Archive for the ‘My Favorite Bit’ Category

My Favorite Bit: Claire O’Dell talks about A STUDY IN HONOR

My Favorite BitClaire O’Dell is joining us today to talk about her novel A Study In Honor. Here’s the publisher’s description:

Set in a near future Washington, D.C., a clever, incisive, and fresh feminist twist on a classic literary icon—Sherlock Holmes—in which Dr. Janet Watson and covert agent Sara Holmes will use espionage, advanced technology, and the power of deduction to unmask a murderer targeting Civil War veterans.

Dr. Janet Watson knows firsthand the horrifying cost of a divided nation. While treating broken soldiers on the battlefields of the New Civil War, a sniper’s bullet shattered her arm and ended her career. Honorably discharged and struggling with the semi-functional mechanical arm that replaced the limb she lost, she returns to the nation’s capital, a bleak, edgy city in the throes of a fraught presidential election. Homeless and jobless, Watson is uncertain of the future when she meets another black and queer woman, Sara Holmes, a mysterious yet playfully challenging covert agent who offers the doctor a place to stay.

Watson’s readjustment to civilian life is complicated by the infuriating antics of her strange new roommate. But the tensions between them dissolve when Watson discovers that soldiers from the New Civil War have begun dying one by one—and that the deaths may be the tip of something far more dangerous, involving the pharmaceutical industry and even the looming election. Joining forces, Watson and Holmes embark on a thrilling investigation to solve the mystery—and secure justice for these fallen soldiers.

What’s Claire’s favorite bit?

A Study In Honor Cover Image

CLAIRE O’DELL

When I was nine years old, my Aunt Marianne gave me a collection of stories about Sherlock Holmes. (Please note, my Aunt Marianne was an English teacher and had served in the Women’s Marine Corps during WWII. She was mighty. I miss her very much.)

It goes without saying that I read the book, as I read all the other books she gave me. And as many others have done, I imprinted on the mythos of the brilliant detective and his more ordinary friend. Fast forward to years later, when I decided to write a story about Watson and Holmes.

My Holmes is Sara Holmes, an independent agent for the FBI. My Watson is Dr. Janet Watson, a newly discharged army surgeon, wounded in America’s New Civil War. Their lives are nothing like two men in the Victorian Age, but I knew that a story about Watson and Holmes had to include that iconic scene when they first meet.

Instead of a chemistry lab, Janet meets Sara in the National Gallery of Art, in front of Dali’s Sacrament of the Last Supper:

I was no Christian, not these days. But, oh, those luminous colors. The images upon images. The small trickeries my teachers had pointed out that added layers of story to the most obvious and outermost one. It almost didn’t matter that the Son of Man, a child of Israel and the King of the Jews, was portrayed as a pale-skinned man with yellow hair.

Fuck it, I’m lying. It did matter, the same way it rankled when people–mostly white people–stared when I said I was a doctor, a surgeon, and a veteran of the wars. But I could still look beyond the unthinking bigotry of this particular artist, and the assumptions of his age, to the moment he portrayed, when Christ drank the wine and spoke of his body and his blood.

Then she catches sight of Sara herself:

She was tall and lean. Her complexion was the darkest brown I had ever seen, the angles of her face were sharp enough to cut, and she wore her hair in locs, arranged in a careless, complicated fashion wound around her head, then plaited and pinned, so they fell in a thick cascade down her back. The cant of her cheekbones, the almost imperceptible folds next to her eyes, spoke of East Asia, or certain nations in Africa. Of a world outside my own.

Janet’s friend makes the introductions:

We closed the distance between us, then both of us hesitated. I sensed a Rubicon before me, an array of choices wise or foolish. Gaius Julius Caesar had made his own choice in that matter and died. Or perhaps I was being fanciful.

Then Holmes reached out to me with a hand covered in lace. “You’ve come from the war in Oklahoma,” she said and clasped my hand in hers.

LINKS:

A Study in Honor Universal Book Link

Website

Twitter

BIO:

Claire O’Dell grew up in the suburbs of Washington, DC, in the years of the Vietnam War and the Watergate Scandal. She attended high school just a few miles from the house where Mary Surratt once lived and where John Wilkes Booth conspired for Lincoln to die. All this might explain why she spent so much time in the history and political science departments at college. Claire currently lives in Manchester, CT with her family and two idiosyncratic cats.

My Favorite Bit: Kate Alice Marshall talks about I AM STILL ALIVE

My Favorite BitKate Alice Marshall is joining us today with her novel I Am Still Alive. Here’s the publisher’s description:

After: Jess is alone. Her cabin has burned to the ground. She knows if she doesn’t act fast, the cold will kill her before she has time to worry about food. But she is still alive—for now.

Before: Jess hadn’t seen her survivalist, off-the-grid dad in over a decade. But after a car crash killed her mother and left her injured, she was forced to move to his cabin in the remote Canadian wilderness. Just as Jess was beginning to get to know him, a secret from his past paid them a visit, leaving her father dead and Jess stranded.

After: With only her father’s dog for company, Jess must forage and hunt for food, build shelter, and keep herself warm. Some days it feels like the wild is out to destroy her, but she’s stronger than she ever imagined.

Jess will survive. She has to. She knows who killed her father…and she wants revenge

What’s Kate’s favorite bit?

I Am Still Alive cover image

KATE ALICE MARSHALL

The first challenge in writing I AM STILL ALIVE was putting Jess in ever-increasing danger, designing setbacks and disasters to threaten her at every turn.

The second challenge was making sure I didn’t actually kill her.

The first half of the manuscript was written on a writing retreat in the mountains, surrounded by people with a talent for mayhem and more survival know-how than I will ever possess. Together we came up with obstacles and twists of fate, escalating and escalating until I had to call “definitely dead” and back up a few steps or provide some extra bit of advantage so Jess could squeak through our latest devilry still breathing.

This give and take led to one of my favorite scenes, one that I wrote toward with relish, knowing it was coming.

Jess, you see, has a rifle. In the few seconds she has to grab whatever she can find before her father’s cabin burns down, she also manages to secure a box of ammunition. So, though she isn’t very good at hunting, she can hunt, and she sets out to make good use of that gun and that ammunition. Bullet by bullet, she uses up what’s already in the rifle. And then she goes to reload it and realizes that she’s grabbed the wrong type of ammo. The other boxes are gone, destroyed in the fire that destroyed the cabin. Back to square one.

But, starving and desperate, she realizes those weren’t the only bullets. The day he was killed, she saw her father put a handful of ammunition in his jacket pocket.

And she knows where he’s buried.

When writing a survival story, the most important question to answer is: what is the character surviving for? The easy answer to that for Jess is revenge. Her father has been murdered. She wants to get back at the men responsible. But revenge and survival are at odds with each other—revenge is a self-destructive act, one that you don’t expect to emerge from whole. I knew that I needed something else to drive Jess—but I’d taken everything from her. Her parents, her home, any semblance of a normal life. That drive had to come purely from within. So the core of Jess’s character is this: she believes she is worthy of survival. She doesn’t fight for someone else, or for something outside of herself; she fights because she wants to stay alive and knows that is a righteous cause.

Jess’s journey to her father’s grave is the closest she ever comes to despair—to deciding that survival isn’t worth it, and that she isn’t strong enough to do what she needs to do. It comes at her lowest point, when every meager scrap of progress that she’s made has been taken from her.

In this scene, she gives up.

And she keeps going anyway.

That contradiction is at the heart of her success. And as dark as the scene is—and yes, it gets pretty gruesome—it’s also the heart of the story. The moment when she is forced to face in vivid, horrifying detail all she’s lost and all she’s suffered, unable to leave it buried any longer, and admit just how far she’s fallen, and just how close to failure she is.

And then she has to dig.

LINKS:

I Am Still Alive Universal Book Link

Website

Twitter

BIO:

Kate Alice Marshall started writing before she could hold a pen properly, and never stopped. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with a chaotic menagerie of pets and family members and ventures out in the summer to kayak and camp along the Puget Sound. Visit her online at katemarshallbooks.com and follow her on Twitter @kmarshallarts.

My Favorite Bit: Michi Trota and Matt Peters talk about UNCANNY MAGAZINE Year Five

My Favorite BitMichi Trota and Matt Peters are joining us today to talk about the Uncanny Magazine Year Five Kickstarter, running until Aug 24, 2018. Here’s a description:

Over the last few years, Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas ran Kickstarters for the two-time Hugo Award-winning Uncanny Magazine Years One, Two, Three, and Four. We promised to bring you stunning cover art, passionate science fiction and fantasy fiction and poetry, gorgeous prose, and provocative nonfiction by writers from every conceivable background. Not to mention a fantastic Parsec Award-winning podcast featuring exclusive content. Through the hard work of our exceptional staff and contributors, Uncanny Magazine delivered on that promise. Stories from Uncanny Magazine have been finalists or winners of Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and World Fantasy Awards!

This year, we’re also back with a new mission for the ranger corps: UNCANNY TV

Hosted and produced by Michi Trota and Matt Peters, Uncanny TV will be the launch of our community-based vid channel, featuring exclusive geeky content related to Uncanny and the Space Unicorn Ranger Corps community!

