Archive for the ‘My Favorite Bit’ Category

My Favorite Bit: Patricia Burroughs talks about DEBRIS & DETRITUS: THE LESSER GREEK GODS RUNNING AMOK

Favorite Bit iconPatricia Burroughs is joining us today with her short story anthology Debris & Detritus: The Lesser Greek Gods Running Amok. Here’s the publisher’s description:

“Debris and Detritus, the lesser-known Greek gods…*

These words launched over a dozen alternate realities and histories, invaded existing universes, and even inspired a book or two with Debris and Detritus running amok through every world they touch.

With nothing else to go on, writers from various genres created deities that might or might not actually be Greek, might or might not be of any particular gender, might or might not be of this Earth but they always wreak havoc in ways that range from darkly horrific to brightly comedic.

Join in the fun, but be forewarned about reading at night. Some of these compulsively readable tales will give you nightmares, while others will have you startling the parakeet by hooting with laughter.

Debris & Detritus Unpredictable, Unbelievable, Un-put-down-able

*Writer Rhonda Eudaly cannot be held responsible for the results of those blithely spoken words. Editor Patricia Burroughs, however, might.

What’s Patricia’s favorite bit?

Debris & Detritus cover image

PATRICIA BURROUGHS

In retrospect, it’s as if I was in Charlie Brown’s world.

“Wah wah wah Debris and Detritus, the lesser known Greek gods wah wah wah.”

Rhonda Eudaly was reading her short story with Debris and Detritus serving as “Queer Eye for the Dead Guy” decorators who have been assigned Hades—both god and domain—to make over.

But even though I listened to her reading that night in Dallas and laughed along with everyone else in the room, I was assaulted by images of D&D, my own personal gods of rubble and refuse.  The pair had taken up a somewhat malevolent residence in my office, moving boxes or flinging books into my path as I’m carefully traversing the minefield otherwise known as The Floor.

It was divinely instigated, the way the idea sizzled through the air from her lips to my brain.

“This ought to be an anthology,” I enthused. “With lots of writers, each writing their own version of Debris and Detritus.”

She seemed startled.

I got more enthusiastic. “Seriously! It could be amazing! You should do this!”

Smart woman that she is, she said “I’m not doing it, but if you want it, it’s yours. As long as my story is in the book.”

And that, dear friends, is how it began.

I, who had never published a short story, who am the least likely person to actually plan, organize, and perpetrate just about anything and have it actually happen … I had a “Mickey and Judy, let’s put on a show!” moment.

I was going to edit an anthology.

I was going to handpick writers — my mind was already gleefully building a list—and then sit back while they did all the work!

What could possibly go wrong?

Fortunately, I did enlist Diane Tarbuck of Story Spring Publishing via a quick call to her from the corridor outside the room, and she said okay, if I put it together, she’d publish it. So I knew I had ‘real editors’ who would, you know, edit.

Wait. I haven’t told you my favorite thing, you say?

This is it.

Choosing the writers to invite.

Some were screenwriters and comedy writers. Others were multi-published, newly published or never published.

The gods they created were male, female, twins, not related at all, youngsters or even made of stone. But whether they were set in London or New Orleans, on Mt. Olympus or on a faraway planet named Celta, the stories amused me, entertained me, and gave me chills.

Max Adams is a professional screenwriter and not an obvious choice to invite, some might say. But her story leads off the havoc, just so her first page will be the one to show up in the sample.

People don’t suspect sweet, blond Michelle Muenzler of hiding such darkness within. It only took her 700 words to tell her chilling tale.

Antioch Grey brings a British wit, edge, and attitude that I could wallow in all day.

I anticipated a mystery from Claire M. Johnson. The only mystery was this other side of herself she’d hidden; she gave us wretched little brats as Debris and Detritus.

Robin D. Owens has been writing romances set in her SFF Celta universe for a couple of decades. Here, she wrote a tale of rebirth and redemption (not a romance) from the point of view of a house. Yes, a house. And a guy who will end up being the hero of one of her fantasy romances down the line.

ChandaElaine Spurlock delivered exactly what I’d hoped—another London setting and more British snark. I thought this would be her first published credit. But then she turned in her bio. She’s been ghostwriting fiction for years. This is her first credit under her own name, though, and it’s clearly time to keep going.

I absolutely knew that Toni McGee Causey’s story would involve Bobbie Faye Summrall, Cajun beauty queen and walking Natural Disaster. A match made in heaven for these gods! No. Toni’s tale is set in the French Quarter and just might have… a dragon?

Irene Radford, one of my Book View Café colleagues who is multi-published in short stories and novels, gave me a downtrodden brother and sister, used and abused by their father and siblings in the pantheon. But oh, how things change…

Mark Finn returned to San Cibola, the magical city in California he co-invented in the 90s. All you fans who have been waiting for more San Cibola tales for years? You’re welcome.

MJ Butler is an award-winning comedy writer but had never been published in fiction. And yet I was certain that with his trademark humor—sometimes-absurdist, sometimes logical in the most illogical ways—he’d write a story I wanted to read. I said, “Will you?” He said, “Yes.” And he did.  There are cows.

Jeanne Lyet Gassman is known for her literary novel and short stories. Wait. Romance? Romance! She wrote romance! I did not see that one coming, and what a delight it is!

Melanie Fletcher writes erotic romance with Greek gods under the pen name Nicola Cameron [Yes, really.] I might be excused for thinking I knew what to expect. Wrong! But her story in an old folk’s home in Florida was oh, so right.

I hoped that Weyodi, an enrolled member of the Comanche Nation, would fling Debris and Detritus into the middle of her. Her mind boggled. It boggled off in an entirely different direction. Her vision of deity past, present, and future is not only is provocative but also suggested a sequel, Debris & Detritus, The Lesser Greek Gods Provoking Jesus. [Well, you never know; it could happen.]

And finally… what can I say about Beth Teliho’s story that wraps up the anthology? Rhonda Eudaly quotes Ice-T, who said, “Women writers write the sickest stuff.” I’m thinking the blonder and more innocent looking the woman, the darker the story.

You know, this is where I should say something elevated like, “I strove for eclecticism in voice and idea.” But I didn’t.

I handpicked some writers who would take the concept and go in unexpected directions, the likes of which promised to amuse me.

And these writers whose voices, backgrounds, and off-kilter way of looking at the world rewarded me—and you–with an array of different tellings with nothing more than the seven simple words I gave them to work with:

Debris and Detritus, The Lesser Greek Gods.

They nailed it.

And I’m very proud.

LINKS:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

iTunes

Kobo

BIO:

Award-winning screenwriter & novelist Patricia Burroughs loves Pratchett, Aaronovitch, Dunnett, and Heyer. Continuing her epic YA fantasy, The Dead Shall Live, Volume Two of The Fury Triad will come out later this year. She and her husband live in Dallas, Texas.

My Favorite Bit: Jacqueline Carey talks about MIRANDA AND CALIBAN

My Favorite BitJacqueline Carey is joining us today with her novel Miranda and Caliban. Here’s the publisher’s description:

A lovely girl grows up in isolation where her father, a powerful magus, has spirited them to in order to keep them safe.

We all know the tale of Prospero’s quest for revenge, but what of Miranda? Or Caliban, the so-called savage Prospero chained to his will?

In this incredible retelling of the fantastical tale, Jacqueline Carey shows readers the other side of the coin—the dutiful and tenderhearted Miranda, who loves her father but is terribly lonely. And Caliban, the strange and feral boy Prospero has bewitched to serve him. The two find solace and companionship in each other as Prospero weaves his magic and dreams of revenge.

Always under Prospero’s jealous eye, Miranda and Caliban battle the dark, unknowable forces that bind them to the island even as the pangs of adolescence create a new awareness of each other and their doomed relationship.

Miranda and Caliban is bestselling fantasy author Jacqueline Carey’s gorgeous retelling of The Tempest. With hypnotic prose and a wild imagination, Carey explores the themes of twisted love and unchecked power that lie at the heart of Shakespeare’s masterpiece, while serving up a fresh take on the play’s iconic characters.

What’s Jacqueline’s favorite bit?

Miranda and Caliban cover image

JACQUELINE CAREY

How do you describe the presence of absence? Because that’s my favorite bit in this book.

I’m a big art aficionado, and one of my favorite paintings is Caravaggio’s “Conversion of St. Paul.” It depicts St. Paul’s revelation on the road to Damascus, a moment of intense and profound personal transformation; and yet, the image of Paul is confined to the lowest third of the canvas. The sturdy horse from which the apostle has fallen occupies the majority of the canvas, a looming visual element that first confronts the viewer, a depiction at once beautiful, homely and mundane.

It’s an image that never ceases to inspire me, this juxtaposition of the transcendent and the commonplace.

In Shakespeare’s The Tempest, all of the magician Prospero’s plans, twelve long years in the making, lead to a moment of confrontation with the brother and liege lord who betrayed him long ago.

I chose not to depict it.

I chose not to do so because the story I’m telling isn’t Prospero’s. It’s the story of his daughter Miranda, kept in ignorance; it’s the story of Caliban, pressed into reluctant servitude.  And in Shakespeare’s play, neither character has the slightest bit of agency in this situation, nor ability to affect the outcome, nor any true understanding of the circumstances that have shaped their lives.

