO:

K. Bird Lincoln is an ESL professional and writer living on the windswept Minnesota Prairie with family and a huge addiction to frou-frou coffee. Also dark chocolate– without which, the world is a howling void. Originally from Cleveland, she has spent more years living on the edges of the Pacific Ocean than in the Midwest. Her speculative short stories are published in various online & paper publications such as Strange Horizons. Her medieval Japanese fantasy series, Tiger Lily, is available from Amazon. She also writes tasty speculative and YA fiction reviews under the name K. Bird at Goodreads.com. Sign up for her sporadic newsletter, The Mossy Glen from her facebook page and get access to free goodies– both readable and edible.

My Favorite Bit: Aliette de Bodard talks about THE HOUSE OF BINDING THORNS

Favorite Bit iconAliette de Bodard is joining us today with her novel The House of Binding Thorns. Here’s the publisher’s description:

The multi-award-winning author of The House of Shattered Wings continues her Dominion of the Fallen saga as Paris endures the aftermath of a devastating arcane war….

As the city rebuilds from the onslaught of sorcery that nearly destroyed it, the great Houses of Paris, ruled by Fallen angels, still contest one another for control over the capital.

House Silverspires was once the most powerful, but just as it sought to rise again, an ancient evil brought it low. Phillippe, an immortal who escaped the carnage, has a singular goal—to resurrect someone he lost. But the cost of such magic might be more than he can bear.

In House Hawthorn, Madeleine the alchemist has had her addiction to angel essence savagely broken. Struggling to live on, she is forced on a perilous diplomatic mission to the underwater dragon kingdom—and finds herself in the midst of intrigues that have already caused one previous emissary to mysteriously disappear….

As the Houses seek a peace more devastating than war, those caught between new fears and old hatreds must find strength—or fall prey to a magic that seeks to bind all to its will.

What’s Aliette’s favorite bit?

House of Binding Thorns cover image

ALIETTE DE BODARD

My favourite bit of writing The House of Binding Thorns was re-imagining the geography of my alternate Paris.

The Dominion of the Fallen series, which comprises The House of Shattered Wings and The House of Binding Thorns, is set in an alternate 20th Century where a huge magical war between factions devastated Paris and much of Europe–and where the survivors are still fighting a Cold War of attrition in the ruins, with political intrigue and covert use of magic.

I wanted to take familiar tourist (or local) sights and give them an eerie twist. The dome of the great department store Les Galeries Lafayette is now broken, and gang-members scavenge in the ruined counters; the Seine is black with magical pollution and pulls people from bridges and quays; the grand mansions of the powerful, the hôtels particuliers, have floral wallpaper flecked with mould and gravel flecked with dirt in their gardens, …

I based the geography of my post-magical-war Paris in the turn-of-the-century Parisian one: a very important (but excessively geeky one) was whether I took into account Baron Haussman’s extensive modifications to the geography of the city: I decided to do so, partly because this would result in a map that wasn’t too unfamiliar to the reader (and I was already juggling a lot of unfamiliarity!).

It’s pretty easy today to find amazingly detailed maps of Paris from this time period (I used this one ).

I’ve lived in Paris for decades, so it was a bit of a weird experience imagining what a magical war would have done to the streets. I would walk in front of a particularly distinctive building, and think, “Ah-ha, I could use this, how would it have changed?”. This occurred a lot when writing The House of Binding Thorns: the titular House, Hawthorn, had a decayed hôtel particulier vibe, and as it happened I would run a lot of errands in the vicinity of these.

One problem I hadn’t anticipated was making sure I was not committing huge anachronisms: because I know Paris very well, I would write a bridge or a street and not always check that they did exist back then. The most embarrassing mistake I made was having two characters cross the Bir-Hakeim Bridge, in the south west of Paris: I was very slow to realise it had been named for a famous WWII battle that hadn’t happened in my alternate chronology!

I also had a lot of fun with the different magical factions: all the Houses have names that are pertinent to their location. House Astragale is in the suburb of Saint-Ouen, which once was the headquarters for the military order of the Star: I picked “astragale” because it was close to “astral” but is actually the name of a bone (it *is* creepy Paris, after all!). House Silverspires is on Ile de la Cité, which had the most churches in Paris in the mid-19th Century and would therefore have looked like a sea of white spires from afar.

Lest this make me look very serious, I’ll also admit to terrible bilingual word play: House Hawthorn, the aforementioned decadent hotel particulier, is a fast-and-loose transcription of “Auteuil”, the wealthy southwestern suburb of Paris where it’s based. It’s also a tree with beautiful flowers, prickly thorns and a very invasive tendency, which happens to describe the House to a tee!

I’ll leave you with a passage that describes the inside of House Hawthorn:

The House was silent: it was still dark and freezing cold outside, with another hour or so to go to dawn, when the kitchen and laundry rooms would come alive, and the drudges would take their mops and brooms into the corridors, and light, one by one, the big chandeliers with candles on poles, to signal the beginning of the day.

Thuan had wandered it, at night, when only the bakers in the kitchens were up, kneading dough for the massive stone ovens: the main, cavernous edifice; the small, winding streets spreading out from beyond the gardens, their buildings cracked limestone confections with rusted wrought-iron balconies, and dependents in embroidered dresses and top hats leaning, languidly, against the pillars of blackened porches and patios. The broken ruins in the corners of the gardens: the abandoned buildings, with the trails of water running down glass panes like tears; the melted, pitted limestone overgrown with ivy and other creepers; the black debris mixed in with the gravel; and the broken-off hands on the statues in the fountains. All the traces of the war, in a House that hadn’t been spared by it.

(…)

He wandered corridor after corridor, losing himself in the labyrinth of the West Wing, running a hand on the wainscot of cracked wooden panels, his fingers brushing the engraved figures of game animals and trees. There was something addictive, alluring about standing outside the bedrooms of the House’s elite, the leaders of each court, and their being none the wiser as to the danger he represented.

He stopped at a crossroads between two corridors, to look at a striking piece, a stag whose antlers blurred and merged into the thorns of a tree. Dogs were harrying it, yet the beast held itself tall and proud, as if it didn’t even deign to notice them. The detail had chipped away, and there was dust around the design, a thickening layer like a gray outline.

On the right, the corridor curved sharply, flaring into something very much like an antechamber, at the end of which was a huge set of wooden doors. They were strangely plain: painted with a scattering of faded silver stars against a dark gray background. Two of those stars were falling from the firmament; their silver tinged with the scarlet of blood, a shade that never quite seemed to hold as the viewer moved.

It smelled, faintly, of bergamot and citrus, and Thuan had no business being there.

LINKS:

My website

My twitter

Amazon

B&N

Powell’s

Indiebound

BIO:

Aliette de Bodard writes speculative fiction: her short stories have garnered her two Nebula Awards, a Locus Award and two British Science Fiction Association Awards. She is the author of The House of Shattered Wings, a novel set in a turn-of-the-century Paris devastated by a magical war, which won the 2015 British Science Fiction Association Award, and its standalone sequel The House of Binding Thorns (Ace/Gollancz). She lives in Paris.