Matt Peters & Michi Trota will host a short (20-30 min) variety talk show, Uncanny Magazine-style: highlighting creators in SF/F working in a variety of art forms and projects, focusing on people building and nurturing their communities, particularly highlighting marginalized creators. They’ll talk about topics that can be serious, but the overall tone of the show will be to celebrate the things we enjoy and the people who make our communities good places to be in SF/F.

We at Uncanny think we’re doing important work, and we’d like to continue. Please consider supporting Uncanny Magazine Year Five!

What’s Matt and Michi’s favorite bits?

Uncanny kickstarter year 5

MATT PETERS

When I came onboard as a reader for Uncanny, I was concerned that I wouldn’t be a good fit. Obviously, that wasn’t my favorite bit.

I grew up loving sci-fi. My dad and I bonded over classic Star Trek and Star Wars and when he told me I could actually read books that furthered the story past what was on screen I was hooked. I read as much as I could by whomever I could. I’ve read so much sci-fi and fantasy growing up, I can’t even begin to tell you who all the authors were. At one point, if a book had a rocket ship on the cover and it was in stock at the library, that was good enough for me.

When Michi invited me to be a submissions editor for Uncanny, I was excited to begin. Suddenly, there was so much content flying at me at one time, I was overwhelmed. I panicked. I loved sci-fi, so this should be right up my alley, right? After talking to my wife, we came up with a great solution: we’d take turns reading submissions to each other as we played Tetris (Dolores joined Uncanny as a submissions editor soon after).

That’s where it finally clicked for me. A big part of the allure of Uncanny is the camaraderie. There’s a communal aspect. People just like me who grew up reading the same stories I love feel so passionate about them that they came up with their own. Maybe it was because they wanted to honor it. Maybe it was because they felt they could do it better. Maybe they just had something on their mind and staging it in a fantasy realm was just disconnected enough to be honest about their private dreams and desires.

Our true nature reveals itself when we think no one is watching. How incredibly brave to put that story to paper or keyboard and share it with the world on the off chance someone might find a kinship in what you created. Have you ever looked into someone’s eyes as they retell a story that they truly connect with? That driving, nervous energy… That is my favorite bit of Uncanny: the passion.

MICHI TROTA

After four years as Uncanny Magazine’s Managing Editor, I thought it would be a lot harder to pick what my favorite bit about Uncanny is, but in fact, the answer was pretty easy: What I love the most about Uncanny is how its community shows me every day why stories, and who tells them, matters. The people I’ve met through Uncanny have made an incredible difference in my life, and collaborating with them in different ways has brought me so much joy, and has helped me to hone my own craft as a writer. The creativity, willingness to test boundaries, and passion for craft among creators and fans that I’ve encountered has been endlessly surprising. There are so many writers whose work I became introduced to because of Uncanny, and if all their stories, poems, and essays that I’ve added to my “to read” list physically manifested into an actual pile, I’d probably have been buried under it by now.

But what’s impressed and inspired me more than anything is the vibrant network of mutual support and admiration I’ve seen being continually built among creators and fans. The outpouring of joy and signal boosting whenever there’s a new release, whether it’s for an Uncanny issue or a novel or anthology, is one of the best things to see taking over my feeds on social media. And what really gets me, every time, is when someone shares a cool story about how something they made inspired someone else to create something completely unexpected. I have a friend who’s written songs based on stories and novels she’s fallen in love with. I know acrobats who craft their acts to tell superhero stories. I’ve seen fans honor creators with beautiful pieces of fanart, and who’ve taken a page from their favorite stories to build charity and activist organizations. These are people who are taking a deep and abiding love for SF/F and using it to enrich their lives and the lives of others, often for no other reason beyond just wanting to make a positive difference, no matter the scale.

Seeing just how varied and thriving the greater ecosystem of geeky creators actually can be has been a necessary balm, especially since the election. Finding a reason for joy and inspiration to create new stories, new kinds of art, new connections among strangers, is especially important in the face of oppression and rising fascism. When we can see others being creative rather than complacent, building bridges rather than walls, it makes a difference. It’s why I’m excited by the prospect of being able to take Uncanny’s mission of supporting gorgeous, experimental, passionate storytelling even further with Uncanny TV, and dive even deeper into more stories about why SF/F matters. And getting to do this with Matt Peters, a friend and colleague I enjoy collaborating with, and who has inspired me to do better in my own work? That’s definitely one of my favorite bits!

LINKS:

Uncanny Magazine Year 5 Kickstarter

Uncanny Magazine

Uncanny Twitter

Uncanny Instagram

Uncanny Facebook

BIOS:

Matt Peters

Uncanny TV Presenter Matt Peters is an enthusiast of all things nerdy. Matt has been a voice in the industry for several years through his website and podcast Since Last We Spoke. He’s contributed to various media outlets both print and digital and has been invited to speak on panels regarding diversity in geek spaces at C2E2 and Wizard World. Matt is also founder of Core/Demo, a belly dance charity event that supports cancer research. You can find him on Twitter @MightyInkMatt where he frequently geeks out over comics, video games, and pro-wrestling. His favorite color is orange and he’s fond of the number “13.”

Michi Trota

Managing Editor/Uncanny TV Presenter Michi Trota is a two-time Hugo Award winner, and the first Filipina to win a Hugo Award. Michi is an essayist who has been published in The Book Smugglers, The Establishment, The Learned Fangirl, Invisible: An Anthology of Representation in SF/F, and Uncanny. She’s spoken at C2E2, the Chicago Humanities Festival, on NPR, and at universities and other organizations. Michi is a firespinner with the Raks Geek Fire+Bellydance troupe. She serves as president of the Chicago Nerd Social Club Board of Organizers and lives with her spouse and their two cats. Her secret mutant superpower is to make anyone hungry just by talking about food. Find her on Twitter @GeekMelange.

My Favorite Bit: Ruthanna Emrys talks about DEEP ROOTS

My Favorite BitRuthanna Emrys is joining us today to talk about her novel Deep Roots. Here’s the publisher’s description:

Ruthanna Emrys’ Innsmouth Legacy, which began with Winter Tide and continues with Deep Roots, confronts H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos head-on, boldly upturning his fear of the unknown with a heart-warming story of found family, acceptance, and perseverance in the face of human cruelty and the cosmic apathy of the universe. Emrys brings together a family of outsiders, bridging the gaps between the many people marginalized by the homogenizing pressure of 1940s America.

Aphra Marsh, descendant of the People of the Water, has survived Deep One internment camps and made a grudging peace with the government that destroyed her home and exterminated her people on land. Deep Rootscontinues Aphra’s journey to rebuild her life and family on land, as she tracks down long-lost relatives. She must repopulate Innsmouth or risk seeing it torn down by greedy developers, but as she searches she discovers that people have been going missing. She will have to unravel the mystery, or risk seeing her way of life slip away.

What is Ruthanna’s favorite bit?

Deep Roots Cover Image

RUTHANNA EMRYS

The source material for the Innsmouth Legacy series—H.P. Lovecraft’s weird fiction—straddles the line between science fiction and fantasy. Lovecraft tried hard to base his gods, ghouls, and lost continents on the very latest scientific findings. In the 1930s. As someone with voracious reading habits but no particular scientific training.

Writing now in the early 21st century, my take on Lovecraft’s Mythos includes open magic and the supernatural. But I still hew close to modern scientific understanding, particularly in my own field of psychology and its cousin neuroscience. This is particularly fun when playing with Lovecraft’s own ideas about the mind. Nowadays, he probably would have been fascinated by the idea of uploading personalities into computers (and all the terrible, world-breaking things that could go wrong amid the circuits). Instead, he came up with the Mi-Go.

The Mi-Go are aliens, possibly fungous, from space that is Not Like the Space We Know. Their favorite pastime is brain surgery. The kind that involves removing your brain entirely and putting you in a canister where you can see, hear, and talk—and travel the universe, learning Secrets Man Was Not Meant To Know and being part of a never-ending awesome conversation with all the other brain canisters. I couldn’t resist.

I’ve talked elsewhere about how Lovecraft’s calls the Mi-Go “cosmopolitan,” about his xenophobic idea that multicultural society just naturally deprives people of the strength and agency of their own bodies, and about how this made the Mi-Go a perfect fit for a story about finding identity in diversity… but my favorite bit was figuring out how to make brain thieves fit into a book informed by modern psychology.

I already set up one psychological gimme in Winter Tide: minds are different from brains, and can be separated from them with the right magic. They’re also closely tied to brains, and can’t survive long on their own. Winter Tide featured aliens skilled at the advanced magical art of switching minds between bodies. So the Mi-Go must be doing something similar—not removing actual brains (and more impressively, putting them back), but removing minds and sticking them in artificial “host bodies.” Lovecraft’s classic brain canisters.

Research on embodied cognition suggests that we’d probably adapt to this sort of thing pretty quickly. The real human mind is shaped by a constant influx of sensory input, and by our ability to touch and shape the world. Change that input, and the possibilities for output, and you change the mind at the center. This happens in the real world all the time—we come with different subsets of senses and gain or lose them over the course of a lifetime, work with levels of bodily control ranging from Olympic athletes to Steven Hawking and Jean-Dominique Bauby. It’s a little different, though, when someone can move you between states at will, and has absolute control over where you go and who you meet. And the Mi-Go are very good at psychology…

Some people choose willingly to trade physical autonomy for good company and fantastic journeys. Maybe many people—when I asked my Twitter followers where they’d go, I got a ton of enthusiasm for disembodied tours of the Virgo Supercluster and Marianas Trench, and about three people willing to fight to the death to avoid those tours. Aphra Marsh, my main character, falls firmly in the latter camp. She’s struggled long and hard to live comfortably in her body, has no intention of giving it up, and sees very clearly the cost of doing so.