Choosing not to portray that moment felt like a bold and risky decision to me, but the longer I considered it, the more right it felt. It happens off-stage, as it were. It exerts an inexorable pull on the fates of my protagonists; but I wanted to work within the confines of the structure of the play, and the fact of the matter is that they weren’t there. At the moment their destinies were defined, they were elsewhere.

Absent.

By virtue of the medium, juxtapositions in a text narrative have to play out in a different way than in the visual arts. Time is involved, for while a viewer may take in a painting at a single glance, a reader must process what is written in a linear sequence.

The presence of absence is implied, made concrete by the contrast between what is and isn’t described.

And so while Prospero’s deep-laid plans are coming to their apotheosis, in my book, our focus is on Miranda and Caliban; the latter desperately seeking to entice allies born of happenstance to his cause, the former immersed in the mundane logistics that her father’s complicated plans engender.

Elsewhere, fates hang in the balance and are decided. Here, in the presence of a strange spell-bound prince, a dead goat sizzles and roasts on a spit, a skeptical live goat cocks its head and scratches its ear with one rear hoof, while nameless chickens mutter and peck in the dirt.

It’s my favorite bit.

LINKS:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Indiebound

Powell’s

BIO:

Jacqueline Carey is the author of the New York Times bestselling Kushiel’s Legacy series of historical fantasy novels, The Sundering epic fantasy duology, postmodern fables “Santa Olivia” and “Saints Astray,” and the Agent of Hel contemporary fantasy series. Carey lives in western Michigan. Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s page. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook. View the book trailer here.

My Favorite Bit: Kameron Hurley talks about THE STARS ARE LEGION

Favorite Bit iconKameron Hurley is joining us today with her novel The Stars are Legion. Here’s the publisher’s description:

Somewhere on the outer rim of the universe, a mass of decaying world-ships known as the Legion is traveling in the seams between the stars. For generations, a war for control of the Legion has been waged, with no clear resolution.  As worlds continue to die, a desperate plan is put into motion.

Zan wakes with no memory, prisoner of a people who say they are her family. She is told she is their salvation – the only person capable of boarding the Mokshi, a world-ship with the power to leave the Legion. But Zan’s new family is not the only one desperate to gain control of the prized ship. Zan finds that she must choose sides in a genocidal campaign that will take her from the edges of the Legion’s gravity well to the very belly of the world.

Zan will soon learn that she carries the seeds of the Legion’s destruction – and its possible salvation. But can she and her ragtag band of followers survive the horrors of the Legion and its people long enough to deliver it?

In the tradition of The Fall of Hyperion and DuneThe Stars are Legion is an epic and thrilling tale about tragic love, revenge, and war as imagined by one of the genre’s most celebrated new writers.

What’s Kameron’s favorite bit?

The Stars are Legion cover image

KAMERON HURLEY

I’ve always been a sucker for old-school science fiction “sense of wonder” stories. I love both Golden Age and New Wave science fiction that throws caution to the wind and takes you to gooey, gory, wondrous, mad, incredible new places tucked into the furthest corners of the universe. I love science fiction that is so imaginatively far in the future that it swings back around to fantasy again. The future I’m living is certainly fantastic to someone a thousand years ago. I better be similarly wowed when reading about a world set a thousand years in the future.

In my space opera, The Stars are Legion, I created a legion full of organic starships as large as worlds that lived and reproduced. I envisioned them as great creatures, and the humans inside of them – with their petty wars and civil strife and personal betrayals and love affairs and politics – were simply one part of a larger ecosystem, battling it out there the same way we do here. They are as blinded to their original purpose as humanity is here on earth, scrounging about seeking purpose while we cruise through the universe on our own world ship.

For me, the most exciting part of writing this epic standalone novel was writing the middle section, when everything we know about the worldships flips upside down, and we get to the gory and glorious part where we find out what’s been living beneath its skin. My agent initially wanted the opening to be longer. She wanted more politics from the families on the surface of the world. But for me, all that existed primarily so I could explore what was happening beneath those levels, and how different societies were battling it out for survival while the ship itself literally rotted around them.  How would they survive? What would these cultures be like? And what about the vistas of the rotting ship itself?

Readers so far seem to agree that you get to the middle section of The Stars are Legion, which is when one of our characters finds themselves in the belly of the world, and you either go, “Wow! What the hell is this! It’s AMAZING!” or “What? What the hell is this? This is so weird.” I look forward to finding out how the book works for various readers, and how many get as psyched as I did to explore an organic world on the verge of revolution.

The worldbuilding in many of my novels tends to get a lot of attention. Folks wonder how it is I come up with these wild places. But for me, creating new and different environments, and seeing what parts of us are different and what parts are the same, is intensely satisfying. It’s the wonder of discovery that keeps me writing, and reading. I want to write about places I’ve never seen before, with a wild cast of characters who are both relatable and wholly alien.

I write to discover new worlds. I hope you’ll all come along for the ride.

LINKS:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Indiebound

Powell’s

Excerpt

Website

Twitter

BIO:

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

My Favorite Bit: Lara Elena Donnelly talks about AMBERLOUGH

Favorite Bit iconLara Elena Donnelly is joining us today with her novel Amberlough. Here’s the publisher’s description:

From author Lara Elena Donnelly, a debut spy thriller as a gay double-agent schemes to protect his smuggler lover during the rise of a fascist government coup

Trust no one with anything – especially in Amberlough City.

Covert agent Cyril DePaul thinks he’s good at keeping secrets, especially from Aristide Makricosta. They suit each other: Aristide turns a blind eye to Cyril’s clandestine affairs, and Cyril keeps his lover’s moonlighting job as a smuggler under wraps.

Cyril participates on a mission that leads to disastrous results, leaving smoke from various political fires smoldering throughout the city. Shielding Aristide from the expected fallout isn’t easy, though, for he refuses to let anything – not the crooked city police or the mounting rage from radical conservatives – dictate his life.

Enter streetwise Cordelia Lehane, a top dancer at the Bumble Bee Cabaret and Aristide’s runner, who could be the key to Cyril’s plans—if she can be trusted. As the twinkling lights of nightclub marquees yield to the rising flames of a fascist revolution, these three will struggle to survive using whatever means — and people — necessary. Including each other.

Combining the espionage thrills of le Carré with the allure of an alternate vintage era, Amberlough will thoroughly seduce and enthrall you.

“James Bond by way of Oscar Wilde.” —Holly Black

“Sparkling with slang, full of riotous characters, and dripping with intrigue, Amberlough is a dazzling romp through a tumultuous, ravishing world.” —Robert Jackson Bennett, winner of the Shirley Jackson Award and the Edgar Award

“An astonishing first novel!” —World Fantasy Award-winning author Ellen Kushner

What’s Lara’s favorite bit?

Amberlough cover image

LARA ELENA DONNELLY

A lot of early reviews of Amberlough are calling it “shockingly timely,” pointing out the unfortunate resemblance to our current political climate, drawing comparisons to 1930s Germany. And yes, it is a political novel. It is about the dangers of fascism. It is tense and violent and dangerous, filled with amoral people making desperate decisions.

It’s also really hot.

I’m not here to talk to you about the scary parallels between my novel and the rising global influence of xenophobic populism. I’m here to talk to you about sex.

Or rather, the subtleties of writing explicit sex. Too often, these scenes reduce sex to two particular sets of parts in a straightforward mechanical act. But that’s boring, and good sex is anything but. Good sex is the whole mind and body engaged in something—anything—that brings intense pleasure. Whether that’s the whisper of breath on skin, the anticipation of a tryst or a touch, the sting of knotted hair tangled in a fist, the confidence imparted by a partner’s regard…it’s so much more than a rote specific physical act. And it’s more fun to write, the further you move from the prescribed.

I first started forming my sex scene philosophy at a Galentine’s Day party during which guests read aloud the steamy scenes from dollar store paperback romances. After a few of these, I started to notice the pacing was nearly identical. The same three acts of the same sexual encounter. The language varied (barely), but the step-by-step process and the body parts involved were exactly the same from book to book.

Ugh, mix it up! Am I right?

In reality, sex can mean and be so many different things between all kinds of different people, and still be really hot. In fiction, it should be the same. There’s the oft-repeated aphorism that sex scenes should move the story forward. People often interpret this literally–if there is fellatio, it must be plot-relevant!—but making the pivotal act of your five-act structure a carnal one isn’t quite how I interpret this advice.

Given all the things that sex can be—a power play, a drunk mistake, an expression of intense emotion, an act of desperation, a bonding experience, something to do when you’re bored, or when you think that you’re going to die—it’s almost impossible to write sex that doesn’t move the story forward. When the characters are lying there afterward, sweaty and satisfied—or not, because do not get me started on the simultaneous orgasm trope—the readers should understand something new about them and their situation.

I hope I manage that with Amberlough. There’s even plot-relevant fellatio, to satisfy the pedants.