Beta readers wanted for 9600 word fantasy short story

Been awhile, eh? I wrote two novels in the last year and let short fiction slip to the side. Or back. Or under… or whatever. POINT BEING that I just finished a short story and could use some fresh eyes on it. Here’s the teaser.

THE WORSHIPFUL SOCIETY OF GLOVERS

Outside the window of their garrett, the cockle-seller hollered, “Cockles an’ mussels! Cockles an’ mussels!” Her voice blended with the other London morning street sounds to mean that Vaughn was going to be late.

“Botheration.” He tied off the thread in the fine blue leather of the gloves he was stitching and snipped it with the little pair of silver sheers he’d snuck out of the master’s shop. Be his hide if he were caught taking them home, but worse if he bit the thread off instead of snipping it neat. No telling what his saliva would do when the guild brownie added the beauty spell to it.

Shoving back his chair, Vaughn tucked the shears into the pocket of his waistcoat. He grabbed the gloves with one hand and a slice of rye bread with the other.

His sister laughed, “Are you going to be late again?”

“Was trying to finish these gloves for Master Martin.” He slid the gloves into the pocket of his coat, heading for the door. “I’ll be glad when this damn journeyman period is over.”

Behind him, Sarah made a coughing grunt. Vaughn’s heart jumped sideways in his chest. Not again. He dropped the bread and the gloves and spun, but not in time to catch her.

If you want to read, just comment on my site and I’ll send the story to the first five to ten folks.

Thanks all! I think I’m set now. There’s a chance that I’ll do a second pass with this one, so feel free to raise your virtual hand. For the moment though, I’ve got enough readers.

A moment of truth

In the midst of finishing my most recent novel, I managed to forget that this weekend was April Fool’s Day, or as I like to call it, Alternate Reality Day. It’s my favorite holiday, but this time I’m actually teaching all weekend.

This is disappointing, because I had done some early groundwork for this year, which I’m not going to get to use. I tweeted a thing that looked like something Chuck Tingle might write, left it up for five minutes, and then deleted it. This is a screen shot that someone sent to ask if I were, in fact, Chuck Tingle.Tweet reading, "yes, i am retiring as a holistic doctor but not as a Tae Kwon Do grandmaster. i continue to fight devilmen to prove LOVE IS REAL."

I even wrote to him to ask if it were okay for me to pretend to be him. (Because otherwise, I would be taking credit for someone else’s work, which is something only devilmen would do.) He said, “hello TRUE BUCKAROO name of mary, you make books real you make books kiss the sky! this is a good way for all who like to read and i am happy that you write with love. this funny prank (HAHAHAHAHA) is a WAY of love and that is okay”

So there you go. Groundwork laid. Time non-existent. I guess you could say that my plans were pounded in the butt by my own scheduling conflicts.

On the other hand, this is potentially the most Schrodinger of possible posts to make today: Am I really Chuck Tingle and using this to convince you that I’m not, OR am I not remotely Chuck Tingle and using this to make you think I am?

Whichever version of reality you choose to live in, just be assured that LOVE IS REAL.

April 2017 Newsletter and Tour Schedule

Mary here, keeping you in the loop about what I’ll be doing and the places I’ll be going in April.

  • Friday 31 March to Sunday 2 April: Short Story Intensive (online)
  • Sunday 23 April: Patron class on contracts for Patreon Supporters
  • Monday 24 April to Thursday 27 April: FutureScapes Writers’ Workshop (Sundance Resort, Utah)
  • Friday 28 April to Sunday 30 April: Short Story Intensive (online)

In case you didn’t get my last newsletter, or if you’re new (welcome!), I recently started a Patreon so that I can create fiction, puppets, and the things that you, my dear fans, are here for with greater reliability and ease. What do patrons get from this, pray tell? Well, aside from the obligatory pictures of my cats and their antics (honestly, what would the internet be without cat pictures?), there are online classes, novel excerpts, and other exclusive goodies. (For example, I just posted a giant list of the rejected titles for the Lady Astronaut novels, because titles are hard.)

And why is this important for me? It gives a bit more of a stable foundation to the freelancer lifestyle, which means I won’t have to take gigs that don’t interest me, and helps me focus on the projects I’m more passionate about.

Yours,

Mary

P.S. In other news, I recently completed a novel. Have a drink!

P.P.S You can sign up for my newsletter and or event notifications on the right sidebar of the website.

 

My Favorite Bit: Rosalyn Eves talks about BLOOD ROSE REBELLION

Favorite Bit iconRosalyn Eves is joining us today to talk about her novel Blood Rose Rebellion. Here’s the publisher’s description:

The thrilling first book in a YA fantasy trilogy for fans of Red Queen. In a world where social prestige derives from a trifecta of blood, money, and magic, one girl has the ability to break the spell that holds the social order in place.

Sixteen-year-old Anna Arden is barred from society by a defect of blood. Though her family is part of the Luminate, powerful users of magic, she is Barren, unable to perform the simplest spells. Anna would do anything to belong. But her fate takes another course when, after inadvertently breaking her sister’s debutante spell—an important chance for a highborn young woman to show her prowess with magic—Anna finds herself exiled to her family’s once powerful but now crumbling native Hungary.

Her life might well be over.

In Hungary, Anna discovers that nothing is quite as it seems. Not the people around her, from her aloof cousin Noémi to the fierce and handsome Romani Gábor. Not the society she’s known all her life, for discontent with the Luminate is sweeping the land. And not her lack of magic. Isolated from the only world she cares about, Anna still can’t seem to stop herself from breaking spells.

As rebellion spreads across the region, Anna’s unique ability becomes the catalyst everyone is seeking. In the company of nobles, revolutionaries, and Romani, Anna must choose: deny her unique power and cling to the life she’s always wanted, or embrace her ability and change that world forever.

What’s Rosalyn’s favorite bit?

Blood Rose Rebellion cover image

ROSALYN EVES

As a debut novelist, being asked to choose my favorite part of the story is a bit like being asked to choose my favorite child (the correct answer, for those interested, is that it depends on the day).

But one of the things I loved about writing Blood Rose Rebellion was the research—specifically, finding little details that made the setting come alive. The novel is set primarily in an alternate nineteenth-century Hungary that closely resembles our world, with the addition of magic.

When our intrepid heroine, Anna, first arrives in Hungary—having been sent from Britain in disgrace—she’s not disposed to like it. She’s been forced to give up a familiar world for one she only knows through her grandmother’s stories. Instead of the glamour of the London season, she finds herself at Eszterháza, a run-down estate surrounded by farms and fields and miles from any kind of society.

When I first started researching Hungarian noble estates, I picked Eszterháza because it belonged to a preeminent 19th century Hungarian noble family, and the location was good for the story I wanted to tell. But as I dove into the research, I was thrilled by the ways the estate mirrored some of the themes and even the tonal quality I wanted in the book.

In the mid 18th-century, an Esterhazy prince decided to expand the existing hunting lodge into an estate to rival Versailles—and poured an insane amount of money into what was essentially swamp land to do so. Joseph Haydn lived at the estate for months, composing music: his baryton trios, multiple operas, and Opus 33, among others. Empress Maria Theresa visited the palace with the entire Viennese court.