The other side of the argument is ably represented by Shelean, one of my favorite characters/thought experiments. (She’d be delighted to hear herself described as a thought experiment, which tells you something about her.) Shelean’s body and brain have been twisted by the most dangerous of magical studies—but disembodied she can escape the effects, and think and perceive clearly (mostly). She still talks like someone who grew up in a society of mad scientists/sorcerers, though. Nature versus nurture, another fascinating psychological research question. For both Aphra and Shelean, as well as their compatriots, the Mi-Go force them to think about who they are, and how much that identity depends on the shapes their minds wear.

Teasing apart brains and minds—something we can’t actually do without magic—let me play around with fun scientific ideas, and as a bonus gave me a brand new way to explore my characters.

LINKS:

Deep Roots Universal Book Link

Website

Twitter

BIO:

Ruthanna Emrys lives in a mysterious manor house in 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, occasionally attempts to save the world, and blogs sporadically about these things at her Livejournal. She is the author of The Litany of Earth. Her stories have appeared in a number of venues, including Strange Horizons and Analog.

My Favorite Bit: Kameron Hurley talks about APOCALYPSE NYX

My Favorite BitKameron Hurley is joining us today with her novel Apocalypse Nyx. Here’s the publisher’s description:

Ex-government assassin turned bounty-hunter, Nyx, is good at solving other people’s problems. Her favorite problem-solving solution is punching people in the face. Then maybe chopping off some heads. Hey―it’s a living.

Nyx’s disreputable reputation has been well earned. After all, she’s trying to navigate an apocalyptic world full of giant bugs, contaminated deserts, scheming magicians, and a centuries-long war that’s consuming her future. Managing her ragtag squad of misfits has required a lot of morally-gray choices. Every new job is another day alive. Every new mission is another step toward changing a hellish future―but only if she can survive.

What’s Kameron’s favorite bit?

Apocalypse Nyx cover image

KAMERON HURLEY

All literature is escapism. It takes us away from wherever we are and deposits us neatly into another place, another time, among people whose problems we don’t have to negotiate, manage, or solve in our daily life.

Literature is glorious.

I grew up watching a lot of apocalyptic science fiction movies when I was a kid, probably for the same reason so many enjoy watching The Walking Dead. We all want to believe that when society breaks down and we run out of vaccines and hot water and canned food, that we’ll be one of the tough, lucky few to who can use our wits and our physical prowess to survive.

In reality, the odds are against us. Try talking to any amateur who’s planted a garden, and you’ll discover that growing enough food to feed yourself for a year is no small feat. Every time I battle the bugs eating up all my crops, I lament to my spouse: “How did people ever survive growing food like this?” to which he responds, “There were a lot fewer people.”

Indeed.

Being one crop failure or infected scratch away from death is a harrowing way to live. But if you spend most of your days shuttling to and from a boring, crappy job with crappy benefits with an abusive boss, falling over onto the couch at night and then doing it all over again, day in, day out, with no hope of an end date, there can be an allure in the idea of living more dangerously. Of living for something. Of knowing every second counts.

I learned a far greater appreciation for life when I nearly died at twenty-six. Going from great health to having a chronic illness was like getting hit on the back of the head with a shovel. It completely transformed my life. I realized, for the first time, just how close we all are to death. And I needed a new world to escape to more than ever.

I’m often asked, “Why do you write about terrible people?” Probably for the same reason most people do: we know terrible people. We, ourselves, often have terrible impulses. If you’ve ever sat in a cubicle all day, having a random dude ask you to get him coffee, and being berated, constantly, about how you need to be “civil” to people who are trying to take away your human rights and your friend’s citizenship, you know what it’s like to just want to throw your computer at the window and start punching people.

It happens to the best of us.

To live is to feel powerless much of the time. Powerless in your job. In your state. In your country. Powerless against nature. Many feel powerless even in their relationships. And we are all powerless when it comes to the inevitability of death.

I had a dog, Drake, a very young, healthy dog, who contracted an antibiotic-resistant staph infection after a common surgery. We fought hard for that dog. He fought too. For some time, he was on an antibiotic drip that cost a thousand dollars a week to administer. We kept telling ourselves, “We can beat this. This is a modern era. We have pet insurance. He’s young. We have the best vets. We have the resources to save him.”

But nature won against us, and him, as it so often does. Bacteria, viruses, parasites – all those gooey living critters that want to break down our parts and mulch us back into the earth – they all win, eventually. Our big brains and big guns and big egos can only get us so far.

It’s fun to pretend that this isn’t so, of course. It’s why I love the Conan novels so dearly, despite their obvious flaws and absurdities. They invite you to imagine a giant tank of a hero who never gets infections or STD’s, and never loses a battle or fails to woo a partner. He has a simple solution to everything – just hit it in the face. Wizards? Punch them in the face. Rats? Punch them in the face. Nazis? Punch them in the face.

A simpler world.

Perhaps it is this fantasy of a brutal hero surviving a brutal world that is my favorite part of writing about Nyx, the heroine in Apocalypse Nyx. Nyx is a hot mess of problems. She’s impulsive, callous, bad at relationships. But in her world, none of that matters. She isn’t spending time putting money into a 401(k) because she figures every job will be her last. She doesn’t take shit from a boss because healthcare is free and she has no trouble picking up freelance jobs to live. She doesn’t get sick, only hung over. She’s been inoculated against the worst of the world’s viral contagions. When she gets hit, she gets up. She keeps going. She’s notoriously hard, if not impossible, to kill. Her moral code is hers alone. She doesn’t care what anyone else thinks of her.

Nyx is the fantastically brutal escapist Conan I always wanted to see in the world. I keep coming back to her in projects like Apocalypse Nyx and in stories I share with Patreon backers, because her brutal simplicity, her unwillingness to think more than a few steps ahead, and her near-invulnerability make her a cozy tank to slip into when the world wants to grind me down. I suspect many of her fans love her for the same reason. She is the ever-persistent endurance athlete who will keep going long after everyone who bet on her to give up has gone back to the pub for a beer.

Of course, she is callous. She is a brute. I certainly wouldn’t want to be her friend, because she’d murder me in a heartbeat if it would further her ends. But I wouldn’t want to be friends with Conan, either. They each belong to a very specific time a place. A place I enjoy visiting, but a place I would never want to live.

So, when the world gets you down, as it often does me, try slipping into a new skin once in a while. Go meet Nyx.

You won’t regret it.

I sure haven’t.

LINKS:

Apocalypse Nyx Universal Book Link

Publisher Website

Kameron’s Website

Twitter

Instagram

BIO:

Kameron Hurley is the author of The Stars are Legion and the award-winning essay collection The Geek Feminist Revolution, as well as the God’s War Trilogy and the Worldbreaker Saga. Hurley has won the Hugo Award, Kitschy Award, BSFA 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 Magazine, and many anthologies. Hurley has also written for The Atlantic, Entertainment Weekly, the Village Voice, Bitch Magazine, and Locus. She posts regularly at KameronHurley.comApocalypse Nyx marks her return to the Bel Dame Apocrypha, first started in the acclaimed God’s War Trilogy.

 

My Favorite Bit: Jason Denzel talks about MYSTIC DRAGON

My Favorite BitJason Denzel is joining us today to talk about his novel Mystic Dragon. Here’s the publisher’s description:

Seven years have passed since lowborn Pomella AnDone became an unlikely Mystic’s apprentice.

Though she has achieved much in a short time, as a rare celestial event approaches, Pomella feels the burden of being a Mystic more than ever. The Mystical realm of Fayün is threatening to overtake the mortal world, and as the two worlds slowly blend together, the land is thrown into chaos. People begin to vanish or are killed outright, and Mystics from across the world gather to protect them. Among them is Shevia, a haunted and brilliant prodigy whose mastery of the Myst is unlike anything Pomella has ever seen.

Shevia will challenge Pomella in every possible way, from her mastery of the Myst to her emotional connection with Pomella’s own friends―and as Shevia’s dark intentions become more clear, Pomella fears she may be unstoppable.

What’s Jason’s favorite bit?

Mystic Dragon Cover Image

JASON DENZEL

My Favorite Bit about my new novel, Mystic Dragon, or its publication at least, is that I’m lucky enough to have Mary as the book’s audiobook narrator.

Like she did for my debut novel, Mystic, Mary helped elevate the storytelling found within Mystic Dragon by breathing life to a wide variety of colorful characters. In the first book, Mystic, the main character was a young woman who defies tradition and law by leaving her home to enter the Mystwood, where she seeks to become an apprentice to a reclusive Mystic living in the woods. In the new sequel, seven years have passed and a rare celestial event threatens to throw both the human realm and Fayün, the land of the fay, into chaos.

Mary is, in my view, a world-class narrator and performer. Not only does she bring a level of cool professionalism to the performance, but she also provides a spark of youthful enthusiasm to go along with a profound sense of experienced wisdom. These are the exact traits that I want Pomella, the series protagonist, to have in this second volume. Because I’m aging the characters by several years since the events of the first book, Pomella has shed a lot of her gullible teenage youthfulness. Mary skillfully navigates that, and still provides an arc to the character’s “voice”.