LINKS:

Amazon

Goodreads

BIO:

The all-singing, all-dancing Lara Elena Donnelly is a graduate of the Alpha and Clarion writers’ workshops. Her work has appeared in venues including Strange Horizons, Escape Pod, Nightmare, and Mythic Delirium. Her debut novel, vintage-glam spy thriller Amberlough, drops on February 7, 2017 from Tor Books. A veteran of small town Ohio and the Derby City, Lara now lives in Manhattan. You can also find her online at @larazontally or laradonnelly.com.

My Favorite Bit: Mur Lafferty talks about BOOKBURNERS

Favorite Bit iconMur Lafferty is joining us today to talk about Bookburners. Here’s the publisher’s description:

The critically acclaimed urban fantasy about a secret team of agents that hunts down dangerous books containing deadly magic—previously released serially online by Serial Box, now available in print for the first time!

Magic is real, and hungry. It’s trapped in ancient texts and artifacts, and only a few who discover it survive to fight back. Detective Sal Brooks is a survivor. She joins a Vatican-backed black-ops anti-magic squad—Team Three of the Societas Librorum Occultorum—and together they stand between humanity and the magical apocalypse. Some call them the Bookburners. They don’t like the label.

Supernatural meets The Da Vinci Code in a fast-paced, kickass character driven novel chock-full of magic, mystery, and mayhem, written collaboratively by a team of some of the best writers working in fantasy.

What’s Mur’s favorite bit?

Bookburners cover image

MUR LAFFERTY

Bookburners was tons of fun to work on. I’d never collaborated before, and now I was thrown into a writing room, working with three very talented authors. Once we had hashed out what each episode would be about, we politely discussed and sometimes passionately claimed the episodes we wanted to write. 

I’d love to tell you about all of my episodes, but one bit that I really liked crafting was the restaurant scene in Episode 4: A Sorcerer’s Apprentice. (Spoilers below.) 

A bit of backstory; my dungeon master in college refused to let us play Evil characters, which I thought was unfair. I loved the concept of Lawful Evil: having a strict code you abide by, but your movements within that code can be evil. The vigilante murderer Dexter is lawful evil. He kills people with no remorse, but only certain kinds of people. Dwight Schrute from The Office is Lawful … he’s not evil, but definitely Annoying: he will make life hard for others, but he backs down without question when someone of a higher rank tells him to. 

When I came up with the answer of how to fix the problem of Episode 4, how Sal and her team would handle the gluttony demon and the kitchen made of meat, at first I thought it was too simple. But kitchens run on a strange kind of “lawful” code (I called it “chaotic order” in the story) that most non-restaurant people can’t follow. It looks chaotic to an outsider, but the dishes all get out. If chaos reigns, then dishes go out with raw meat, or without sauce, or the wrong dish goes to the wrong table. Kitchens abide by rules, and over time they’ve developed their own language. 

The menu is holy. The list of specials is law. Communication is vital. Break any one of these things, and the core machine that is a working kitchen begins to fall apart.

I realized that a lawful demon working with a strict setting like a kitchen would have to abide by its rules. So the commands to “86” (we’ve run out of that food, or it’s no longer on the menu) something will be obeyed. How can you disobey an 86? “I don’t care that we’re out of salmon, I’m going to make it anyway?” Nope. Everyone must abide by a call of 86.

Grace was distracting the demon and keeping it busy, but she wasn’t defeating it. Sal needed to sever the demon’s connection with the book, so she 86’d the specials list. 

This episode was meant to illustrate a few things in the developing group dynamic: Sal proves her loyalty to Asanti, as does the rest of the team, eventually. Sal also shows herself to be a quick thinker among the team. Since this is an ensemble cast, people have asked me, half-joking, who the “thief” or the “brains” are – referencing the television show Leverage or a basic D&D party. But those roles don’t quite fit our characters. 

I like that a lot of our characters do double-duty. Grace is the muscle, but Sal and Liam can hold their own. Intelligence-wise, Menchu is the brilliant leader, and Asanti is the researcher (alongside Liam, while one does books and the other does the Internet), but Sal takes this season to forge her own place as an innovator, the quick thinker. 

Each character is layered with several skills and weaknesses. There isn’t one “hitter” or “tank” or “cleric.” As you’ll see in future episodes, the team will not always be the five of them together, and two or three people may go off and do a mission. 

Sal and her background, plus her detective’s mind, keep her and the team alive in this adventure, even though it was Asanti’s reluctance to involve the team that put them in danger in the first place. 

And let’s touch on Asanti. This character gets a slow introduction, seeming to be the one sitting at home in a lot of situations. I wanted to take her out on her own mission with this episode, reveal some of her past, and show her problematic view of magic and how it conflicts with the rest of the team. 

Essentially, if you haven’t been stabbed with a sword, you’re more likely to consider it beautiful. Even if you know someone with missing fingers. 

For the record, I don’t classify all of my characters with D&D alignments. But I’d definitely classify Asanti as Neutral Good. You’ll see why later.

LINKS:

Website

Twitter

Amazon

Indiebound

Barnes & Noble

BIO:

MUR LAFFERTY is the author of The Shambling Guides series from Orbit, including the Netfix-optioned The Shambling Guide to New York City and Ghost Train to New Orleans. She has been a podcaster for over 10 years, running award-winning shows such as I Should Be Writing and novellas published via podcast. She has written for RPGs, video games, and short animation. She lives in Durham, NC where she attends Durham Bulls baseball games and regularly pets two dogs. Her family regrets her Dragon Age addiction and wishes for her to get help. She tweets as @mightymur. Bookburners, which she wrote with Max Gladstone, Margaret Dunlap, and Brian Francis Slattery, is available from Saga Press in February. 

My Favorite Bit: Fonda Lee talks about EXO

Favorite Bit iconFonda Lee is joining us today with her novel Exo. Here’s the publisher’s description:

It’s been a century of peace since Earth became a colony of an alien race with far reaches into the galaxy. Some die-hard extremists still oppose alien rule on Earth, but Donovan Reyes isn’t one of them. His dad holds the prestigious position of Prime Liaison in the collaborationist government, and Donovan’s high social standing along with his exocel (a remarkable alien technology fused to his body) guarantee him a bright future in the security forces. That is, until a routine patrol goes awry and Donovan’s abducted by the human revolutionary group Sapience, determined to end alien control.
When Sapience realizes whose son Donovan is, they think they’ve found the ultimate bargaining chip . But the Prime Liaison doesn’t negotiate with terrorists, not even for his own son.  Left in the hands of terrorists who have more uses for him dead than alive, the fate of Earth rests on Donovan’s survival. Because if Sapience kills him, it could spark another galactic war. And Earth didn’t win the last one . . .

What’s Fonda’s favorite bit?

Exo cover image

FONDA LEE

One of the things I enjoy the most about writing science fiction and fantasy is inventing words for things that don’t exist in real life. My YA sci-fi novel, Exo releases from Scholastic Press this week and my favorite word in the entire book is one that I made up: panotin.

In the world of Exo, certain humans have adopted alien biotechnology that gives them an organic body armor that they can manipulate at will. I imagined this super tough but pliable alien material would have a woven texture made out of many threads of some substance stronger than spider silk. I needed to give a name to this stuff that made it sound like a pseudo-natural part of the human body and evoked the image and ideas I was going for.

I took inspiration from an existing word: keratin. Keratin is the fibrous structural protein found widely in many living creatures. It makes up the outer layer of human skin and is the key component of hair and nails. It forms the horns, claws, and hooves of mammals, the scales and shells of reptiles, the beaks and claws of birds. The word keratin is derived from the Greek word kéras meaning horn, and the –in suffix, denoting a chemical compound.

From there, it wasn’t a far leap for me to come up with my own Greek-derived word to serve my story needs. The special substance I’d imagined would function as built-in body armor, so I turned to Google Translate and found that the Greek word for armor is panoplía. A little more Internet searching told me that the Greek name Panos means ‘rock.’ Perfect!

“Panotin” was exactly the made-up term I needed for my story. There was one final thing I had to do: Google it make sure it wasn’t already a real word in another language or the brand name of some company or product I’d never heard of. Thankfully, a Google search turned up only a few Facebook and Tumblr accounts from people with unusual surnames. I was good to go!

Like most SFF writers, I’ve made up plenty of words and names for my futuristic and fantasy worlds, and it’s a part of the process that seems small in the grand scheme of storytelling but that I find both vital and incredibly fun. In Exo, the actual armor system (comprised of panotin) is called an “exocel,” a word that sounds like “exoskeleton” but also “cellular.” I imagined the alien race in my story having a musical language with many strumming and whistling sounds, so I named them the “zhree,” and their key unit of social structure is the “erze.” I wanted to create more distinguishing differences between the humans who collaborate with the zhree and those that don’t, so I decided the aliens would prefer unique human names that they could translate into longer, more easily remembered strings of notes in their own language, hence: Donovan, Thaddus, Tamaravick, Leonidas, and my favorite, Vercingetorix. The humans who weren’t part of this system, the ones who oppose alien governance, had names like Saul, Kevin, and Max.

(I must pause to mention my favorite word from my first novel, Zeroboxer. It’s “brandhelm.” I love this word. It conveys the precise meaning I intended, and is so much more elegant a title than something like, “personal marketing manager.” In fact, why isn’t it a word already?)