But seventy-five years later, this estate had been virtually abandoned. A 19th century British visitor reported that bats were lodging in the magnificent opera house; a guidebook to the estate claims that sheep were kept in the ornate Sala Terrena.

I loved both details—the crumbling aristocratic estate made a perfect visual metaphor for the diseased society Anna comes to resist. But my very favorite detail was this:

Two separate travel narratives reported the existence of a fey child in the swamps near Eszterháza in the 18th century. The boy was perhaps ten, with webbed feet and long, dagger-like nails, living off fish and frogs. Some kind-hearted individual living on the estate tried to rescue the child by bringing him into the palace, but he escaped weeks later and eventually disappeared.

I wondered about this child, how he came to be in the swamp, how his existence persisted in urban legends surrounding a baroque estate. Somehow, the presence of the uncanny in combination with an otherwise mundane (if expensive) palace made both seem more otherworldly. In my story, the child exists only as a statue in the hallways, but the existence of that other-world only a breath away from a manufactured reality manifests in various ways throughout the book—though you’ll have to read the book to find out how.

In many ways, this book is my love letter to Hungary—and I hope that details like these help readers fall in love with Hungary too.

LINKS:

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Amazon

BIO:

Rosalyn Eves grew up in the Rocky Mountains, dividing her time between reading books and bossing her siblings into performing her dramatic scripts. As an adult, the telling and reading of stories is still one of her favorite things to do. When she’s not reading or writing, she enjoys spending time with her chemistry professor husband and three children, watching British period pieces, or hiking through the splendid landscape of southern Utah, where she lives. She dislikes housework on principle.

She has a PhD in English from Penn State, which means she also endeavors to inspire college students with a love for the English language. Sometimes it even works.

Her first novel, BLOOD ROSE REBELLION, first in a YA historical fantasy trilogy, debuts March 28, 2017 from Knopf/Random House.

My Favorite Bit: Stacey Berg talks about REGENERATION

Favorite Bit iconStacey Berg is joining us today with her novel Regeneration. Here’s the publisher’s description:

The world is ready to be reborn…

Protected by the Church for four hundred years, the people of the City are the last of humanity—or so they thought. Echo Hunter 367, made to be faithful to the Church and its Saint at all costs, embarks on what she’s sure is a suicide mission into the harsh desert beyond the City. Then, at the end of all hope, she stumbles on a miracle: another enclave of survivors, a lush, peaceful sanctuary completely opposite of anything Echo has ever known.

But the Preserve has dark secrets of its own, and uncovering them may cost Echo more than just her life. She fears her discoveries will trigger a final, disastrous war. But if Echo can stop the Church and Preservers from destroying each other, she might have a chance to achieve her most impossible dream—saving the woman she loves.

What’s Stacey’s favorite bit?

Regeneration cover image

STACEY BERG

My favorite bit of Regeneration is a scene between the main character, Echo Hunter 367, and the younger hunter Gem. In the run-up to this exchange, Gem has been standing guard in the Church’s sanctuary, watching over the Saint on whom their lives depend. Echo, who would normally claim that assignment for herself, instead has made up an excuse to stay away. Now Gem calls her on it:

Gem appeared at the door from within. “You have been avoiding the sanctuary.”

“My services have been required for storm preparations.”

“If your other duties permit, perhaps you could assist here as well.”

The request sounded strange to Echo, coming from the girl who had been so arrogant. “You have always performed adequately without my assistance.”

A pause, then: “Perhaps you are right. One can watch as well as two; there is no sense wasting a resource.”

“Is that all it is to you? A matter of resources?”

Gem cocked her head. “What else should a hunter consider?”

Friendship. That we matter to one another. But hunters did not speak of such things. Then Echo saw in Gem’s face that that was what she offered, like a handhold for a slipping grip, if one dared to reach for it . . . Echo couldn’t find her voice.

I love this bit because when I started the book, I knew that romantic love was at its heart, but I had no idea that other relationships would be nearly as important. Yet friendship became a key theme throughout the story. Echo and Gem are hunters, women created to guard the Church and fulfill their duty without question; their personal needs and desires are of no consequence. In Dissension, the first Echo Hunter 367 book, Echo started as Gem’s teacher, but the younger woman quickly grew into a rival who first challenged, then ultimately defeated Echo. By the end of that story, Echo regarded Gem as the perfect hunter Echo never could be—but Gem gained a kind of admiration for Echo, too. In Regeneration, the two women appear to be working towards a common goal on behalf of the Church, yet it’s not clear to Echo what Gem really feels—or if she cares for anything at all beyond her duty.

This uncertainty gave me a great opportunity to explore the ways in which Echo has and hasn’t overcome her own limitations. For example, in the scene above, she is able to recognize her desire to mean something to Gem. She is even brave enough to challenge Gem to admit what Echo already has learned: that hunters care about each other deeply. And perhaps alone of all hunters, Echo can glimpse what Gem, once so hard and cold, is trying to offer her.

And yet—and yet. At this point in the story, Echo is not quite able to speak such words out loud. She doesn’t know how to accept the hand that Gem is holding out to her. The moment that passes here is for me one of the most poignant in the book.

But we know Echo, and we know that she’ll keep after it, right until the end. Her friendship with Gem is a subplot, not the main event, but Echo has to figure it out before she can resolve the major events in the rest of the story. So this scene matters, the way friends matter to one another. It feels real to me. This bit isn’t a conversation between characters who understand themselves perfectly because they’ve spent years examining their own lives and psyches. Instead, it’s a snatched intimate moment between two people who are just discovering themselves, just learning to be human, and doing it on the fly in the middle of the end, or the beginning, of the world. That’s why it’s my favorite bit.

LINKS:

Website

Harper Collins

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Goodreads

Twitter

BIO:

Stacey Berg is a medical researcher who writes speculative fiction. Her work as a physician-scientist provides the inspiration for many of her stories. She lives with her wife in Houston and is a member of the Writers’ League of Texas. When she’s not writing, she practices kung fu and runs half marathons. She is represented by Mary C. Moore of Kimberley Cameron & Associates. You can visit her at www.staceyberg.com.

My Favorite Bit: Sherri Smith talks about FOLLOW ME DOWN

Favorite Bit iconSherri Smith is joining us today to talk about her novel Follow Me Down. Here’s the publisher’s description:

Mia Haas has built her life far from the North Dakota town where she grew up, but when she receives word that her twin brother is missing, she is forced to return home. Back to the people she left behind, the person she used to be, and the secrets she thought she’d buried.

Once hailed as the golden boy of their town, and now a popular high school teacher, Lucas Haas disappears the same day the body of one of his students is pulled from the river. Trying to wrap her head around the rumors of Lucas’s affair with the teen, and unable to reconcile the media’s portrayal of Lucas as a murderer with her own memories of him, Mia is desperate to find another suspect.

All the while, she wonders: If he’s innocent, why did he run?

As Mia reevaluates their difficult, shared history and launches her own investigation into the grisly murder, she uncovers secrets that could exonerate Lucas—or seal his fate. In a small town where everyone’s lives are intertwined, Mia must confront her own demons if she wants to get out alive.

What’s Sherri’s favorite bit?