What do I mean by voice arc? To explain, let me talk about Shevia, a complicated new character to the series. My goal with Shevia was to examine the mind of somebody who has been routinely oppressed her entire life and then suddenly given an immense amount of magical power. Shevia learns early in her story that power does not always equal freedom. Her story begins when she’s nine years old, and Mary does a great job of making her sound young and full of energy. As Shevia grows up, Mary naturally matures her voice so that she not only sounds older, but she sounds more powerful. It’s a tricky line to walk with this character because Shevia is trying at times to hide her power and appear docile. I was very impressed with how Mary depicted Shevia as having power, but hiding it from those that would seek to exploit her.

Mary with a very unhappy face, after 9 hours in the booth

Mary, however, wasn’t too thrilled after having to channel Shevia for nine hours in the booth. I’m pretty sure my face often looked like that after writing her chapters.

Another awesome reason why I’m delighted Mary contributed to Mystic Dragon’s audiobook is that I always learn a tremendous amount from working with her. Leading up to the recording, I prepared a Google document with some name pronunciations. I’m not an expert in this field, but I’m making a noble attempt to have my characters’ dialect seem real and consistent, and Mary has always been a big help with that. During our pre-recording phone call she talked a little about the various ways people speak, and I found myself scribbling notes about dialect, pacing, and breathing. We spoke about accents, and how to approach representing characters of different cultures who struggle to speak a native language.

Overall, I’m delighted with how Mystic Dragon turned out, and I’m overjoyed that somebody with Mary’s talent and experience could further uplift the story through her narration expertise.

LINKS:

Mystic Dragon Universal Book Link

Website

Twitter

BIO:

JASON DENZEL is the founder of Dragonmount.com, the leading online community for Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time saga and the Web’s top destination for Wheel of Time-related news, features, and discussion. Dragonmount.com has been featured in USA TodayWired, the Los Angeles Times, and on CNN and ABC. Denzel lives in Northern California with his two young boys, and owns a lot of swords. He is the author of the Mystic Trilogy (MysticMystic Dragon, and Mystic Skies).

My Favorite Bit: Wendy Nikel talks about THE GRANDMOTHER PARADOX

My Favorite BitWendy Nikel is joining us today to talk about her novel The Grandmother Paradox. Here’s the publisher’s description:

When Dr. Wells, the head of the Place in Time Travel Agency, learns that someone’s trying to track down the ancestors of his star employee, there are few people he can turn to without revealing her secrets. But who better to jump down the timeline and rescue Elise from being snuffed out of existence generations before she’s born than the very person whose life she saved a hundred years in the future?

But Juliette Argent isn’t an easy woman to protect. The assistant to a traveling magician, she’s bold, fearless, and has a fascination with time travel, of all things. Can the former secret agent Chandler, with his knowledge of what’s to come, keep her safe from harm and keep his purpose there a secret? Or will his presence there only entangle the timeline more?

What’s Wendy’s favorite bit?

The Grandmother Paradox cover image

WENDY NIKEL

THE GRANDMOTHER PARADOX is the second book in the Place in Time novella series, which is based around a travel agency that specializes in time travel vacations in the past. Although I still love the travel agency itself, which I blogged about for the release of book one, in this book, my favorite part is one of the settings: the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

I first read about the fair in Erik Larson’s 2004 book, The Devil in the White City, and instantly, I was hooked. I tried to get my hands on anything I could read about this fascinating event. As the city recovered from the Great Fire of 1871, Chicago put in its bid for the World’s Fair, right at a time of global change and innovation, which would make this one of the most memorable fairs in history. Electric lights illuminated the fairgrounds. Products such as Quaker Oats, Cracker Jack, and Juicy Fruit gum were first introduced to the public. Countries from around the world and individual states hosted pavilions that showcased their best qualities.

It was an exciting place to be at a pivotal point in United States history, where technological developments were beginning to put the world within the common person’s reach and anything seemed possible. If I had access to a time machine, this would definitely be on my list of places to visit.

I initially used this setting in a now-trunked manuscript. In it, a boy and his family journeyed down to the fair from Wisconsin, and there he met up with a traveling magician who gave him some important advice and a gift. The Midway Plaisance of the fair – which also featured carnival rides such as a balloon drop and the world’s first Ferris Wheel – was filled with performers like this, including one who would become quite well-known for his escape acts: Harry Houdini. So when I decided to set part of this novella at the fair, the idea of traveling magicians came along with it.

In THE GRANDMOTHER PARADOX, the head of the Place in Time Travel Agency, suspects that someone is plotting to kill the great-great-grandmother of his star employee (to prevent the events of the previous book), so he calls upon the man whose life she saved to jump to the year 1893 and protect the young woman, who’s working as a magician’s assistant in a traveling show.

Together, they make their way to the World’s Fair, where he hopes they’ll be able to blend in among the sights and crowds, but he quickly discovers that when you’re being stalked by a man with a time machine, nowhere – and no time – is really safe.

LINKS:

The Grandmother Paradox Universal Book Link

Website

Twitter

Facebook

Instagram

BIO:

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 Fantastic Stories of the ImaginationDaily Science FictionNature: Futures, and elsewhere. Her time travel novella, The Continuum, was published by World Weaver Press in January 2018, with a sequel, The Grandmother Paradox, out now. For more info, visit wendynikel.com

My Favorite Bit: TJ Berry talks about SPACE UNICORN BLUES

My Favorite BitTJ Berry is joining us today with her book Space Unicorn Blues. Here’s the publisher’s description:

A misfit crew race across the galaxy to prevent the genocide of magical creatures, in this unique science fiction debut.

Having magical powers makes you less than human, a resource to be exploited. Half-unicorn Gary Cobalt is sick of slavery, captivity, and his horn being ground down to power faster-than-light travel. When he’s finally free, all he wants is to run away in his ancestors’ stone ship. Instead, Captain Jenny Perata steals the ship out from under him, so she can make an urgent delivery. But Jenny held him captive for a decade, and then Gary murdered her best friend… who was also the wife of her co-pilot, Cowboy Jim. What could possibly go right?

What’s TJ’s favorite bit?

Space Unicorn Blues cover image

TJ BERRY

My favorite bit about Space Unicorn Blues is a single word deep in the book about a quarter of the way from the end. Part-unicorn Gary Cobalt reminisces about his human mother teaching him how to read and write languages from her home planet of Earth:

His mother, on the other hand, had taught him only two human languages: English and Kannada. She showed him how to assemble sticks and balls to make English letters and how to glide his pen through the undulating contortions of the Kannada alphabet.

The single word is the name of an Indian language, Kannada, and it’s my favorite because it was a reminder to me of a wonderful dinner spent with friends discussing their home city.

My zero drafts are sprawling things in which logic, reason, and story arcs don’t exist. Anything from an underwater helicopter chase to a love story between an octopus and an assassin can end up on the page. I write recklessly and rapidly, daring myself to visit every unexpected possibility before settling down to find the heart of the story. It gets the pantsing urge largely out of my system so that I can hew close to my outline in subsequent drafts.

But this fast and furious approach means that I don’t slow down for research during a zero draft. I toss in hundreds of brackets full of placeholder text like [insert saucy jokes here] and [look up the flag of New Zealand]. It also means that some of what I write is flat-out wrong. I originally dashed off the two lines above using Hindi as the language that Gary’s mother would have taught him. It wasn’t until nearly two years later that I discovered my mistake.

You see, Gary Cobalt is the descendent of aerospace engineers who live and work in Bangalore. They board a generation ship to escape a dying Earth, and decades later their granddaughter Anjali falls in love with a space unicorn. (I know. Just trust me.) It wasn’t until I passed the manuscript to a group of sensitivity readers and expert advisors that my error was pointed out to me. Friends who had offered to fact check the parts of the book influenced by Indian culture asked me, “Why is she teaching him Hindi? We only speak Kannada at home and that’s what we’d teach our children.”

Reader, I am ashamed to admit that even though I consider myself moderately well-versed in the basics of Indian culture—okay, maybe we’ll just call it a semester of grad school Hindi and eating more baingan bharta than I care to admit—I had never encountered Kannada. Luckily, my friends were quite eager to fill me in about their beloved home city over a long and delicious curry dinner.

They patiently and cheerfully answered all of my questions about Bangalorean family life. I learned what spices and seeds would be vital to bring onto a generation ship destined for an unfamiliar planet. They helped me brainstorm names for space stations and ships based on important figures in Indian history. At one point, we got into a deep dive about mango pickle. This is, I have learned, a Very Important Condiment in Indian cuisine. Every family has their own mango pickle recipe, which is always better than any other family’s recipe. The instructions are passed down through the generations with such reverence that I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that Indian families on a deep-space generation ship will someday have a minor civil unrest that begins with a slight to one person’s mango pickle.

Mango Pickle image

A mango pickle, which is clearly far inferior to everyone else’s mango pickle.