Creating words is a creative exercise that must nevertheless grounded in logic. Words and names have origins and their sounds evoke connotations. When done properly, the reader accepts these skillfully invented words into story usage with barely a second thought and little reflection upon the work and deliberation the author invested in their creation. I’m quite certain that no one (or very few people) will ever question me about the origin or logic behind the “panotin” but the word makes me smile every time I see it in the pages of my book.

LINKS:

Website

Twitter

Facebook

Book Excerpt

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Indiebound

Powell’s

BIO:

Fonda Lee is the award-winning author of young adult science fiction novels Zeroboxer (Flux), which was an Andre Norton finalist, and Exo (Scholastic), a 2017 Junior Library Guild Selection. She is a recovering corporate strategist, a black belt martial artist, and an action movie aficionado. She loves a good Eggs Benedict. Born and raised in Calgary, Fonda now lives in Portland, Oregon with her family. She can be found online at www.fondalee.com and on Twitter @fondajlee.

My Favorite Bit: Watts Martin talks about KISMET

Favorite Bit iconWatts Martin is joining us today with his novel Kismet. Here’s the publisher’s description:

The River: a hodgepodge of arcologies and platforms in a band around Ceres full of dreamers, utopians, corporatists and transformed humans, from those with simple biomods to the exotic alien xenos and the totemics, remade with animal aspects. Gail Simmons, an itinerant salvor living aboard her ship Kismet, has docked everywhere totemics like her are welcome…and a few places they’re not.

But when she’s accused of stealing a databox from a mysterious wreck, Gail lands in the crosshairs of corporations, governments and anti-totemic terrorists. Finding the real thieves is the easy part. To get her life back, Gail will have to face her past and what’s at stake may be more than just her future.

What’s Watts’s favorite bit?

Kismet cover image

WATTS MARTIN

A few years back, I didn’t have a novel. I had a muddle of ideas, a main character I was in love with, and a disjointed plot that could maybe stretch into a novella. Even so, it got me into an intensive SF novel writing workshop at the University of Kansas.

Among the notes I scribbled during sessions was this suggestion: one of my story’s motifs was “embodiment.” It wasn’t until I got home that I stopped, read that a few times, and thought: wait, what the hell does that mean?

In the future of Kismet, some humans are “transform,” visibly bioengineered in some fashion. A subset are “totemics,” adapting animal aspects ranging from (relatively) subtle tweaks like ears and tails to full-body makeovers. Totemics are a minority even on “The River,” a section of frontier space around Ceres. But in a solar system with a population of ten or eleven billion, that’s still in the millions.

Okay: so what do totemics embody? Animal and human. Technology and nature. A radical, extreme statement that the future lies in unification rather than dominion. At least, that’s the answer Mara, the original totemic, would give. But someone else might have a different answer: spiritual belief, xenophiliac aesthetics, a sense you’re more you when your nature isn’t the one you came into the world with. Gail, the book’s protagonist, would wryly add, “Because your transform parents wanted a transform kid.” She’s comfortable looking like a rat, but it’s not like she aspired to it.

There’s a scene near the middle of Kismet when two side characters discuss Mara’s dream—and the dream of many totemics, including Gail’s mother and sister—of transformations becoming inheritable, a goal that’s always stayed just out of reach. Gail’s adopted (and estranged) sister Sky, like their mother, remains deeply committed to that hope. But her friend Ansel, another totemic, shocks Sky by taking a fierce stand against it. On the surface, their disagreement is political, the more libertarian Ansel offended by Sky’s socialism. But there’s more to it than that. “Totemics have gotten along fine since before The River existed,” he argues. “We’ll keep getting along just fine choosing whether to transform ourselves or our children.”

What I love about this exchange is that their debate is both universal and unique to a science fiction context. There are parallels to our world and time, but transform and cisform don’t quite map to transgender and cisgender, let alone race, orientation or religion. Yet that debate in their society hinges on what makes identity so complicated. It’s a mix of what we’re assigned through the circumstances of our birth and what we choose. We embrace parts of the identity we came into the world with and reject others. We choose new elements for our identity, adding new bits, filling holes, and when we must, making drastic changes. If the goal of inheritable transformation arrives for the totemics, they’ll gain something immeasurable—at the cost of shifting a core part of their identity from choice to assignment.

I hadn’t realized their exchange was about the story’s underlying theme until well after I’d written it. But your characters often know more about your story than you do, don’t they? I didn’t know what “embodiment” meant at first. Ansel and Sky—and Gail—got it immediately.

A small confession: it’s tough to point to this one exchange and say it’s my absolute favorite bit from the story. The novel is, after all, about Gail, not Ansel or Sky. But this moment turns out not to only be a reflection of the story’s theme, but a signpost for Gail’s own journey. Until the morning this conversation takes place, her real interest had been getting back to a life of minimal responsibility. But as she comes to terms with her mother’s death—and her complicated relationship with Sky—she’s realizing she has big choices to make. And, even though she doesn’t see it yet, she’s already started making them.

LINKS:

Kismet on Amazon

Kismet on publisher’s site

Author’s website

Watts on Goodreads

BIO:

Watts Martin is the author of several fantasy novellas including Cóyotl Award winner Indigo Rain and nominee Going Concerns, and a host of short stories in small press anthologies including Inhuman Acts, Five Fortunes and The Furry Future. Watts grew up around Tampa Bay, Florida, and now lives in Silicon Valley, primarily working as a technical writer.

My Favorite Bit: Tim Lees talks about STEAL THE LIGHTNING

Favorite Bit iconTim Lees is joining us today with his novel Steal the Lightning. Here’s the publisher’s description:

In the newest Field Ops adventure, god hunter Chris Copeland must track down an enigmatic figure distributing shards of deities to unwitting citizens across the country

Chris Copeland has a bizarre job, seeking out gods to convert into energy, but when he’s tasked with retrieving a deity from an elderly woman in New York, he’s truly out of his element. Before he can learn who sold her the dangerous object, she swallows a piece of it and goes into painful convulsions in front of his eyes.

Calling himself Johnny Appleseed, an elusive man has stolen fragments of gods and is traversing the country, peddling the contraband as a miracle cure to anyone desperate enough to believe him. With the help of his colleague, Angel, and a documentary filmmaker intent on exposing the Registry’s secrets, Chris must chase down the culprit and recover the stolen gods before all hell breaks loose.

What’s Tim’s favorite bit?

Steal the Lightning cover image

TIM LEES

I have a new book out from HarperVoyager. It’s called Steal the Lightning, and it’s set in a world a lot like this one, except that there, the ancient gods remain, buried at sacred sites around the globe. Given the right equipment, you can dig them up, break them down, and use their energy to power anything from heavy industry to a household toaster. Chances are, in that world, you’d be reading this on a god-powered screen – which means that maybe, just maybe, the gods would be reading you, in turn.

To most people, they’re a fuel resource, a substitute for coal, oil, and nuclear power. But gods are gods, and in their raw form, have a powerful pull upon the human mind. They’re dangerous. They change the way we see the world. Sometimes, they change the world itself. So when someone starts dispensing chunks of pure god-stuff in towns across the USA, professional god hunter Chris Copeland is called in to track down the perpetrator – and try, if he can, to minimize the damage.

Now, I’m a Brit, and the prospect of an American odyssey has always excited me. I never fully recovered from reading On the Road, and even a trip to the shops can assume an almost Kerouacian dimension when I’m in the mood. In this novel, I’m mostly taking back roads, from New York, through the Midwest, ending up in Vegas. Which is where my problems really began – as a writer, anyway.

The gods make places strange. Simply the presence of a god will generate all kinds of bizarre phenomena – and how do you make a place like Vegas any weirder?

Well, it took a while, but I did it. (Let’s just say, if you’re ever on the Strip and somebody suggests a spot named Second Eden, you should walk very, very quickly in the opposite direction, OK?)

So there, amid ghosts, gods, and a gambling hall that, win or lose, will literally suck you dry, I came to my favorite bit. The hero meets the bad guy. I love these scenes, and I don’t do them as confrontations. I think I’ve met a few genuinely bad people in my time, and there’s a common theme running through all of them: the bad guy doesn’t think that he’s the bad guy. Forget the trail of casualties lying in his wake. He’ll tell you, that’s not his fault. They deserved it. Or they knew the risks. Or even, he tried to warn them. He’ll tell you how he’s the victim here, not them. He’ll tell you how he’s suffered, but he had to take control, since no-one else would do it. He might be sad, self-pitying. He might be boastful, describe himself as “strong”, “entrepreneurial”, or whatever current buzz-word fits the bill, when actually he’s ruthless, self-centered, solipsistic and destructive. If he’s socially respectable, he’ll cast himself as a philanthropist, a wolf in saints’ clothing, furiously staking out the moral high ground while chasing his own gains. There’s a tremendous sense of privilege about it all, an exceptionalism that justifies whatever he does: “I’m allowed to act like this because…” Picture a small boy trying to talk his way out of trouble, then age him by twenty, thirty, forty years. That’s our guy.