Follow Me Down cover image

SHERRI SMITH

My favorite bit from FOLLOW ME DOWN is a scene that happens after Mia goes to visit her toxic mother who lives in a care home (pages 52-55). Mia has run back to her car, and in an emotional frenzy, rips into a make-up bag full of pills she brought for this trip back to her hometown.

It’s that teetering moment when Mia breaks her recent recovery from a pill addiction. What I specifically like about this scene is how it connects bad parenting to a certain level of adult misery and self-hatred. Pills (or other addictive substances) tend to take the edge off of this and seeing her mother, confronting their tangled history, provides her with just the right excuse to cave.

In this scene, Mia gives her account of how she started using in college as a social crutch or study buddy, and progressed to stealing from a hospital dispensary where she worked as a pharmacist. She likes to maintain an image of success but inwardly struggles to keep her addiction a secret.  Even during her shaky bouts of sobriety, she tends to isolate herself because she feels a controlled environment gives her the best shot at self-restraint.  But now that she’s been forced to return to home to the mother she left behind, to look for a missing brother who might be a killer, everything has come crashing down.

The pills win out.

“Why not? Why don’t you have a husband?” Her voice went high into a schoolyard taunt, but was too rough to pull it off, so she sounded like a seven- year- old with bronchitis.

“Haven’t met the right one yet.”

She turned away from her canvas and faced me.

“Maybe if you dressed nicer.” She started jabbing her paintbrush hard into the Styrofoam plate and walked toward me. The plate balanced on her fingertips. “I think you would look good in ruby red.”

She bent in close, poised over me, so that I was nose to nose with her. Cracker dust dotted her lower lip. For a second I thought she was going to kiss me, and I tried hard not to shrink back. Her eyes narrowed, she made an uh- huh sound like she’d answered some question she’d posed in her mind, and reflexively my lips curled up. She knows. She knows that I did this to her. The truth was somewhere in her mind, scurrying around inside one of her brain’s many hollows, and one day she’d catch it. I was sure of it.

Then Mimi’s hand snapped back fast, her eyes went dark, and she wielded the paintbrush like a maestro’s baton, bringing it down in a spatter of rusty-red slashes. Running the brush all over the front of my white V- neck.

“Mimi, stop.” I stood up, forcing her to step back.

“But you look so much better in red.” I caught her by the wrist as gently as I could, but this turned out to be wrong thing to do. She dropped her plate of paint upside down in the grass, pulled free, shrieked loud enough the birds scattered, and started to stab her brush over and over into her painting, tearing up the canvas. “Look at what you’ve made me do.”

The nurse came running out. “Are you hurt?” She looked at my chest in horror. “I’m fine. I’m fine. It’s just paint.”

The nurse turned her focus to Mimi, trying to calm her as I made a run for it back to my car.

 

Before I could even slip the key into the ignition, I ripped the red makeup bag out of the glove compartment. Unzipped it, turned it upside down, scattered the orange pill bottles on the passenger seat, and read the labels, quick as a savant. There was a little of everything, Xanax, Ativan, Valium, Adderall, Ambien, Percocet. Don’t think about it! Don’t think! My mouth watering, I uncapped the bottle that would best blur the edges. Closed my eyes and enjoyed the chalky, bitter taste rolling down my throat.

I was a pill popper. Lately, a recovered pill popper. Though maybe “recovered” was a little too hopeful; I did bring the stash I could never force myself to flush. It started in college. A BZP at a party, and I was smooth- talking my way into a crowd much cooler than myself. A social crutch that self- perpetuated, and soon I needed an Adderall study buddy or an Ambien for a much-needed marathon sleep. More BZP.

I became fluent in doctor shopping, knew all the symptoms for whatever ailment would get me my desired prescription. I pillaged medicine cabinets at parties. From there, it seemed a natural progression to a degree in pharmaceuticals.

My first job was a residency at Northwestern Memorial (one of the top-ten highest-ranking hospitals in the US—impressed yet?). I did rounds, taking medication lists from patients. Tried to soothe them in their worst moments. I loved elderly patients the most. I was their purveyor of goods that had, up to this point, kept them alive. “You’ll get your heart medication right here at the hospital, OK? Be right back.” I had to think under pressure. Use my degree. Analyze dosage and interactions. I made recommendations to the physicians! I was trained in Code Blue!

But of course a busy, overworked hospital dispensary was too tempting. A pill popper’s Shangri-la. I started double- dipping, just a pill here and there. The chief pharmacist, a cheery woman with big hair and a troubled son (code for drug addict), who referred to herself as my mentor, began to suspect what I was up to. She called me into her office one after noon, a cubby of a room wallpapered with order forms, and asked me point-blank if I was stealing.

“No, of course not!”

“Can I check your pockets?”

“No.”

We spent a few minutes playing stare- down. If she checked my lab pocket, she’d find two tablets of Oxycontin. If she didn’t, she wouldn’t have a scandal on her hands. She wouldn’t be questioned on her own ability to run things. “Why, Mia? You have so much promise. Why are you doing this to yourself?”

The way she looked at me, with such stinging parental disappointment, I could feel myself shrink down to figurine size. I couldn’t answer. How did I describe the gnawing feeling that thrummed underneath everything I did? How pills made it easier to live with myself, with the secret I was keeping? An offer was made that we both pretended was born solely out of her goodwill: if I went into a program and got help, she wouldn’t report me to the state licensing board. I agreed, and she shuffled me out of the hospital like a broken IV pole.

 

I finished the program. Moved into my new apartment. Found a new job as a glorified cashier with relentless, terrible hours. I started jogging, a hamster-wheel endeavor for that runner’s high that kept eluding me beyond a few fleeting gasps of well-being.

So it had been two years since I’d pulled out my little red makeup bag. Two long years that I’d fought against my plentiful triggers.

I should really throw the pill up before it starts to dissolve in my hungry stomach acid and works its way into my bloodstream. Before it makes my neurons fizz. I should zip the bag back up and toss it in the next Dumpster. I eyed the bag like it was a baited animal trap. Like the bag itself was the bad influence. I stuffed the pill bottles back inside. Ordered myself again to throw up.

But I didn’t. I was looking forward to the fizz too much. Instead I put the makeup bag back inside the glove compartment. Flopped back against the headrest, closed my eyes for a second or two, then started to drive.

Two long years.

And now there I was.

It’s quite a pivotal moment because from here Mia goes forward in her search for her brother under the jumbled influence of pills. She tells herself she knows what she’s doing (she’s a pharmacist after all,) and her misuse leads to all kinds of havoc, and pushes her deeper into her psychological hell.

But it’s not ALL bad. The pills also give her an advantage she wouldn’t otherwise have to find the brother she’s fiercely loyal to. She’s tenacious, independent and funny because it’s how she negotiated her troubled past, and she uses the pills to power up all of her strengths. She takes risks. She’s able to stay awake longer, numb herself to the mounting dread and keep herself sharp on stimulates. She blazes through the town in her cherry red PT cruiser, popping pills, willing to do whatever it takes to get to the truth and it all starts here, at my favorite bit!