They ordered a dish of it and urged me to add it to everything on the table. As a person from a culture where the primary condiment is sugared tomatoes boiled down to a paste, I felt that I might be on familiar ground with a condiment with “mango” in the name, but it was not sweet at all. The pickle I tried was not particularly spicy, but it was astringent—vinegary and tart with hint of licorice whenever I hit a fennel seed. The mango is meant to be green and have an al dente bite. It’s absolutely lovely and I want to eat it with everything, which is precisely the point of a mango pickle.

After all was said and done (and eaten), a dozen plates of food and hours of discussion distilled down to a single word in the actual book. That’s often how research works, but this time I also came away from the table with two dozen pages of notes for a different book about a generation ship full of Bangalorean engineers and the strife caused by a jar of mango pickle.

LINKS:

Space Unicorn Blues Universal Book Link

Twitter

Website

BIO:

TJ Berry grew up living between Repulse Bay, Hong Kong and the New Jersey shore. Her favorite pizza is a plain slice from Three Brothers in Seaside Heights. She can be coaxed into a trap using any type of cheese.

TJ has been a political blogger, bakery owner, and she spent a disastrous two weeks on the assembly line in a razor blade factory. She now writes science fiction, fantasy, and horror from Seattle with considerably fewer on-the-job injuries.

She also co-hosts the weekly Warp Drives Podcast with her husband, in which they explore science fiction, fantasy, and horror via pop culture and literary lenses. Find her on Twitter @TJaneBerry and online at http://tjberrywrites.com.

My Favorite Bit: Theodora Goss talks about EUROPEAN TRAVEL FOR THE MONSTROUS GENTLEWOMAN

My Favorite BitTheodora Goss is joining us today with her novel European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman. Here’s the publisher’s description:

In the sequel to the critically acclaimed The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, Mary Jekyll and the rest of the daughters of literature’s mad scientists embark on a madcap adventure across Europe to rescue another monstrous girl and stop the Alchemical Society’s nefarious plans once and for all.

Mary Jekyll’s life has been peaceful since she helped Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson solve the Whitechapel Murders. Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherine Moreau, Justine Frankenstein, and Mary’s sister Diana Hyde have settled into the Jekyll household in London, and although they sometimes quarrel, the members of the Athena Club get along as well as any five young women with very different personalities. At least they can always rely on Mrs. Poole.

But when Mary receives a telegram that Lucinda Van Helsing has been kidnapped, the Athena Club must travel to the Austro-Hungarian Empire to rescue yet another young woman who has been subjected to horrific experimentation. Where is Lucinda, and what has Professor Van Helsing been doing to his daughter? Can Mary, Diana, Beatrice, and Justine reach her in time?

Racing against the clock to save Lucinda from certain doom, the Athena Club embarks on a madcap journey across Europe. From Paris to Vienna to Budapest, Mary and her friends must make new allies, face old enemies, and finally confront the fearsome, secretive Alchemical Society. It’s time for these monstrous gentlewomen to overcome the past and create their own destinies.

What’s Theodora’s favorite bit?

European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman cover image

THEODORA GOSS

I hope you’re not offended if I assert that Hungarian pastries are the best in the world.

Oh, I know, the French tarte tatin is world-famous, as is the Italian tiramisu. And who can pass up a piece of bakhlavah? Pavlova, dulce de leche, halva, flan, panettone . . . Every culture has wonderful sweets to share. But my favorites are the traditional Hungarian ones, because they are not too sweet, and often combine contrasting flavors in interesting ways: chocolate and apricots, poppy seed and sour cherries. If you want to disagree with me, go right ahead, but not before you travel to Budapest yourself, sit down at one of the traditional old cafés like Gerbeaud or the Centrál Kávéház, and try some of them for yourself. I’ll gladly share a tarte tatin with you, if you’ll take a bite of my Eszterházy torte.

Why am I talking to you about Hungarian pastries? Because one of my favorite moments in European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman happens when Mina Murray, Mary Jekyll’s former governess, welcomes Mary and her friends to Budapest by taking them shopping on Váci utca, and then suggests they stop at Gerbeaud. She buys them a selection of traditional Hungarian pastries, including Eszterházy torte, Dobos torte, krémes, and Rigó Jancsi. My favorite of these is the Eszterházy torte, which is layers of buttercream between layers of a flourless cake made with walnuts, egg whites, and sugar. Lots of layers, like five or six or seven, so you get plenty of buttercream and walnuts. Dobos torte is probably the most famous Hungarian cake for its shining caramel top. Rigó Jancsi, which you seldom find outside Hungary and Austria, is the most romantic: it’s supposedly named after a Romani violinist who fell in love with a Belgian princess. She left her husband for him, they were married, and he created the pastry for her. Krémes is like a Napoleon, only better.

So there they are, Mina and Mary and other members of the Athena Club, sitting in a café in Budapest eating pastries. Why is this one of my favorite bits of the book? When I was writing the first and second Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club, I wanted my characters to have adventures, of course—they would overcome obstacles, fight adversaries, and have revelations of various sorts. All the things characters do in books. After all, Vladimir Nabokov said a writer is someone who puts his characters up a tree and throws stones at them. I’ve thrown all sorts of things—murder and mayhem—at mine. But life is never all adventure. I also wanted my novels to contain moments that are more realistic. Moments when the characters are just sitting round drinking tea, or when they get bored, or have to go to the bathroom. (Even characters have to go to the bathroom sometimes.) There they are in Budapest, trying to fight the dastardly Société des Alchimistes, but they have to eat, right? So for about an hour, they stop and sit down and have cake. Not just any cake, but some of my favorite cakes.

There’s another reason this particular bit matters to me. In this novel, it makes sense for my characters to go to Budapest because the villains they’re dealing with are in Budapest—that’s where they were in the original texts I was drawing on. The plot requires a trip to that part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. However, I was born in Budapest and it’s my favorite city in the world. In this book, I wanted to show you a bit of the city I love, as it would have looked in the late nineteenth century. Sure, I populated it with monsters—that’s what I do. But I also wanted to make sure you knew there were cakes. Really good cakes. The monsters may not be there anymore, but Gerbeaud and the Centrál Kávéház are, and they still have all those pastries, right in the pastry cases, close to the front. You can order them, just as Mina did for Mary and her friends. I guarantee that they will fortify you for whatever obstacles you need to face, whether fighting monsters or just finding your way to the art museum.

LINKS:

European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman Universal Buy Link

Twitter

Facebook

Instagram

Website

BIO:

Theodora Goss is the World Fantasy and Locus Award-winning author of the short story collection In the Forest of Forgetting (2006); Interfictions (2007), a short story anthology coedited with Delia Sherman; Voices from Fairyland (2008), a poetry anthology with critical essays and a selection of her own poems; The Thorn and the Blossom (2012), a novella in a two-sided accordion format; the poetry collection Songs for Ophelia (2014); debut novel The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter (2017), and sequel European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman(2018). She has been a finalist for the Nebula, Crawford, Seiun, and Mythopoeic Awards, as well as on the Tiptree Award Honor List. Her work has been translated into twelve languages. She teaches literature and writing at Boston University and in the Stonecoast MFA Program. Visit her at theodoragoss.com.

My Favorite Bit: Lauren James talks about THE LONELIEST GIRL IN THE UNIVERSE

My Favorite BitLauren James is joining us today to discuss her novel The Loneliest Girl in the Universe. Here’s the publisher’s description:

The daughter of two astronauts, Romy Silvers is no stranger to life in space. But she never knew how isolating the universe could be until her parents’ tragic deaths left her alone on theInfinity, a spaceship speeding away from Earth.

Romy tries to make the best of her lonely situation, but with only brief messages from her therapist on Earth to keep her company, she can’t help but feel like something is missing. It seems like a dream come true when NASA alerts her that another ship, the Eternity, will be joining the Infinity.

Romy begins exchanging messages with J, the captain of theEternity, and their friendship breathes new life into her world. But as the Eternity gets closer, Romy learns there’s more to J’s mission than she could have imagined. And suddenly, there are worse things than being alone….

What’s Lauren’s favorite bit?

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe cover image

LAUREN JAMES

When you write realistic science fiction, it takes a lot of research. I always try to make the science in my books as accurate as possible, – the time machine in one of my other books, The Last Beginning, is based on real life research into sub-atomic particles at CERN, like the Large Hadron Collider.

This book is set on a spaceship a few decades into the future, so I did a lot of research into space travel and the theory of space travel behind NASA’s equipment. I read a lot of non-fiction about space travel – NASA does a series of free eBooks explaining their science for beginners, so I had a great time diving into them.

I think there’s a danger of crossing over into Fantasy instead of Science Fiction if you don’t base your technology in solid scientific concepts, and there’s never been as much appeal in writing Fantasy for me. As long as there’s some seed of truth, it’s very easy to make readers believe anything else.

I wanted to write about the fear and confinement and constant stress of being alone on a small spaceship, where you’re completely responsibility for running the ship. I read up on the experiments NASA did where they made people live in a pseudo-spaceship for a year on Earth, to see how that affected them mentally. I read a lot of therapy and mental health books about post-traumatic stress disorder, stress and young carers.

I watched lots of sci-fi films like Moon, Gravity and Interstellar – and that really
helped with capturing the aesthetics and design of the ship.​ I tried to explain it in a series of terrible sketches:

Sketches of spaceship layout

I also had to calculate the time it would take for laser beam messages to travel to and from Earth to my spaceships on every single day of narrative, something which ended up needing an Excel spreadsheet this big:

Excel spreadsheets with a LOT of calculations

The dark side of writing a book set in space: the calculations. Luckily I have a Masters degree in Chemistry and Physics, which helped with this.  And it was all worth it in the end.