In this instance, his name is Johnny Appleseed, and for a notion what he’s up to, imagine your local crack dealer telling you he’s really doing vital scientific work, for which he expects great acclaim and reward in the near future. And yes, true, there might have been a few deaths here and there – he doesn’t quite remember who, but he’s sure they knew what they were getting into, and it was nobody important, anyway. And the benefits are going to be amazing. And it’s his achievement! Far from being the villain, he’s actually a pretty great guy, isn’t he?

Well, my job as a writer is to get inside this man’s head, give him some really good arguments, make him sympathetic, plausible – even likeable, for a while. Then show that, despite all that, he’s still a scumbag, through and through.

So I wrote the scenes. I liked them. It’s probably some horrible, perverse streak in my character, but I enjoy trying to see the world through the bad guy’s eyes, a world in which he’s invariably the center, the only person anywhere who really counts.

Then I realized: I had a problem.

There needs to be a rhythm to a book like this. It’s a thriller, after all, and quiet scenes have to be broken up with action, and plenty of it. Here, though, I’d let myself get carried away: chapter after chapter of dialog, argument, and just a few small, creepy things going on around the edges.

That wasn’t going to work.

So I went back, to the point where the hero is sitting in a casino bar, waiting for the bad guy to appear.

I’ve had times like this before, when I know where a story has to go but not how to get it there; when the present scene feels flat and ordinary, and needs a good kick to get it moving. And I always ask myself, “What’s the last thing you’d expect to happen here?”

And that, I think, is my second favorite bit: throwing in a wild card, sending the whole book off in a completely unanticipated direction, so that even I don’t know where we’re going to end up.

In my view, that’s where the fun really starts.

LINKS:

HarperCollins (US)

Amazon US author’s page

Amazon UK author’s page

Barnes & Noble (US)

Booksamillion (US)

iTunes (US)

iTunes (UK)

BIO:

Tim Lees is a British author living in Chicago. His short fiction has appeared in Interzone, Black Static, Great Jones Street and elsewhere. He is the author of Frankenstein’s Prescription (Tartarus Press), and the Field Ops novels, The God Hunter and Devil in the Wires (HarperVoyager). All books can be read as stand-alones. When not writing, he has held a variety of jobs, including film extra, teacher, conference organizer, and worker in a psychiatric hospital. He has a website at www.timlees.wordpress.com (when he has time to update it), tweets as @TimLees2, and holds an Instagram account as tim.c.lees.

 

My Favorite Bit: Laura Anne Gilman talks about THE COLD EYE

Favorite Bit iconLaura Anne Gilman is joining us today with her novel The Cold Eye. Here’s the publisher’s description:

In the anticipated sequel to Silver on the Road, Isobel is riding circuit through the Territory as the Devil’s Left Hand. But when she responds to a natural disaster, she learns the limits of her power and the growing danger of something mysterious that is threatening not just her life, but the whole Territory.

Isobel is the left hand of the old man of the Territory, the Boss—better known as the Devil. Along with her mentor, Gabriel, she is traveling circuit through Flood to represent the power of the Devil and uphold the agreement he made with the people to protect them. Here in the Territory, magic exists—sometimes wild and perilous.

But there is a growing danger in the bones of the land that is killing livestock, threatening souls, and weakening the power of magic. In the next installment of the Devil’s West series, Isobel and Gabriel are in over their heads as they find what’s happening and try to stop the people behind it before it unravels the Territory.

What’s Laura Anne’s favorite bit?

The Cold Eye cover image

LAURA ANNE GILMAN

Trying to choose a single ‘favorite’ bit from the Devil’s West books is a bit like trying to remember your favorite moment from summer camp: after a while, it’s all tied up in multiple strands of memory and experience.  Trying to separate it out and explain it is…well, it can get messy.  But in the case of THE COLD EYE, there was one moment that, every time I look back at it, my breath catches and I’m filled with the reminder of this is it, this is why I write.

 

The setting is this:  Isobel – one of our protagonists- unexpectedly encounters a slaughter of buffalo, left to rot on the plains.

She’s horrified – not because they were killed, but because it was done wastefully.  Whoever did it took trophies, but left the meat behind.  Clearly, whoever killed them was not doing it for survival, but some darker motive.

Researching this particular scene was painful, because it involved taking a long, careful look at what actually happened when these beasts became trophy kills, including incredibly depressing photos.  They were killed for ego, yes, but also to take them away from those who did hunt them for survival.

And, having spent some time observing the herds of buffalo (okay, American Bison for the nitpickers) in Yellowstone, trying to imagine what it was like when herds far larger than that ranged freely, and knowing I will never see that sight, is infuriating.

And yet, this was my favorite bit to write.

Because I did get to spend time observing buffalo, who – like moose – are amazing, majestic, massive beasts.  Seriously, watch a buffalo cow and her calf pass barely two feet in front of your car, and you will reconsider everything you ever thought about size, power, and the superiority of standing on two legs.  I can see where for some people that might be terrifying, but I actually found it quite freeing.

And I was able to bring that emotion into the scene with Isobel, that sense of what buffalo mean in context of the Territory.  It’s a painfully gorgeous scene, because it invokes the weight of both that moment for Isobel and the echo of what they meant in our own history.  And, the writer says shamelessly, I think I did it really well.

But that wasn’t  quite enough to bump it up to “favorite over all” status.  It’s what happens in that scene that made gave it that extra push.  Because while Isobel is dealing with the slaughter, the payment that she makes to settle their ghosts, a decision has to be made about what she will do about it.  And the decision happens in such a seemingly inevitable way, Isobel herself doesn’t realize the significance of it, even as it establishes who – and what – she has become, and who she may have to become, later in the book.

That decision?  Hadn’t been in the outline.  It rose strictly from the emotion of the scene, the sense of inevitability and pain evoked by the description.  And just as there was no marker around the spot, no warnings for her, or for the reader, it came as just as much a surprise for the writer, who didn’t realize until many chapters later what I had done.

Well-played, lizard brain.  Well-played.

And that’s why it’s my favorite bit.  Because I wrote my heart out – and my writing-heart gave back twofold.

LINKS:

Author’s website

Of Nature, Respect, and The Stupid (Writing about bison. And bears)

Amazon

B&N

University Bookstore (signed books)

Mysterious Galaxy: (signed books)

BIO:

Laura Anne Gilman is the Nebula- and Endeavor-award nominated author of two novels of the Devil’s West,  SILVER ON THE ROAD and THE COLD EYE (January 2017), and the short story collection DARKLY HUMAN, as well as the long-running Cosa Nostradamus urban fantasy multi-series (Retrievers, PSI, and Sylvan Investigations), and the “Vineart War” epic fantasy trilogy.

Under the name L.A. Kornetsky, she also wrote the Seattle-based “Gin & Tonic” mysteries.

A former New Yorker, she currently lives outside of Seattle, WA with two cats and many deadlines.  More information and updates can be found at www.lauraannegilman.net, or follower her on Twitter as @LAGilman

 

My Favorite Bit: Jaym Gates talks about UPSIDE DOWN

Favorite Bit iconJaym Gates is joining us today with her anthology Upside Down. Here’s the publisher’s description:

Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling is an anthology of short stories, poetry, and essays edited by Monica Valentinelli and Jaym Gates. Over two dozen authors, ranging from NYT-bestsellers and award winners to debut writers, chose a tired trope or cliche to challenge and surprise readers through their work.

Read stories inspired by tropes such as the Chainmaille Bikini, Love at First Sight, Damsels in Distress, Yellow Peril, The Black Man Dies First, The Villain Had a Crappy Childhood, The Singularity Will Cause the Apocalypse, and many more…then discover what these tropes mean to each author to find out what inspired them.

Join Maurice Broaddus, Adam Troy-Castro, Delilah S. Dawson, Shanna Germain, Sara M. Harvey, John Hornor Jacobs, Rahul Kanakia, Alethea Kontis, Valya Dudycz Lupescu, Haralmbi Markov, Sunil Patel, Kat Richardson, Nisi Shawl, Ferrett Steinmetz, Anton Strout, Michael Underwood, Alyssa Wong and many other authors as they take well-worn tropes and cliches and flip them upside down.

What’s Jaym’s favorite bit?

Upside Down cover image

JAYM GATES

Anthologies, and more specifically the editing of anthologies, are my catnip. I got my start completely by accident, and found myself addicted after that first one. They’ve treated me well in turn, for the most part, but every now and again I wonder why anthologies, and why do I keep coming back? It’s certainly not for the money or the fame!

Instead, I think my favorite bit is the thrill of discovery. I’ve done anthologies where everything was from the slush pile, and anthologies where everyone was invited, and everything in between. I love my invited authors, and the slush pile certainly has its horrors, but there’s nothing like the feeling of opening up a submission and realizing that you’ve hit pay dirt.

Some of my all-time favorite stories have come from the slush pile. Many were from first-time authors who were afraid to submit because they didn’t think they were ready yet. Others were from authors I hadn’t encountered before, and some I didn’t think would be interested in that particular genre but who’d had a great idea. Some of the stories required heavy editing, others, almost no editing at all.