LINKS:

Website

Goodreads

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Indiebound

BIO:

When not writing SHERRI SMITH spends time with her family and two rescue dogs, and restores vintage furniture that would otherwise be destined for the dump. She lives in Winnipeg, Canada, where the long, cold winters nurture her dark side. FOLLOW ME DOWN is her first thriller. Visit her online at http://www.sherri-smith.com/, and on Twitter, @SL_Smith_.

My Favorite Bit: Randy Henderson talks about SMELLS LIKE FINN SPIRIT

Favorite Bit iconRandy Henderson is joining us today with his novel Smells Like Finn Spirit. Here’s the publisher’s description:

Finn Gramaraye is back in the final installment of Randy Henderson’s Familia Arcana series, which began in Finn Fancy Necromancy, and Bigfootloose and Finn Fancy Free.

Finn’s re-adaptation to the human world is not going so well. He’s got a great girlfriend, and is figuring out how things like the internet work, but he is still carrying the disembodied personality of Alynon, Prince of the Silver Demesne, the fae who had occupied his body during his imprisonment. And he’s not getting along at all with his older brother. And oh, by the way, an enemy from his past is still trying to possess him in order to bring about Armageddon.

What’s Randy’s favorite bit?

Smells Like Finn Spirit cover image

RANDY HENDERSON

Well Finn, we did it.  A trilogy.  Quite a ride, eh?

“Sure, like riding a drunk porcupine set on fire!  So much fun, oh creator of mine.”

Uh … right.  So what’s your favorite bit about Smells Like Finn Spirit?

“Oh, I don’t know … the bit where no crazy magical creatures try to kill me or acrana supremacists try to conquer the world, and I get to just snuggle down with my true love to eat pizza and watch Valley Girl together?”

So pretty much the opposite of everything that actually happens?

“Pretty much.  What is your favorite bit?”

Seeing how you and your story evolved over the three books.  You’re in a trilogy!  So many of the fantasy series and movie franchises that I’ve loved were trilogies.

“Like the increasingly inaccurately named Hitchhiker’s trilogy?”

Right.  Point being, I am pretty dang happy right now.  I mean, I know you are the one who had to do all the fighting –

“Yeah, thanks for that!  Sasquatches?  Jor?gumo?  Freaking racist vampires?  What were you thinking?”

Yes, well, I mean, I wrote you some fun times too though, right?  The romance, the humor –

“Romance and humor?  Yeah.  Thanks for constantly talk blocking me!  All the dorky or dumb things you made me say to my girlfriend that caused problems?  Not to mention the smart-ass quips that get me into trouble with everyone I meet.”

Well, yes, but –

“And my family!  I know you were going for comedic family dysfunction, but I mean, poor Petey! He’s such a sweetie!  Why make him think he was a waerwolf for most his life?  Or make Sammy allergic to magic?  And what I really don’t get is Mort.  Why would you stick anyone with him as a brother?  Or –”

Yes, okay! I get it.  I put you all through heckfire.  But I went through it all with you, you know.  I lived it as I wrote it, the joys and the pains.  I grew as a writer and a person over these same years.  And these were the first books I’d ever written on deadline, that was quite a challenge.

“So you think standing around in your boxers sipping chai doing the noble work of thinking up Point Break jokes really compares to facing down an angry gnome mob or seeing a waer-collie flirt with your girlfriend?”

Okay, okay!  All I am trying to say is this journey together has been my favorite bit, and with the trilogy arc complete, I feel kind of like I too saved the world, or at least I feel much of what I imagine you felt, that sense of happiness, and Mission Accomplished!

“Clearly you have already forgotten what actually happens at the climax of the book, when you  –”

Hey!  Why don’t we share an excerpt now?  Something non-spoilery and silly, huh?

“Sure.  Hi, lovely readers.  Here is just one example of the kind of creatures that my bonkos creator makes me face in Smells Like Finn Spirit.  I suspect thinking these things up to torture me is really his favorite bit.  What a super swell guy he is.  You should totally buy his books.”

It rose up, a massive armored body of rusted iron and tarnished brass, seven feet tall at least, like a four-armed ogre sculpted by a mad welder as the stage prop for a death metal band.

An autozombaton.  Oh gods.

These horrific automatons had been banned since the Fey-Arcana War of the Civil War era that spawned them, for much the same reason civilized countries tried banning chemical weapons, human cloning, or tabloid journalism — the cost to our humanity was just too great.

How they came to exist in the first place had been a series of desperate solutions to problems that should have been dropped into a dark hole and forgotten to begin with.

First, you have to understand that zombies tend to move slower than a frozen slug past a traffic cop, and are dumber than a Biff Tannen book report.  Part of that is that their brains and bodies are rotting away of course, and part of it is that they lack a real spirit to give them true will.  Zombies are just meat puppets animated with life force stolen from other living beings.

Which is why, even in the most desperate times of war when the ban on dark necromancy and zombies had been given a blind eye, there were no zombie armies, and certainly no zombie apocalypse.  All you had to do to escape a zombie was be able to move.  At all.  And failing that, just hit them hard — rotting corpses tended to fall apart pretty easily.

Then it was discovered that, for some weird reason, the slowness problem goes away when you re-animate a hardcore bigot.

Before banning experimentation on arcana prisoners, researchers learned that some people were severely lacking in will, the force that not only helps us get up in the morning but allows us to make the difficult choices and changes.  These people were instead partly animated by a kind of small nuclear power source in their lizard brain, as if a small bit of their spirit been mutated by the primitive, unreasoning emotional energy there: a kind of spiritual cancer.

Nobody truly understood how or why it happened, but on further research it was found that all of these people were serious, scary bigots in some way.

The point being, even after death the bigot had a brain capable of driving action.  And after death their hatred and self-loathing could be manipulated by necromancers like spiritual energy, in much the same way they had been easily manipulated by the worst politicians and religious leaders in life.

But there remained the problem of a rotting body.  A rage zombie was still a stiff, disintegrating-sack-of-decay zombie.

And that’s where the thaumaturges came in.

These inventors of magical artifacts had created automatons as weapons, but with similar problems to the zombies.  While thaumaturges could animate the machines and enspell basic instructions into them, the automatons were useless for doing complex tasks or fighting wars.  And simply sticking someone inside to operate the suit had proven too difficult — the sheer bulk and convolution of controls and gears needed to manually operate such a beast reduced its speed down to that of a zombie.

But animate a ragey hate brain with necromancy, and transplant it into a mobile suit gundoom, and you got an autozombaton.  Or as they were later called, robigots.

Yet even then, there remained a problem.  Using a robigot as a weapon was a bit like unleashing a pack of rabid lions in your studio apartment to deal with a mouse problem.  It wasn’t likely to end well for anyone, especially yourself.

LINKS:

Read the First Three Chapters

Goodreads

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Indiebound

Randy’s Website

Facebook

Twitter

BIO:

Randy Henderson is an author, milkshake connoisseur, Writers of the Future grand prize winner, relapsed sarcasm addict, and Clarion West graduate.