LINKS:

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe Universal Book Link

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe Audiobook

Trailer

Chapter 1 sneak peek

Goodreads

Twitter

Website

BIO:

Lauren James’ books have sold over fifty thousand copies in the UK alone. The Loneliest Girl in the Universe was inspired by a Physics calculation she was assigned at university. Lauren is a passionate advocate of STEM further education, and all of her books feature female scientists in prominent roles.

Lauren is published in the UK by Walker Books, in the US by HarperCollins and in translation in five other countries around the world. She lives in the West Midlands and is an Arts Council grant recipient. She has written articles for the Guardian, Buzzfeed and The Toast, and wrote an article for the Children’s Writers and Artist’s Yearbook 2019.

You can find her on Twitter at @Lauren_E_James, Tumblr at @laurenjames or her website http://www.laurenejames.co.uk, where you can subscribe to her newsletter to be kept up to date with her new releases and receive bonus content.

My Favorite Bit: Mary Robinette Kowal talks about THE CALCULATING STARS

My Favorite BitI’m joining you today to talk about my novel The Calculating Stars. Here’s the publisher’s description:

On a cold spring night in 1952, a huge meteorite fell to earth and obliterated much of the east coast of the United States, including Washington D.C. The ensuing climate cataclysm will soon render the earth inhospitable for humanity, as the last such meteorite did for the dinosaurs. This looming threat calls for a radically accelerated effort to colonize space, and requires a much larger share of humanity to take part in the process.

Elma York’s experience as a WASP pilot and mathematician earns her a place in the International Aerospace Coalition’s attempts to put man on the moon, as a calculator. But with so many skilled and experienced women pilots and scientists involved with the program, it doesn’t take long before Elma begins to wonder why they can’t go into space, too.

Elma’s drive to become the first Lady Astronaut is so strong that even the most dearly held conventions of society may not stand a chance against her.

The Calculating Stars cover image

MARY ROBINETTE KOWAL

Given the frequency with which I ask other authors to talk about their favorite parts of their new novels, you might be wondering what my favorite bit of Calculating Stars is. Honestly, it’s the stuff I didn’t write.

See, it goes like this… I looked at all the things that I would need to know in order to write convincingly about orbital mechanics and said, “screw it! I’m hiring an expert.” Several experts, actually. But I’ll use this one as an example.

Stephen Grenade was my main science expert. He’s an ACTUAL rocket scientist. He also, luckily for me, got a degree in chemistry which came in really when Elma and her brother were trying to calculate how hot the meteorite was in order to make the Chesapeake steam. I’d found a website [http://www.chemteam.info/Thermochem/Thermochem-Example-Probs1.html] that had the equations for how to do it but I couldn’t even understand the math. All I had was that the total mass of water was 18 trillion gallons and an average depth of 21 feet.

Stephen wrote back this…

Anyway, for a 10 km wide asteroid, I get around 270 °C.

I made a couple of assumptions. First, that the asteroid is around 10 km wide. Second, that all of the water stays around, instead of a lot of it getting thrown up into the air or turned into steam pretty much immediately. Third, that the asteroid dumps all of its heat energy into the water instead of any going into the air or ground.

For the record, below is how I got that number. If you want to run it past someone else, please feel free. I’m also laying it out so I can double-check it later if needed.

The first thing we need to do is raise the bay’s temperature to 100°C. That’ll take an amount of energy given by (water’s mass)*(change in temperature)*(specific heat of water).

If the Chesapeake bay is 18 trillion gallons, that’s about 6.8E16 grams of water.

During March, the Chesapeake bay is around 7°C. So we need a temperature change of 93 °C.

The specific heat of water is 4.184 J/g/°C.

Multiplying all of those together gives me 3.05E19 Joules of energy.

Now we need to boil that water to make it into steam. That’ll take more energy equal to (water’s mass)*(water’s heat of vaporization)/(water’s molar mass).

From above, the water’s mass is 6.8E16 grams of water.

Water’s heat of vaporization is 40.7 kJ/mol.

Water’s molar mass is 18.0 g/mol.

From the equation, that gives me 1.54E20 J of energy.

Adding the two energies together, I get 1.84E20 J of energy.

To figure out how hot the asteroid would be, I use the equation delta T = (T2 – T1) = (total energy)/(mass of the asteroid)/(specific heat of the asteroid).

For a 10 km asteroid, the mass is around 1.31E15 kg. (Source: http://www.astronomynotes.com/solfluf/s5.htm)

The asteroid’s specific heat is 0.829 J/g/°C. (Source: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/lpsc2011/pdf/1150.pdf)

T1 is 100 °C, assuming the asteroid would dump all of its energy into the water and end up at the same temperature as the water/steam, 100 °C.

So solving for T2 and plugging everything in, I get 100°C + 170°C, for 270 °C.

#

All of this is makes me so geekily happy because I can follow it. I wouldn’t be able to generate any of that, but what I looooooved about working with him is that he wouldn’t just give me the answer, he would give me the thought process behind the answer. That, in turn, was something that I could gift to my characters.

So in the book, Stephen’s email became this…

I picked up the receiver and dialed my brother’s work number.

“United States Weather Bureau, Hershel Wexler speaking.”

“Hey, it’s Elma. Got a minute for a weather question?”

“That is the literal definition of my job. What’s up?” Paper rustled on the other end of the line. “Planning a picnic?”

“Heh. No.” I pulled the equations I’d been working on closer. “I’m helping Nathaniel figure out how big the meteorite was, and composition and . . . The Chesapeake was steaming for three days. I could sort it out on my own, but . . . I thought there might be an existing equation for figuring out what temperature it would take to make a body of water that big steam.”

“Interesting. . . Give me a sec.” Beyond him, I could hear the Teletype bringing in reports from weather stations around the world. “You’ve got the depth and volume of water, I assume?”

“Average depth twenty-one feet. Eighteen trillion gallons.”

“Okay. So . . . during March, the Chesapeake Bay is around forty-four degrees. So we’d need a temperature change of 199.4 . . .” A drawer opened, and the timbre of his voice changed as he pressed the phone to his shoulder.

I could picture him with the phone pressed between cheek and shoulder, brows creased as he worked the slide rule. His crutches would be leaning against the edge of his desk. His glasses would be down at the tip of his nose to help him focus better, and he’d have the corner of his lower lip tucked between his teeth, humming between muttered phrases. “. . . divided by water’s molar mass . . . and that gives me 1.54E20 J of energy . . . hm-hmmm . . . Adding the two energies together . . . hmmm . . . 1.84E20 J of energy. You’d need . . . It would need to be approximately 518 degrees.”

“Thanks.” I swallowed at the number and tried not to betray how much it frightened me. “You could’ve just given me the formula.”

“What? And admit that my kid sister is better at math than I am?” He snorted. “Please. I have an ego.”

#

There’s more stuff like that in the book, which makes it richer than I could possibly have done on my own. Besides Stephen, I also had two astronauts, two fighter pilots — one active duty and the other a Vietnam vet — a flight surgeon, an astronomer, and a ton of other people lending me their science knowledge.

Every time we had an email exchange, I would bounce up and down with giddy glee. It was fun. It was SO. Much. Fun.

Sometimes I would just send them passages that said things like,  “[More pilot jargon here]” and they would turn it into, “Wright Patterson tower this is Cessna four one six fox at one two thousand five hundred direct to the field.” (That one is from Derek “Wizard” Benkoski, by the way)

So there you have it. My favorite bit of Calculating Stars are the things I didn’t write.

LINKS:

The Calculating Stars Universal Book Link

The Calculating Stars Audiobook (read by me)

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Drip

 

My Favorite Bit: Jeremy Finley talks about THE DARKEST TIME OF NIGHT

My Favorite BitJeremy Finley is joining us today with his novel The Darkest Time of Night. Here’s the publisher’s description:

“The lights took him.”

When the seven-year-old grandson of U.S. Senator vanishes in the woods behind his home, the only witness is his older brother who whispers, “The lights took him,” and then never speaks again.

As the FBI and National Guard launch a massive search, the boys’ grandmother Lynn Roseworth fears only she knows the truth. But coming forward would ruin her family and her husband’s political career.

In the late 1960s, before she became the quiet wife of a politician, Lynn was a secretary in the astronomy department at the University of Illinois. It was there where she began taking mysterious messages for one of the professors; messages from people desperate to find their missing loved ones who vanished into beams of light.

Determined to find her beloved grandson and expose the truth, she must return to the work she once abandoned to unravel the existence of a place long forgotten by the world. It is there, buried deep beneath the bitter snow and the absent memories of its inhabitants, where her grandson may finally be found.

But there are forces that wish to silence her. And Lynn will find how far they will go to stop her, and how the truth about her own forgotten childhood could reveal the greatest mystery of all time.

The Darkest Time of Night is a fast-paced debut full of suspense and government cover-ups, perfect for thriller and supernatural fans alike.

What’s Jeremy’s favorite bit?

Darkest Time of Night cover image

JEREMY FINLEY

I wrote it, so it shouldn’t give me chills.