Slush piles are intimidating. For a recent anthology, Genius Loci, I had over 900,000 words of submissions. War Stories was at about 700,000 words of submissions. Sometimes, in the depths of the slush pile, reading through something that is the complete opposite of all my project guidelines, I think maybe I should just do invite-only from here on out. But those stories that jump out of the slush and latch on keep me excited. We could only take 90,000-110,000 for those books, and we invariably ended up putting two to three times that number on the “But I Really Want This” list. That’s a pretty good ratio. There’s a lot of amazing talent out there.

It’s validating, too. Sometimes being an editor feels futile. All I’m doing is putting together stories that other people have written. It can feel invisible, and sometimes frustrating, because I’ll never do an anthology that pleases everyone. When I find a story in the slush that’s made the rounds elsewhere, or that’s special to the author in some way, it helps me reconnect to my own passion for the task and the project.

It’s even more fun when we start editing a story that’s aaaaaalmost there, but not quite. I love figuring out what the author’s ideal version of a story is, and helping them polish the story until it reaches that ideal. It helps me with my own writing, too, because I have to be able to put away the rose-colored glasses and cut away everything that isn’t essential to this particular story.

Okay, maybe I have more than one favorite bit, and maybe neither of those things is really small enough to be called a ‘bit’…but I think that’s forgivable. But seriously, be a slush reader for a while, if you have the time. I think you’ll see what I’m talking about the first time you see a story you found in slush go out into the wide world.

LINKS:

Amazon

Website

BIO:

Jaym Gates got her start in editing by making a joke on Twitter six years ago. At the time of writing this bio, she’s working on her 15th anthology. The titles include RIGOR AMORTIS, BROKEN TIME BLUES, WAR STORIES, GEEK LOVE, GENIUS LOCI, STRANGE CALIFORNIA, UPSIDE DOWN, INVISIBLE WOMEN, LEGENDS OF STRATEGY: HOW STAR WARS EXPLAINS FUTURE STRATEGY, ECLIPSE PHASE: AFTER THE FALL, EXALTED: TALES FROM THE AGE OF SORROWS, and VAMPIRE: ENDLESS AGES. She is also a developmental editor for Falstaff Books, and lead editor for the BROKEN CITIES shared-world setting.

In her spare time, Jaym trains and rides horses, collects tea, practices a martial art called Systema, and writes. You can find her on Twitter at @JaymGates. Her website is www.jaymgates.com

My Favorite Bit: Michele Fogal talks about ROOT OF THE SPARK

Favorite Bit iconMichele Fogal is joining us today with her novel Root of the Spark. Here’s the publisher’s description:

Dell has an unexpected spark that masculine and feminine energies create when swirled and fused inside a single person. But will this be enough to stop the age-old tide of fear and violence as it rises again?

Born in the midst of the oldest human war, the war of the sexes, Dell is the first true hermaphrodite on the planet of Ameliaura. Dell has used the anonymity of the Fatherlander cities to survive, and the tight community of the Motherlander villages to manage, but reaching maturity means that neither of those are enough to thrive on anymore. After a vicious attack, and an unexpected love interest, Dell must step into the light to fight for a real home.

Warning: this book contains a child who is actually an ancient dragon made of fungus, a lovely villain imprisoned inside the creature’s body, a hasty clan gathering in the collective subconscious, a hermaphrodite orphanage on the brink, and some very naughty acts on a staircase.

What is Michele’s favorite bit?

Root of the Spark cover image

MICHELE FOGAL

Years ago, I stumbled upon the concept of WILDs, Waking Initiated Lucid Dreams (WILDs) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucid_dream#Wake-initiated_lucid_dreams_.28WILD.29 and this idea sparked many stories and is now an essential part of the universe of my Wild Seed series of SF novels.

The strange thing is that I never expected to experience a WILD myself.

A large part of the universe that I’d been exploring and writing about had to do with a collective subconscious place, a dream landscape. In the story, talented Dreamers could go into this place and interact with each other, and really talented Dreamers could go there while they were awake.

How the Magic Started

My writers’ group at the time had a tradition of using guided meditation to start our sessions. So, I went over to my writing pal Paolo’s house and we did our meditation thing and… something happened. It felt as though I had a muscle twitch in both of my eyeballs.

You know when a muscle moves a small amount over and over but you can’t control it? Just like that, but not in the skin of my face, but rather in the eyes themselves. My eyeballs moved fast back and forth while my eyes were closed, and I was definitely not in control of it. This had never happened before, but I’d just done the relaxation exercise, so I was sublimely mellow, and didn’t worry too much about it. I thought it was odd, but not enough to mention it to Paolo.

REM State

EMDR is a type of therapy, developed for trauma survivors, that is particularly useful in improving self image issues. When I’d tried it, it seemed like the idea was to get the two sides of the brain to communicate with each other, quit arguing and reach an understanding. When I spoke to my counsellor friend about WILDs and how cool I thought the idea was, she said, “Well you know that that’s what EMDR is based on right?” My friend explained that the whole principal behind EMDR was to put the client into a waking dream, an REM state.

When I told her about my eye twitching, she explained that not only had I accidently incorporated WILDs into my writing practice, I’d already done it before in EMDR sessions. Twice. I found this convergence of ideas creepy in the loveliest of ways. This kind of serendipity makes me feel like I’m on the right track, and well… that there IS a track.

Now as if this isn’t lovely-creepy enough, it gets lovely-creepier.

Tapping into the Hive

Rapid Eye Movement is usually something that you have only while you’re asleep and dreaming, but I had accidentally figured out how to get myself into a waking REM state. As I explored the idea further, again and again, I could get into this Lucid Dream space and… witness things. I don’t really know how else to describe it. I would do my meditation, which was about getting into an imaginary sanctuary, and then when I was deeply relaxed, I would call out to a character.

The main character of that story (Root of the Spark) is named Dell, and when I called, Dell would appear. I could see this person’s eyes, face and hair very vividly, and then I would jump from my sanctuary place into Dell’s body. I’d look out of the character’s eyes, hear their thoughts, feel the textures and temperatures of their environment. It all felt very real and very magical.

Science vs Woo-woo

From a scientific point of view, I believe what’s happening is that the right and left hemispheres of my brain were “communicating” in ways that normally happens while we sleep, a subconscious form of thought. From a more woo-woo perspective, I felt that I was tapping into the dreamscape that I’d been writing about, and that there were stories there that wanted me to tell them.

How it Helped

Part way through the first draft, I sheepishly realized I didn’t know what Dell did for work. After berating myself for being a bad writer, and sitting down to try to logically figure it out, I stopped dead and had a new idea. Instead of trying to “logic it out”, ie: use my left brain, why not use my right brain and simply ask Dell from inside the REM state? So I did just that. I meditated my way into my “sanctuary” and then called Dell to me, jumped into Dell’s body and whispered, “Let’s go to work.”

Dell simply walked outside, got into a trike-vehicle I’d never seen before, drove to a location I’d never imagined and opened the door of a restaurant/club that I hadn’t invented yet. It was very clear from Dell’s thoughts and the reactions of the staff that Dell was the owner. I still get goose bumps when I think about it.

Ever-Evolving

This process doesn’t work for every story, and certainly not for every writer. My favourite bit is to realize that creative process can be as diverse as our stories. It can change and evolve, no matter how much you’ve written. And the stories themselves have so much to teach us, if we can just quiet our monkey minds and listen. I think that in itself is pure, sparkling magic.

Your Own Process

If the idea of using guided meditation in your writing warm-up interests you, I have a series of them to share on Soundcloud. https://soundcloud.com/user-221571352

Wishing you a pinch of SF magic,

Michele

LINKS:

I’ve set up a bunch of ways for you to enter inside Rafflecopter. The more times you enter, the better chance you have of winning 1 of the 5 free ebooks!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Amazon.com

Amazon.ca

Loose Id

All Romance Ebooks

Barnes & Noble

Google Play

Indigo / Kobo

Ibooks

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Goodreads

Pinterest

BIO:

Michele has always felt a sense of kinship with quirky and diverse people. As a bisexual author, writing love stories that explore the rainbow of human experience is both a pleasure and a calling. Her work celebrates the divine nature of diversity, and the sacred, messy work of intimacy.

If you’d like to know when Michele releases new books, bonus content, book club questions, and sneak peeks, you can sign up for her newsletter at  michelefogal.com. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Goodreads, and nudge her to get off there and write more.

My Favorite Bit: Ruth Vincent talks about UNVEILED

Favorite Bit iconRuth Vincent is joining us today with her novel Unveiled. Here’s the publisher’s description:

Following the events of Elixir, Mabily “Mab” Jones’ life has returned to normal. Or as normal as life can be for a changeling, who also happens to be a private detective working her first independent case, and dating a half-fey.

But then a summons to return to the fairy world arrives in the form of a knife on her pillow. And in the process of investigating her case, Mab discovers the fairies are stealing joy-producing chemicals directly from the minds of humans in order to manufacture their magic Elixir, the dwindling source of their powers. Worst of all, Mab’s boyfriend Obadiah vows to abstain from Elixir, believing the benefits are not worth the cost in human suffering—even though he knows fairies can’t long survive without their magic.

Mab soon realizes she has no choice but to answer the summons and return to the Vale. But the deeper she is drawn into the machinations of the realm, the more she becomes ensnared by promises she made in the past. And in trying to do the right thing, Mab will face her most devastating betrayal yet, one that threatens everything and everyone she holds most dear.