His “dark and quirky” contemporary fantasy series from TOR (US) and Titan (UK) includes Finn Fancy Necromancy, Bigfootloose and Finn Fancy Free, and Smells Like Finn Spirithttp://www.randy-henderson.com

 

My Favorite Bit: Gena Showalter talks about LIFEBLOOD

Favorite Bit iconGena Showalter is joining us today with her novel Lifeblood. Here’s the publisher’s description:

“My Firstlife is over, but my Everlife is only now beginning.” 

With her last living breath, Tenley “Ten” Lockwood made her choice and picked her realm in the Everlife. Now, as the war between Troika and Myriad rages, she must face the consequences.

Because Ten possesses a rare supernatural ability to absorb and share light, the Powers That Be have the highest expectations for her future—and the enemy wants her neutralized. Fighting to save her Secondlife, she must learn about her realm from the ground up while launching her first mission: convincing a select group of humans to join her side before they die. No pressure, right?

But Ten’s competition is Killian, the boy she can’t forget—the one who gave up everything for her happiness. He has only one shot at redemption: beating Ten at a game she’s never even played. As their throw-downs heat up, so do their undeniable feelings, and soon, Ten will have to make another choice. Love…or victory.

What’s Gena’s favorite bit?

Lifeblood cover image

GENA SHOWALTER

In the Everlife series, the heroine—Ten Lockwood—is obsessed with numbers.  So, when I assigned every character in the after life realms (Troika and Myriad) an “email” address, I wanted every number to mean something—like a code within the book—even if no one understood what those numbers meant.  First up, I had to select a key.

Since scripture inspired the entire series—there are numerous scriptures about kingdoms not of this earth, kingdom vs. kingdom, a war between spiritual forces, the power of choice, life and death, blessing and cursing, light and dark, good and evil—I decided to use the Bible as the key.

T_L_2/23.43.2

T_L is her name: Tenley Lockwood.  2 is her rank within the realm (Conduit).  23 is the 23rd book in the Bible (Isaiah), 43 is the 43rd chapter, and 2 is the 2nd verse.  “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”

K_F_5/23.53/6

K_F: Killian Flynn.  5 is his rank (5 = Laborer).  Just as for Ten, 23 is for Isaiah, the 23rd book in the Bible.  53rd chapter, 6th verse.  “All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.  We have left God’s paths to follow our own.  Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.”  I selected this verse for Killian because, in the beginning, he is so lost.  His choices have hurt so many, and yet deep down, he wants to do better—to be better.  He wants to be loved.

A_P_5/23.43.2

A_P: Archer Prince.  I selected the same verse for Archer that I selected for Tenley.  Because, in book one –MAJOR SPOILER ALERT…STOP HERE IF YOU HAVEN’T  READ FIRSTLIFE—

–SERIOUSLY!—

–NOW IS THE TIME TO STOP–

He dies.  Ten loved him and claimed the address for herself.

L_N_3/19.1.1

Levi Nanne.  3 is his rank (General).  The 19th book of the Bible is Psalms.  Chapter 1, verse 1.  “Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked…”  I selected this passage for Levi because, to Ten, he offers the wise counsel she has so needed—the counsel she never received from her own parents.

Every numbered address has a meaning specific to the character, and I totally geeked out as I selected the right scripture for each and every one.

LINKS:

Twitter

Website

Amazon

IndieBound

Barnes & Noble

BIO:

Gena Showalter is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of the Intertwined Novels, the White Rabbit Chronicles, and the Everlife Novels, among numerous novels for an adult audience as well. Her stories have been praised as “unputdownable.” Gena lives in Oklahoma with her family and a menagerie of dogs. Follow her on twitter @genashowalter and visit her website at genashowalter.com.

My Favorite Bit: Mishell Baker talks about PHANTOM PAINS

Favorite Bit iconMishell Baker is joining us today with her novel Phantom Pains. Here’s the publisher’s description:

In the second book to the “exciting, inventive, and brilliantly plotted” (Seanan McGuire, New York Times bestselling author) Borderline, Millie unwillingly returns to the Arcadia Project when an impossible and deadly situation pulls her back in.

Four months ago, Millie left the Arcadia Project after losing her partner Teo to the lethal magic of an Unseelie fey countess. Now, in a final visit to the scene of the crime, Millie and her former boss Caryl encounter Teo’s tormented ghost. But there’s one problem: according to Caryl, ghosts don’t exist.

Millie has a new life, a stressful job, and no time to get pulled back into the Project, but she agrees to tell her side of the ghost story to the agents from the Project’s National Headquarters. During her visit though, tragedy strikes when one of the agents is gruesomely murdered in a way only Caryl could have achieved. Millie knows Caryl is innocent, but the only way to save her from the Project’s severe, off-the-books justice is to find the mysterious culprits that can only be seen when they want to be seen. Millie must solve the mystery not only to save Caryl, but also to foil an insidious, arcane terrorist plot that would leave two worlds in ruins.

What’s Mishell’s favorite bit?

Phantom Pains cover image

MISHELL BAKER

It’s hard to talk about my favorite bit of Phantom Pains, as my true favorite bits are those lovely little twists that are only fun if you get there the hard way.  Since the first twist happens pretty early on, it’s almost impossible to find a section of Phantom Pains other than transition scenes that are safe to quote without spoilers!

In a more general sense, my favorite bit about writing Phantom Pains was getting to finally explore at least a little of the history, politics, and culture of Arcadia: the alternate universe that is the secret source of all human inspiration.  In particular, the story behind what the Arcadia Project has named the Unseelie and Seelie Courts—why the “Unseelie Court” has only a King, and the “Seelie Court” only a Queen—is fascinating to me, particularly because different versions of it have filtered down through the different factions.  I wasn’t able to explore it as deeply as I wanted to, because priority goes to things that move the story along, but I’ve always been fascinated by revisionist history and the way that the victors always get to decide how the story goes.

The Arcadia Project is very much a case of “history written by those in power,” and Phantom Pains is the first book in the series where we even start to ask these questions, where we start to realize that the way everything is named, the way all the rules have been set up, are based on the mental filters of the people who do the educating and policy-making.

Arcadia is populated by what the Project calls “fey,” sometimes colloquially referred to by the London-centered organization as faeries, but more literally an entire ecosystem of aliens in a parallel world that operates by different laws of logic and physics.  The most human-like race of fey have been dubbed the sidhe by the Project, and the relationship between the sidhe and humans has been the reason for profound growth and development in both worlds.  Both the Unseelie King and the Seelie Queen are sidhe, the two “Courts” separated by a binary system of emotion-based magic, with the Unseelie representing emotions like fear and anger, the Seelie emotions like joy and love.  In Arcadia, never the twain shall meet; they’re polar forces in a sense, and both are necessary to the ecosystem.

But of course from a human perspective, the Unseelie are the “bad guys” and the Seelie are the “good guys.”  And of course the sidhe, being human analogues, are obviously head and shoulders above the other species of Arcadia.  But are they really?  How have human perspectives and baggage shaped the policy in Arcadia, and could both worlds benefit from reexamining the situation?

Phantom Pains is the first book in the series to open up this line of questioning, and that’s my favorite thing about it.  I can’t wait to find out what readers think, and what sort of theories they start to come up with as the tip of the iceberg finally starts to suggest more beneath the surface.