I’m severely critical of my own work. Blame it on a career in broadcast journalism where there’s always a critic waiting, ready to pounce in a Facebook comment about the way you pronounced “nuclear” or that your haircut is too short for a guy with your ears.

But I like it, this quote from Chapter 11.

It raises the hair on my arms — not because it’s comprised of two sentences that will one day be debated and analyzed in AP English classes — but rather because it comes from a father writing a letter about his beloved daughter. I am completely wrapped up with my own two girls, and I could watch military fathers surprising their daughters on a loop 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and never grow weary of it.

It’s a quote of a father’s fear.

So here it is:

“I wish I could go back to the beliefs I had before this, where the only purpose of the stars was to bring us light in the dark. Now I cannot look too long into the heavens for fear of what I might see.”      

The quote serves several purposes in my upcoming novel, The Darkest Time of Night. I won’t spoil what it means or what he is referring to. But it is a significant development in the book, one that changes everything for Lynn, the man’s now grown daughter.

It was a tough section to write for a couple of reasons. Not only because of what it means for Lynn, but that it encapsulates her father’s fears that she was never aware of.

Fathers always want to protect their daughters. It’s what we do. We joke about getting shotguns when they turn sixteen. When my youngest, my true daddy’s girl, went to kindergarten, I hid outside the gym so I could make sure she had stopped crying. After a week of this, one of the teachers said it wasn’t helping because my daughter could see me peering around the door.

It’s a feeling that is both joyous and terrible, when you love someone so much that you feel physical pain when they are hurt or sad. My oldest daughter, who bravely lives with a deadly peanut allergy, gets that flicker of fear in her eyes when our food arrives at a restaurant. She overcomes that doubt, only after my wife and I remind her that we’ve checked with the kitchen and all is well. But secretly, I want to sneak into the kitchen and do a full-on inspection for any trace of a peanut.

That is what the quote is truly about. What happened, what prompted this father to write it, was born from fears for his daughter.

I mentioned that the quote was difficult to write for two reasons. The other is that it truly, in two sentences, hints of the plot of the story. Who doesn’t love the night sky, whether it is a brilliant winter evening with your breath lifting into the air, or a steamy summer darkening, with crickets in the grass and preening stars?

The characters in my novel learn, however, that the sky is black for a reason, and there is much hidden there in the dark.

LINKS:

The Darkest Time of Night Universal Book Link

Website

Twitter

Facebook

BIO:

JEREMY FINLEY is the chief investigative reporter for WSMV-TV, the NBC-affiliated station in Nashville. Jeremy Finley’s investigative reporting has resulted in some of the highest honors in journalism, including more than a dozen Emmys, Edward R. Murrow awards and a national certificate from Investigative Reporters and Editors. He lives with his wife and daughters in Nashville, TN. The Darkest Time of Night is his first novel.

My Favorite Bit: Laura Anne Gilman talks about RED WATERS RISING

Favorite Bit iconLaura Anne Gilman is joining us today with her novel Red Waters Rising. Here’s the publisher’s description:

In the last novel of The Devil’s West trilogy, Isobel, the Devil’s Left Hand, and Gabriel ride through the magical land of the Territory to root out evil by the way of mad magicians, ghosts, and twisted animal spirits.

As Isobel and Gabriel travel to the southern edge of the Territory, they arrive in the free city of Red Stick. Tensions are running high as the homesteading population grows, crowding the native lands, and suspicions rise across the river from an American fort.

But there is a sickness running through Red Stick and Isobel begins to find her authority challenged. She’ll be abandoned, betrayed, and forced to stand her ground as the Devil’s left hand in this thrilling conclusion to The Devil’s West Trilogy.

What’s Laura Anne’s favorite bit?

Red Waters Rising

LAURA ANNE GILMAN

Last time I picked a “favorite bit,” it was a scene in THE COLD EYE, one that reminded me why – and how – I get satisfaction from writing.   

Now, as we’re closing out the Devil’s West trilogy with RED WATERS RISING, I can look back over the three books and say, without hesitation, that my favorite bit isn’t a scene, but a relationship.

Isobel née Lacoyo Távora and Gabriel Kasun.  One of them is only just coming into her own, her entire life ahead of her, while the other’s already seen maybe too much of the world, and the people in it.

It was inevitable that they’d bond – but it wasn’t until RED WATERS RISING that I realized what that bond had become.

When Isobel first encounters Gabriel, she’s not much impressed.

She had his measure now: likely a professional gambling man, or maybe a law’s advocate, someone who held things close. A sharp man, either way. The charm was on the surface; she couldn’t tell yet what was underneath.(from SILVER ON THE ROAD)

At this point, Isobel herself is barely more than a child, for all that she’s being asked to take up adult responsibilities.  She’s a mix of arrogance and ignorance, her innocence barely tempered by growing up in the devil’s household.

But when her boss – the devil of the series title – tasks Gabriel with teaching Isobel what she needs to know, to survive out in the Territory – they are thrown together in a relationship that’s about as unglamorously intimate as possible: riding the dust roads together, just them, their horses, and a pack mule.   She’s stubborn, but teachable.  He’s broken and pragmatic, but resigned to the deal he’s unexpectedly made.

So there’s the set-up: a young girl, full of ambition and power, and a grown man, dragging a life’s worth of mistakes and regret, spending a year riding through the Territory together.

Over the course of three books, they face dangers both mortal and magical.  They also see things of wonder and beauty, share a lot of “oh my god what just happened?” moments, and not a few incredibly awkward ones (because what’s a character for but to torture a little?).   

As they travel, Isobel begins to see beyond that façade Gabriel puts up.  And Gabriel, who at first saw only a young girl with handsome looks and a sharp wit, learns firsthand why the devil chose her to be his Left Hand, the voice of brutal justice in the Territory.  

Readers following their adventures have seen how they interact, the trust, respect, and friendship that grows.  But when I was re-reading all three books (preparing to write the novella that follows), the full arc of their relationship – how it grew and what it became – took my breath away.

They are no longer teacher and student, but neither are they peers: Gabriel is aware of the fact that Isobel holds far more power than he, and he does not envy her it.  And they are not romantic – if there was ever a moment they thought of each other like that, it came and went.

That’s incredibly important – that it’s not romantic – because what they have is love.  Pragmatic love, asking and expecting nothing of the other save that they be themselves.  They’ve seen what the other is capable of, good and ill, and accepted it entirely.

And my god, do I find myself envying them.

And that’s why it’s my favorite bit.

LINKS:

Red Waters Rising Universal Book Link

Red Waters Rising signed copies

Publisher’s website

Laura Anne Gilman’s website

Twitter

Patreon

BIO:

Laura Anne Gilman is the Nebula- and Endeavor-award nominated author of The Devil’s West, the Locus-bestselling weird western series (SILVER ON THE ROAD, THE COLD EYE, and RED WATERS RISING), as well as the short story collection DARKLY HUMAN, the long-running Cosa Nostradamus urban fantasy series, and the “Vineart War”  trilogy.   Her short fiction has recently appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Lightspeed, and THE UNDERWATER BALLROOM SOCIETY.  Her work has been hailed as “a true American myth being found.” by NPR, and praised for her “deft plotting and first-class characters” by Publisher Weekly, among others.

A former New Yorker, she currently lives outside of Seattle with two cats and many deadlines.  More information and updates can be found at www.lauraannegilman.net.

My Favorite Bit: C. L. Polk talks about WITCHMARK

My Favorite BitC.L. Polk is joining us today to talk about her novel Witchmark. Here is the publisher’s description:

C. L. Polk arrives on the scene with Witchmark, a stunning, addictive fantasy that combines intrigue, magic, betrayal, and romance.

One of Publishers Weekly‘s Most Anticipated Books of Spring 2018!

In an original world reminiscent of Edwardian England in the shadow of a World War, cabals of noble families use their unique magical gifts to control the fates of nations, while one young man seeks only to live a life of his own.

Magic marked Miles Singer for suffering the day he was born, doomed either to be enslaved to his family’s interest or to be committed to a witches’ asylum. He went to war to escape his destiny and came home a different man, but he couldn’t leave his past behind. The war between Aeland and Laneer leaves men changed, strangers to their friends and family, but even after faking his own death and reinventing himself as a doctor at a cash-strapped veterans’ hospital, Miles can’t hide what he truly is.

When a fatally poisoned patient exposes Miles’ healing gift and his witchmark, he must put his anonymity and freedom at risk to investigate his patient’s murder. To find the truth he’ll need to rely on the family he despises, and on the kindness of the most gorgeous man he’s ever seen.

What’s C.L.’s favorite bit?

Witchmark cover image

C. L. POLK

Stories change a lot between revisions. You’d never recognize the story I first wrote for Witchmark. I added thirty thousand words, cut two subplots, and discovered Grace Hensley, Miles Singer’s younger sister.

Grace was the favorite child. Gifted with a strong talent for Storm-Singing, Grace grew up as her father’s daughter, trained to take his place as the leader of the secret circle of mages who hold back the storms that would ruin Aeland’s agricultural prosperity. And she’s a failure, because her brother successfully escaped his fate as a lackey and magical battery. The subsequent loss of reputation has put the Hensley name in freefall, and she’ll do anything to claw her way back to the top.

I sense the enlightened nods. Ah. An antagonist.