What’s Ruth’s favorite bit?

Unveiled cover image

RUTH VINCENT

It seems such a cliché to say that the inspiration for your novel came to you in a dream; I’d certainly never thought I was that type of writer. Yet oddly enough for UNVEILED it did. And not just any dream, but a nightmare.  This was a strange occurrence because the CHANGELING P.I series is largely a happy, feel-good urban fantasy.  Yet darkness lurks in this world – not gory, in-your-face horror, but a more subtle, psychological foreboding – hence the dream.

It wasn’t some monster dogging me in my sleep that night; it was one of my old high school math teachers. Now I was lucky to have had excellent teachers for the most part growing up, teachers to whom I will forever be grateful – but there were few exceptions. This gentleman, who I will leave nameless, was known for his patronizing sneer, his snide remarks upon any wrong answer, and the way his attitude made us all feel smaller, less confident, less capable. I’d always struggled in Mathematics but I’d never felt stupid – not till his class.  All these years later, I recall his face and I grimace.

At the time of the nightmare I had recently met a man I thought was “the one.” He turned out to be a complete jerk and broke up with me – thankfully freeing me up to meet the wonderful man to whom I am now married. But at the time I was devastated, not so much angry with him as with myself. I had always taken pride in being a good judge of character, and now I had to admit that I could be utterly wrong about someone’s intentions. I felt like I couldn’t even trust myself.

With these ingredients simmering in my subconscious, I had the following dream: I dreamed I was lying in the arms of the man I’d been seeing, talking as unselfconsciously as if we were old lovers, when suddenly, his face began to melt. This would have been disturbing enough, but as his face shifted before my eyes, it began to take on another form – the cruel, hardened scorn of my old math teacher. What was worse was he began to speak, repeating things I had said to him in moments of intimacy and mocking them now in his cruel, derisive way, torturing me with my own most vulnerable admissions. “Didn’t you realize?” he sneered, “It’s been me this whole time.”

Years later when I found myself tasked with trying to write a truly villainous villain for my series, I realized that having a bad guy who simply tries to kill my heroine would be too easy a way out. A truly terrifying villain’s violence is psychological. That’s more believable to the reader than any apocalyptic scenario. Most of us have (hopefully) never had someone out to murder us, but we have had people who’ve gotten in our heads, maybe even into our beds, who left us feeling smaller, more helpless, who tried to make us ashamed of our selves.  If my protagonist, Mabily Jones, could stand up to a villain like that, I’d think her more of a badass than the toughest, gun-toting action heroine in all of urban fantasy.

I’m not sure what it says about me as a writer that the most disturbing aspects of my book are always my “favorite bit.”  And yet, while the lighter, more comic relief elements of UNVEILED gave me great joy to write (and there are many of those – it’s mostly a happy, hopeful book, I swear!) it’s the villains that loom large in my memory long after the manuscript is complete.  Villains should play on our own deepest fears. Perhaps I’m not afraid of the fight-scene villain, but I do fear the villain who pretends he’s in a love scene, the villain who manipulates trust and shatters consent. Those are the villains that haunt us, like a bad dream that refuses to fade upon waking.

LINKS:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Google Play

iBooks

BIO:

Ruth Vincent spent a nomadic childhood moving across the USA, culminating in a hop across the pond to attend Oxford. But wherever she wanders, she remains ensconced within the fairy ring of her imagination. Ruth recently traded the gritty urban fantasy of NYC for the pastoral suburbs of Long Island, where she resides with her roguishly clever husband and a cockatoo who thinks she’s a dog.

She is the author of the CHANGELING P.I urban fantasy series with HarperCollins Voyager Impulse, beginning with her debut novel ELIXIR. The second book in the series, UNVEILED, releases 12/6/16.

Ruth always loves to hear from readers. Get in touch at www.ruthvincent.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RuthVincentAuthor, or on Twitter at @ByRVincent.

For a chance to win a free signed and personalized copy of Ruth Vincent’s latest release, sign up at http://eepurl.com/bMwMrn

My Favorite Bit: Stephanie A. Cain talks about SHADES OF CIRCLE CITY

Favorite Bit iconStephanie A. Cain is joining us today with her novel Shades of Circle City. Here’s the publisher’s description:

Chloe is Catholic, a cop, and conventional, not necessarily in that order. But when a run-of-the-mill burglary arrest goes bad, she ends up dead. Turns out there are worse things than having a bra that doesn’t fit right.

When she wakes up alive–yeah, she’s as surprised as you are–she keeps seeing people her friends can’t see. She can’t get those people to talk to her, though, and one of them looks hauntingly familiar, even though it’s no one Chloe actually knows.

A handsome Indiana State Trooper with secrets of his own tells her that her would-be killer is tied to an open robbery case. While they work together to bring a relentless killer to justice, Chloe has increasingly disturbing encounters with the shades only she can see.

She finally realizes her death (and subsequent resurrection) has given her a connection to the restless dead of Indianapolis, and with a recent homicide rate over a hundred a year, there are a lot of restless dead in Indianapolis. What’s a conventional, Catholic cop to do?

Catch the crook, get the guy, and say a few Hail Marys just to be safe.

What’s Stephanie’s favorite bit?

Shades of Circle City cover image

STEPHANIE A. CAIN

My favorite bit of Shades of Circle City is an accident–or, really, a series of accidents.

I’m a member of a fantastic writing group called IndyScribes, and when I came to them with Shades of Circle City, I had already completed one revision. A member of my writing group took one look at the name Braxton Wolfe and commented, “He’s a werewolf, right?”

Uh.

“Sure!” I decided, and frantically scribbled an entirely new set of scenes to work in that subplot.

When I introduced the rest of the wolfpack, I threw in a skinny, angry guy named Murphy O’Hare who had been bitten, unlike the rest of the members of the pack, who are hereditary wolves.

Another member of my writing group said, “Oooh, there’s a lot of backstory to that, isn’t there?”

Uh.

“Sure!” I decided, and frantically scribbled an entirely new set of scenes to work in that subplot.

When I explained in a later scene that Braxton’s father had dealt with the werewolf who turned Murphy, yet another member of my writing group said, “I bet that’s what really killed Braxton’s father, isn’t it?”

Uh.

“Sure!” I decided, and…you know the drill, right?

To be completely honest, if I didn’t have the IndyScribes, this book wouldn’t be half the novel it is today, and I mean that both literally and figuratively (it was a lot shorter before the werewolves jumped in).

As much as I love my main characters, I have to confess, I’m a sidekick girl. I’m a minor characters girl. I love Samwise and Boromir more than Frodo and Aragorn. I love Robin more than Batman. And… I love Murphy more than Braxton.

Not as a romantic partner for Chloe, and I imagine I’d actually enjoy hanging out with Braxton more than I would Murphy. Murphy isn’t a comfortable guy to be around. He’s snarky and angry and he’s dealing with a dozen changes in his life as well as struggling against poverty as a high-school dropout, and despite all that, he’s strong and brave and loyal, in his own prickly, Murphy kind of way.

My favorite bit of Shades of Circle City is when Murphy finally gets it through his head that one good thing about being bitten is the pack he acquired with it. The family he acquired. Because pack, as Braxton points out more than once in the novel, is family.

As he worked, Braxton considered what should be done. There were plenty of magic-users in Indianapolis, and he didn’t have a problem with most of them. The vast majority were benevolent types, or at the very least, petty in their selfish use of magic. People using their talent to make ends meet didn’t bother him, as long as they weren’t hurting anyone else. But now there was a magic-user who had hurt one of his pack. And not only that, but she had helped turn someone. It was inexcusable. Something would have to be done.

Finally he rocked back on his heels and rubbed a hand over his face. “Murphy,” he said, trying to make his voice gentle but firm. “You aren’t a lone wolf anymore. I appreciate what you were trying to do, but that isn’t how we operate. We’re creatures of the pack. We work better together.”

Murphy met his gaze for half a second and then looked down. “I just…I owe you. I couldn’t—”

“Yes,” Braxton interrupted, “you could. We don’t keep score. Not in this pack.”

“Which is what I’ve been trying to tell you,” Tara put in, her voice sardonic. Murphy’s scowl deepened, but his shoulders relaxed.

This happens late in the book, because Murphy has a lot of anger and guilt and confusion to overcome. He’s on a journey that’s a little different from the others, but when he finally gets it, it feels incredibly satisfying to me.

Of course, things go to hell right after that, but it’s still a little moment of, “Hey, Murphy’s gonna be all right, after all.”

And that’s my favorite bit.

LINKS:

Shades of Circle City is available as a print or ebook from Amazon, as well as an ebook from Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks, and Smashwords. Purchase links for all distributors are available here: http://www.stephaniecainonline.com/books/shades-circle-city/

BIO:

Stephanie A. Cain writes epic & urban fantasy. She is the author of the Storms in Amethir epic fantasy series. Shades of Circle City is the first in her new urban fantasy series. A native Hoosier, she writes urban fantasy set in the Midwest in addition to her epic fantasy. She spends her work time at a small museum doing historical research, giving tours of a Victorian man-cave, and serving as a one-woman IT department.