LINKS:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Indiebound

BIO:

Mishell Baker is a 2009 graduate of the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop, and her short stories have appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Redstone Science Fiction, and Electric Velocipede. She has a website at MishellBaker.com and frequently tweets about writing, parenthood, mental health, and assorted geekery at @MishellBaker. When she’s not attending conventions or going on wild research adventures, she lives in Los Angeles with her husband and children. Her debut novel, Borderline is currently a Nebula award finalist. Its sequel, Phantom Pains, will be available on March 21.

My Favorite Bit: Erika Lewis talks about GAME OF SHADOWS

Favorite Bit iconErika Lewis is joining us today with her novel Game of Shadows. Here’s the publisher’s description:

A young man plagued by the ability to see ghosts races to save the mythological land of Tara from a terrible fate in Erika Lewis’s stunning debut, Game of Shadows.

Thousands of years ago in Ireland, an ancient race fought a world-changing battle—and lost. Their land overrun, the Celtic gods and goddesses fled, while the mythical races and magical druids sailed to an uncharted continent, cloaked so mankind could never find it. This new homeland was named Tara.

In modern day Los Angeles, Ethan Makkai struggles with an overprotective mother who never lets him out of her sight, and a terrifying secret: he can see ghosts. Desperate for a taste of freedom, he leaves his apartment by himself for the first time—only to find his life changed forever. After being attacked by dive-bombing birds, he races home to find the place trashed and his mother gone.

With the help of a captain from Tara who has been secretly watching the Makkais for a long time, Ethan sets out to save his mother; a journey that leads him to the hidden lands, and straight into the arms of a vicious sorcerer who will stop at nothing until he controls Tara.With new-found allies including Christian, the cousin he never knew he had, and Lily, the sword-slinging healer who’d rather fight than mend bones, Ethan travels an arduous road—dodging imprisonment, battling beasts he thought only existed in nightmares, and accepting help from the beings he’s always sought to avoid: ghosts. This L.A. teen must garner strength from his gift and embrace his destiny if he’s going to save his mother, the fearless girl he’s fallen for, and all the people of Tara.

What’s Erika’s favorite bit?

Game of Shadows cover image

ERIKA LEWIS

Writing a fantasy novel set in a hidden continent filled with mythical Celtic races and magical Druids means world building. A lot of world building. But it also means putting my “real world” protagonist through some fantastically cruel, yet sadistically funny paces. Tempting fate every time Ethan has to get on a horse. He doesn’t like them, and they don’t like him. Stuck in the middle ages, Tara doesn’t have a single modern amenity. Tarisian’s seems to have ignored the technological march forward the rest of the world has taken. Although Ethan’s accommodations are more luxurious, the fact that so many are trying to kill him pretty much negates that positive.  He doesn’t spend a single night in his room until the end of the book.

They’re many new faces, some human, some not. Some courageous and loyal, others scheming and dangerous, not that Ethan hadn’t experienced those personality types in Los Angeles. On the contrary, his high school classmates could’ve been the stars of a highly rated reality show without having the producers having to feed them a single line! But then he meets Lily Niles, a gal best described in Ethan’s own words, “fatally attractive.”

From the moment they meet, she’s literally trying to lop his head off with her sword. Ethan doesn’t understand why she hates him so much. It usually takes a while for someone to build up that kind of animosity toward him, at least a few days! But is it animosity? Or something else?

You know that thing that happens when young adults realize that men and women speak different languages (for some of us it takes way much longer than that—raising hand.) A shocking truth that dawns on us as we find “the one,” and try to date “the one.” From the second Ethan and Lily accidently touch, tensions rise. Insults swing back and forth, but the attraction is there, and growing.

Writing the glorious battle scenes, sword lessons for Ethan when he realizes his heart and compassion get in the way of using it, and the reunion between folks I can’t mention without spoilers…I loved writing all that. But it’s these little moments, like the one below that make me smile.

Set up, Ethan and Lily are locked in the dungeon:

“Let’s scour the cell. You go left. I’ll go right.

They split up, venturing into the darkness in the rear. It was impossible to see anything. Ethan ran his hands along the wall, using it as a guide, touching everything he could reach, but the place was sealed shut. There wasn’t so much as a loose brick.

“Lily?” Ethan called in the darkness.

“Right here,” she answered, then whacked him in the face.

“Ooh,” Ethan moaned. She’d hit him in the nose in the exact same place Alastair had head-butted him.

“I’m so sorry!” She reached out again, nearly poking him in the eye.

“Ow! I know you hate me, but honestly, there are better ways to finish me off!”

Without a word, Lily made her way back to the front of the cell, setting her back against the bars. Ethan came next to her, pinching his nose, hoping it wasn’t bleeding.

“Why do you think I hate you?” Lily asked with a furrowed brow.

“The first time you saw me, you waved your sword in my face,” Ethan said, “even after your father told you who I was.”

Lily tried hard not to smile. “My father embarrassed me. To have him speak to me the way he did in front of you…of all people. I wanted to kill him for that. I took it out on you. I’m sorry.”

The apology was completely unexpected, and Ethan wasn’t sure what to say. His eyes met her, then his gaze drifted to her soft lips and his mouth watered. God, she’s beautiful…Here they were, caged like animals in an abandoned zoo, and all he could think about was kissing her.

His eyes drifted back to hers and he found her staring at him with the same intensity he was at her. He contemplated giving in to the impulse. His mouth hovered mere inches from hers. His head dipped, her breath warming his cheeks, when a sharp warning chill ran up his spine, distracting him.

Oh yeah, smoochus-interruptus… ghosts have a very “chilling” effect after all. Don’t worry, there’s much more in store for Ethan and Lily than this. Will they kiss? Won’t they kiss? Well, Lily is one strong-willed female who is used to taking what she wants!

LINKS:

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Goodreads

BIO:

ERIKA LEWIS graduated from Vanderbilt University, and went on to earn an Advanced Certificate in Creative Writing from Stony Brook University. She has had a successful career in television production for the past fifteen years, working with Sony (V.I.PStrong Medicine), with Fireworks Television (La Femme NikitaAndromedaMutant XStrange Days at Blake Holsey High), with Fox (On Air with Ryan SeacrestAmbush Makeover) and with G4 (Attack of the ShowX-Play). Erika is the author of The 49th Key, currently running in Heavy Metal Magazine, with the trade out soon, and the recently released Firebrand with Legendary Comics. Game of Shadows is Erika’s debut novel. Find out more at: http://www.erikalewis.com/

My Favorite Bit: Maurice Broaddus talks about THE VOICES OF MARTYRS

Favorite Bit iconMaurice Broaddus is joining us today with his collection The Voices of Martyrs. Here’s the publisher’s description:

We are a collection of voices, the assembled history of the many voices that have spoken into our lives and shaped us. Voices of the past, voices of the present, and voices of the future. There is an African proverb, “Se wo were fi na wosankofa a yenkyi,” which translates as “It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten.” This is why we continue to remember the tales of struggle and tales of perseverance, even as we look to tales of hope. What a people choose to remember about its past, the stories they pass down, informs who they are and sets the boundaries of their identity. We remember the pain of our past to mourn, to heal, and to learn. Only in that way can we ensure the same mistakes are not repeated. The voices make up our stories. The stories make up who we are. A collected voice.