Except it’s not quite so clear. Grace refuses to force her brother into the subservient position that would repair the damage to the family name. Faced with a choice between power and love, Grace promises the one thing she absolutely shouldn’t–she swears a blood oath not to bind her brother’s magical power without his consent:

She had a blade out of her pocket in a heartbeat. I shut the door but kept my hand on the lever. She drew the white-handled blade across her skin. “I bind my power to this promise: I will not bind your power to mine without your consent.”

Blood welled up in her palm, and she drew a stylized G that carried the suggestion of a bolt of lightning. “By my oath, my mark, and my blood, this is true.”

She used the strictest of vows. A tripled oath was impossible to break. It was old magic, older than Link Circles, older than storm-singing, and she’d done it without hesitation.

She held her hand out. The blood seeped back into her skin, the spell a part of her forever.

With this vow, she wins enough trust to start interfering in Miles’ life…and she’s every bit as abrasive as an opinionated sister can get. Love for her brother or not, Grace Hensley is still a bit of a snob, and is scandalized to discover where her brother lives:

“Birdland? You live in a single room in a boarding house in Birdland?”

She was as I remembered her, making an awful face at a supper she didn’t like or a notion she wouldn’t abide. The years melted away as I winked at her. “You’re sounding better. Cold cleared up?”

“After I nearly burned to death with your cure. I’m perfectly well.” She glanced around at the kitchen. I was glad Mrs. Bass’s enameled iron pots were free of stains and she’d never let a speck of dust settle anywhere. But Grace looked as if this kitchen were a pathetic hovel. “How much are they paying you?”

“Enough.” The meat had surrendered to hours on the simmer. “I could afford a flat, if I could find one.”

“Leave it to me. Birdland. Indeed.”

And where he works:

“So you donated a hill of money to the hospital.”

“I should have offered more. You really don’t have a lift?”

“We really don’t.”

“The least I could do for them. A parting gift.”

I put my spoon down. “A what?”

“I know what to do.” Grace leaned over her bowl, elbows firmly on the desk. “Your own practice.”

“No.”

“Hear me out. You can have privileges at every hospital in the city—”

“I wouldn’t need privileges unless I was doing surgery—”

“You can,” she said. “You’d never have to worry about being discovered.”

Oh, of course. I leaned back. “Because my patients would be from the Hundred Families. An exclusive clientele, getting their maladies treated with magic.”

“Exactly.”

“No, Grace.”

And the company Miles keeps:

I settled back into my place between my sister and Tristan, who regarded each other with narrow- eyed dislike. “Miles, who is this?”

I winced. “Grace, this is my . . . friend, Mr. Tristan Hunter.”

Her hand tightened on the crook of my elbow and I blundered on. “Mr. Hunter, this is Dame Grace Hensley, Her Majesty’s Royal Knight.”

Tristan swept off his hat and bowed. “How do you do?” The gesture was perfectly correct, but it was no courtesy.

Grace stood with her feet and shoulders squared up to face him. She bristled with hostility. What on Earth— ?

Of course. She could see Tristan’s veiling magic.

“Grace,” I said, gently. “Mr. Hunter is my friend.”

She continued staring at him. “Indeed.”

Protective, loyal, and ambitious, or judgy, controlling, and arrogant? People don’t seem to stay neutral in their opinions on Miles’ sister. But I can’t help but speculate that Grace probably would be considered driven, responsible, passionate, and in a difficult position if her name was Gary. I love Grace because she defies the narrow strip of ground fictional women are allowed to occupy. She’s not nice enough. She doesn’t do emotional support. She’s opinionated, openly ambitious, sure of her own abilities and talents. She has flaws and weaknesses that make me facepalm, but her love for her brother shines through, creating all kinds of obstacles in what ought to be a clear path to her destiny as the leader of Aeland’s magicians.

Grace is a difficult woman, and I cheer for her.

LINKS:

Witchmark Universal Book Link

Excerpt

Website

Twitter

BIO:

C.L. Polk writes fiction and spots butterflies in Southern Alberta. She has an unreasonable fondness for knitting, single estate coffee, and the history of fashion. Her debut series beginning with the novel Witchmark is available from Tor.com.

MY FAVORITE BIT: J.S. Fields talks about ARDULUM: THIRD DON

My Favorite BitJ.S. Fields is here today with the final book in the Ardulum series, Ardulum: Third Don. Here’s the publisher’s description:

The planet wakes.

Atalant is torn between two worlds. In uncharted space, head of a sentient planet, the new eld of Ardulum now leads the religion she once rejected. Emn is by her side but the Mmnnuggl war brewing in the Charted Systems, threatening her homeworld of Neek, cannot be ignored. Atalant must return to the planet that exiled her in order to lead the resistance. She must return home a god, a hypocrite, a liar in gold robes, and decide whether to thrust her unwilling people into the truth of Ardulum, or play the role she has been handed and never see her family, or her world, again.

What’s J.S. favorite bit?

Ardulum Third Don cover image

J.S. FIELDS

I’m a scientist.

And I’m back.

Although I spend a lot of time in real life, and in the ARDULUM series, talking about wood science (or the science of cellulose, specifically), I never really get a chance to talk about the other side of my job, which is…

Wait for it…

Fungi.

Not the kind that grow on your bread, or in your shower, or the black kind that everyone gets super bent out of shape about for no good reason (can someone please make one of those friendly spider memes for mold? Please?). I work with wood-decaying fungi which, as you might imagine, is sort of perfect since all the tech in ARDULUM is cellulose-based. So what better plot device, what better mass-panic-inducing organism, than a fungus that can literally eat the galaxy?

Fungi have always been a part of the Charted Systems and the Alliance, if somewhat subtly. The menagerie of genders presented in the series are each modeled after a species of fungus. Conveniently fungi present practically limitless options for gender and sexual reproduction, and aliens should be at least as diverse as fungi (our closest evolutionary friends, in terms of kingdom). But I didn’t just want to model gender in THIRD DON, I actually wanted to imagine what fungi, as sentient beings (that can communicate with us. I’m not saying current fungi aren’t sentient. Don’t come after me, mycophiles!) would look like, how they might move, and how they might communicate.

Unfortunately there wasn’t a lot of space to get into the minutiae of sentient fungal mechanics, but I’m really pleased with the parts I did get to play with. How do fungi emote? If we give them more ‘understandable’ traits, a big one would be a large spore expulsion. Although not all fungi release spores in such a manner on Earth, it seems like a reasonable evolutionary trait to be able to aggressively shoot spores (especially foul smelling ones) at someone who is bothering you. The spores could be sticky, smelly, or rapidly come to life and continue attacking. What fun! And what a mess to clean up. One can imagine if extended negotiations were needed with sentient fungi, one would try to make sure tempers stayed cool.

Another big issue would be communication. Fungi communicate chemically, as do most living things, and also, in theory, through their extensive hyphal networks. For THIRD DON I tried to combine the two methods, by indicating that the sentient fungi used chemical signals, but in order to communicate in ‘Common’ with Atalant, rubbed their hyphae together to mimic speaking sounds. I assume the chitin content of fungal hyphae would need to be drastically increased to make the kind of noises needed to ‘talk,’ but hey, this is science fiction. You can take some things on spec, surely.

Finally, movement. Fungi capable of running a planet and interacting with bipeds need a way to locomote. And since this is an entire kingdom we’re talking about here, not just a species (like, say, Homo sapien), there needed to be some variation. So I selected across a broad group of fruiting forms, from the very recognizable stinkhorn fungi (specifically the ‘veiled lady,’ Phallus indusiatus), to the ascomycetes cup fungus elf’s cup (Chlorociboria spp.), to a fungus that has no known fruiting body nor common name: Scytalidium cuboideum.

Dragging seemed the easiest way to get around, and most fungi make hyphae, so across the board the fungi pull themselves along with braided hyphae. But to denote species differences, I got into the mechanics of each type. The veiled lady can detach their ‘veil’ and wave it around (or smack other beings with it) in anger, using hyphal ‘hands.’ Scytalidium cuboideum moves both through its mycelium, and through expulsion of pigment from its hyphae (in real life, the fungus makes a beautiful red pigment which is used in textile dyeing). The final fungus, elf’s cup, doesn’t do much unique with their movement, but since this fungus has been used for hundreds of years in Western Europe for dyeing wood intarsia and marquetry pieces, I wanted to make sure there was a nod to its expansive pigment production. Hence, every time the fungus is on something woody in THIRD DON (which is basically all the time), it injects a blue-green color into the wood, as well as leaves a trail of blue-green pigment in its wake. Like a car leaking oil, but prettier.

The sentient fungi of THIRD DON are mostly limited to one chapter, and play a very small role in the overall plot, but in many ways they were the most fun to write. A biped is a biped, especially in sci-fi, and especially if we want people to be able to relate to the character, but fungi…ah, we have such creative freedom with fungi! Genders and digestion and habitat and communication…really it’s a wonder there aren’t more sci-fi stories dedicated to their biology.

And maybe if there were, people wouldn’t be so terrified of the mold in their shower.

LINKS:

Ardulum:Third Don Universal Book Link

Website

Goodreads

Twitter

BIO:

J.S Fields is a scientist who has perhaps spent too much time around organic solvents. Fields enjoys roller derby, woodturning, making chainmail by hand, and cultivating fungi in the backs of minivans. Nonbinary, and pronoun indifferent. Always up for a Twitter chat.