What’s Maurice’s favorite bit?

The Voices of Martyrs cover image

MAURICE BROADDUS

My collection, The Voices of Martyrs, represents nearly a ten year span of my writing career. I wanted to wait until I had enough stories published before I began to choose stories for a collection. I noticed that my stories could be very easily grouped into tales from the Past, tales from the Present, and tales from the Future. It opens with a story set in ancient Africa and closes with one set on a colony in the far reaches of space. It’s a little known fact that for a long time my working title for this collection was “Black to the Future.”

But my absolute favorite bit is the inclusion of two “orphaned” stories: “Shadow Boxing” and “The Volunteer.” These two stories were previously unpublished, orphaned because they were originally written for hyper-specific anthologies that either never came out or had to be cut after solicitation. This is the “Cockroach Vampires” lesson all over again: once there was a call for stories for an anthology about cockroach vampires *don’t ask: it started as a joke on a message board and then a publisher jumped in) that a lot of writers ended up writing for. The anthology (shocker!) never came out, so a lot of writers were left with stories about, well, you know, which they then flooded all of the markets with. And oddly enough, not a lot of editors were looking for such stories.

This actually happens quite a bit. There’s an open call for a theme anthology or writers get invited to submit to some niche project. Those invitations, much less the submissions, aren’t guaranteed acceptances. The story may not fit with the others or for some reason out of everyone’s control has to be cut. It’s the chance you take when choosing to write for them. You learn to either make the story not so specific that you can’t sell it elsewhere or say to yourself early on, should you get rejected, “I guess I’ll save it for my collection.” And these are two of them, a fact that tickles me to no end.

Orphaned stories included, Publishers Weekly says of The Voices of Martyrs that “the lush, descriptive prose tantalizes all the senses, drawing the reader into a rich world spanning both miles and centuries. Hints of magic in both the past and present, as well as the science fiction elements of the future stories, make this an exciting exploration of genre as well as culture.” Writing short stories is my first love and finding them good homes is always my favorite bit.

LINKS:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Powell’s

IndieBound

Website

Twitter

Facebook

BIO:

With nearly one hundred stories published, Maurice Broaddus’ work has appeared in Lightspeed Magazine, Weird Tales, Apex Magazine, Asimov’s, Cemetery Dance, Black Static, and many more. Some of his stories have been collected in The Voices of Martyrs. He is the author of the urban fantasy trilogy, The Knights of Breton Court trilogy. He co-authored the play Finding Home: Indiana at 200. His novellas include Buffalo Soldier, I Can Transform You, Orgy of Souls, Bleed with Me, and Devil’s Marionette. He is the co-editor of Dark Faith, Dark Faith: Invocations, Streets of Shadows, and People of Colo(u)r Destroy Horror. Learn more about him at MauriceBroaddus.com.

My Favorite Bit: Meg Elison talks about THE BOOK OF ETTA

Favorite Bit iconMeg Elison is joining us today with her novel The Book of Etta. Here’s the publisher’s description:

In the gripping sequel to the Philip K. Dick Award-winning novel The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, one woman undertakes a desperate journey to rescue the future.

Etta comes from Nowhere, a village of survivors of the great plague that wiped away the world that was. In the world that is, women are scarce and childbearing is dangerous…yet desperately necessary for humankind’s future. Mothers and midwives are sacred, but Etta has a different calling. As a scavenger. Loyal to the village but living on her own terms, Etta roams the desolate territory beyond: salvaging useful relics of the ruined past and braving the threat of brutal slave traders, who are seeking women and girls to sell and subjugate.

When slavers seize those she loves, Etta vows to release and avenge them. But her mission will lead her to the stronghold of the Lion—a tyrant who dominates the innocent with terror and violence. There, with no allies and few weapons besides her wits and will, she will risk both body and spirit not only to save lives but also to liberate a new world’s destiny.

What’s Meg’s favorite bit?

The Book of Etta cover image

 

MEG ELISON

Most dualities are garbage. They’re an imposed system that people use to separate and order things that are neither separate nor orderly. We try to make order out of chaos because we want some control in a capricious universe that offers us precious little relief from confusion and terror.

My favorite bits in The Book of Etta are the ones where the characters and the world blur the binary.

This is a bit of a reveal, but Etta is a protagonist of fluid and changeable gender. They were assigned female at birth by a civilization that values female-bodied people for their ability to bear children. Etta is a descendant of our own world, a century after a plague has wiped out most of the women on earth and made childbirth a deadly dangerous undertaking. Although their life is privileged and protected because of their physical sex, they struggle to fit in. They don’t want to be a Mother or a Midwife: the duality presented to them as the only possible choices in how to live as a woman. Etta chooses neither.

Raised in a tradition that venerates a traveler who was a woman but passed as a man on the dangerous roads between the few strongholds of safety in a world decayed almost beyond repair, Etta takes to the road in the same fashion as their hero. They become Eddy: a young man with breast bound and head shaved who is free to go wherever he likes. Eddy is free and safe where Etta was stuck choosing in one of those false dualities. Eddy is not outside of that binary, but he is outside of hers.

Etta/Eddy confronts endless dualities in the other cities they visit. A world with such a stark lack of gender parity encourages the construction of unusual rules and roles. In some towns, hunting is viewed as strictly women’s work, since it takes patience and endurance. Sewing needs a sharp eye and a strong hand, which puts quilting in the laps of men. Superstitions about pregnancy and childbirth abound, and in some places a sexual lottery decides who will father and who will not. There are all-white towns that Etta/Eddy has marked on a map, but as a black person cannot enter. There are religions that bar the door against nonbelievers and towns that have something no one else does: a little electricity, weapons, drugs, crops.

Etta takes all of this in, just as we do. They have a chance to evaluate the binaries of life within first: are they Etta or Eddy? Male or female? Mother or Midwife? Once these are rejected as false dilemmas, they are capable of looking outside themselves and rejecting the dualities life has to offer. Life is messy. Death is messier. And the mess between the two defies any kind of description or categorization.

That mess is the central dilemma that Etta/Eddy must confront. In a world where living means killing, where slavers come to the gates of the city every day with mutilated slave children and ask them to buy, Etta/Eddy has to decide whether killing is the only way to live, or the only way to be free. They have to live every day with the question of whether or not people can change. Can they be just Eddy or just Etta? Can they forgive a slaver, or help them to become something else? Can they change a world run by tinpot dictators with harems full of children with anything but a bullet?

In most stories, there is a choice, there is a road that diverges in a wood and the main character must choose one and take it without knowing where it will lead.

Etta/Eddy realizes that the two paths in the wood are an illusion. People say there are two paths, but there is just the woods. Just trees to find their way through, and occasionally some footsteps to follow from someone who came this way before.

Sometimes, a person has to blaze their own trail. My favorite bit is setting up a character to go where no one has gone before.

LINKS:

Indiebound

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

BIO:

Meg Elison is a high school dropout and a graduate of UC Berkeley. Her debut novel, The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, won the 2014 Philip K. Dick Award. Its companion, The Book of Etta, will be released on February 21. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and writes like she’s running out of time.