A proud crazy cat lady, she is happily owned by Eowyn, Strider, and Eustace Clarence Scrubb. In her free time, she enjoys hiking (except for the spiders), bird-watching, and reading. She enjoys organizing things and visits office supply stores for fun. She owns way more movie scores and fountain pens than she can actually afford.

She can be found online at www.StephanieCainOnline.com.

My Favorite Bit: Jeremiah Reinmiller talks about GEARSPIRE: ADVENT

Favorite Bit iconJeremiah Reinmiller is joining us today to talk about his novel Gearspire: Advent. Here’s the publisher’s description:

Out on the frontier, where the Directorate’s law fades, and invasions from beyond the Cinderveil are a constant threat, life is hard. Ryle knows this better than most. With a grifter for a mother, and a bandit for a father, he spent his childhood picking pockets and slitting throats to survive. And that was before Kilgren, Ryle’s unstable and vicious father, betrayed his family and the realm.

For five years, Ryle has run from that legacy. He’s earned a swordmark, fought to make a new life for himself, but never escaped. Until now.

Rumors are swirling that Lastrahn, lost Champion of the House of Reckoning, has returned to hunt down Kilgren and end his mad schemes. If Ryle can find the Champion, he might get the shot he desperately seeks to bring his father to justice and close the door on his bloody past.
Hanging in the balance? An impending war. A forsaken love. And the secret of a mysterious tower in the west that may hold the key to it all.

A place known as Gearspire.

Gearspire: Advent is the first book in the Gearspire dark fantasy trilogy.

What’s Jeremiah’s favorite bit?

Gearspire Advent cover image

JEREMIAH REINMILLER

When I set out to write this post I thought about several bits from the novel I could discuss. About twisting tropes, or dropping readers into the action and letting them catch up. About how origin stories are often boring, which is why I skipped one. Or why this novel is definitely not about a farm boy, an orphan, or anyone who is chosen to do anything.

They’re all interesting enough topics, but then, like the late, great Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, I asked, “Why so serious?” I mean, really, that’s all heady stuff, but where’s the fun? This is a favorite bit post, after all.

It was then I realized this novel is really about a few of my favorite things (no, I’m not busting into a Julie Andrews solo, you really wouldn’t want that). So, for Gearspire: Advent, my favorite bit is the mixed up, mashed up story I wound up with when I threw in everything I love. It was me on a page.

Now, let’s be clear. It didn’t start out that way. I began with a fantasy tale, and all the trappings that entails, but the more I thought about what should be in such a story, the more trapped and constrained I felt. It was only when I decided to fill the story with what I wanted that I began to enjoy it.

So, I started with some pretty standard dark fantasy elements: sword fights, magic, gritty choices, and a few monsters for seasoning. All things I’m fond of. But you know what else I like? Steampunk. All those wooden mechanics, crazy inventions, and severe outfits. Yeah definitely on the favorites list, so I threw them in. It needed some adventure of course, and some scares. I’ve been known to enjoy horror from time to time, and I added a few bits like that.

By that time, it was getting pretty good, but we weren’t there yet. It needed a touch of romance, and then to balance that, of course the obvious choice, ninjas. I mean really, it’s hard to craft a good love story without some ninjas involved.

I was feeling it then, but it wasn’t quite there. The book still needed some betrayal for contrast, some apocalypse for gravitas, and some psychics, because, well . . . why not?

At that point I thought, have I gone too far? Should I trim some of this out? But of course, the answer was simple, no way. Because all of these favorites bits were why I loved the story and what made it mine. Without them it might just be any other story, but with them, they formed my story.

So yeah, it’s a crazy, gritty, dark fantasy / steampunk mash-up with monsters, and ninjas, and sword fights galore. It’s different, and it’s mine, and I’m happy to share it with all of you. If you want to check it out, I hope you enjoy it.

LINKS:

Gearspire: Advent is available in both eBook and physical formats on Amazon.com. Or, if you’d like a couple free stories, head over to www.jqpdx.com, sign-up for Jeremiah’s mailing list and receive two stories set in the Gearspire universe.

BIO:

Jeremiah Reinmiller is a lifelong computer geek, martial artist, and native of the Pacific Northwest. When he’s not building clouds (the computing kind, not the rainy ones) he’s probably hunched over a keyboard hammering out words in a semi-organized fashion. His stories have received the 2014 Sledgehammer Writing Award, and been published by Subtopian Press, Abyss & Apex Magazine, and Cantina Publishing. He resides in Vancouver (the one in Washington, not Canada) with his wife and their two cats. Information on what he’s up to, and more of his stories can be found at www.jqpdx.com.

My Favorite Bit: Jon Del Arroz talks about STAR REALMS: RESCUE RUN

Favorite Bit iconJon Del Arroz is joining us today with his novel Star Realms: Rescue Run. Here’s the publisher’s description:

Since being court-martialed by the Star Empire, smuggler and thief Joan Shengtu has done what she needed to do in order to survive—gaining a reputation along the way. When a new client’s mission goes sideways, Joan finds herself caught in the middle of dueling gambits between the Star Empire and the Trade Federation. Recruited to perform the heist of a lifetime, the fate of the Star Empire rests in her hands.

On the opposite side of the galaxy, Regency BioTech manager Dario Anazao sees an unsustainable situation brewing that promises a full-scale revolution. The megacorporations of the Trade Federation have kept the population in horrible working conditions, violating their human rights. With no one else to help, Dario must take it upon himself to rescue the workers of Mars.

Can two heroes from warring factions come together to make a difference in the galaxy?

Star Realms: Rescue Run is the first novelization of the critically acclaimed Star Realms spaceship combat deckbuilding game. You can check out the game here: http://www.starrealms.com.

What’s Jon’s favorite bit?

Rescue Run cover image

JON DEL ARROZ

The balcony had a holoprojected view of the Martian landscape, including the Arsia Mons mountain. The oxygen level must have been pumped in higher in that receptacle, a closed room despite the open-air appearance. None of that surprised Dario. What did was the woman he saw standing there, gazing out over the balcony. With dinner about to be served, he’d expected to have some time alone here.

She turned to look at him, big brown eyes piercing through him, making him shiver. She wore an expensive dress. Dario didn’t know too much about fashion design, sticking to more conservative business attire, but color-changing fabric like she had on couldn’t come cheap. This woman was here to make a show. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to disturb,” Dario said, carefully taking a step back.

The woman smiled at him, pearly teeth exposed from her red lips. “No, you’re not interrupting. I just needed some fresh—” she stopped herself, shaking her head with a laugh. “It almost feels real, until you think about it. You know?” – Star Realms: Rescue Run

Star Realms at its core is a game about bases and battleships, massive fleets endlessly propelling at each other in an attempt to dominate galactic authority. When I wrote Rescue Run, the first novel in the Star Realms universe, I kept myself aware of that, but I wanted to focus on what it meant to be a human in such a chaotic universe.

My favorite bit of this book doesn’t come in the fight scenes, or even the gambits or missions that the various factions within the universe, but from the excerpt here, in which the two protagonists from two very different walks of life meet for the first time, and realize that they have something in common as people. These human moments are what matter most in our lives, and so the human moments are also what have the most impact in my story.

Another sub-theme that I layered into Rescue Run is one that technology presents illusions that give us comfort, but not substance. The Star Empire and Trade Federation are manipulating people’s psyches as much as they’re pushing for control of different areas of the galaxies. Characters are decked out with body modifications that control aspects of their lives down to their hearing and vision. They’re trapped in bases and starships, never seeing reality beyond what’s been constructed for them by their empires or corporations. This scene highlights the doctored perception of reality, as the main protagonists of the story are staring at a phony landscape of Mars that’s projected in front of them on a wall. The real landscape of Mars is just below the station where they’re at, but the powers that be don’t want people looking in at the desperate lives of the helpless and poor that they’ve built their fortunes on: they want to create a space where people are comfortable enough that they wouldn’t dare upset the careful balance the corporations had created.

It’s my opinion that in our own lives in 2016, we’re falling down a slippery slope of a path similar to what’s presented in Rescue Run. We’re connected to the internet all the time, staring down at our smart phones, never looking up at reality anymore. We’re outraged about what we’re told to be outraged about in less than 140 characters. We’re similarly content and safe in not taking active roles in the real world because we never have to look up and see another person.  It creates a dangerous environment in a lot of ways, because when we forget that there are real people on the other side of screens or even on the other side of the street, we lose compassion, which I believe to be a cardinal virtue.

Though analyzing this section of Star Realms: Rescue Run shows some heavy concepts, I did try to keep the book in the spirit of the fact that it’s based on a game. For the most part, the novel is fast-paced. There’s plenty of action, adventure, and intrigue, with a healthy bit of romance sprinkled in for good measure.

For those who aren’t familiar with the Star Realms Deckbuilding Game, it’s a free app, and it’s very easy to learn. I did my best to make the book so you don’t have to have played the game to understand the story, so it should be enjoyable to those who like space opera or a good adventure book. There are plenty of fun references to the game layered in for those who are familiar, but to me, it’s the people who matter. That includes my characters Joan and Dario, Star Realms opponents on the app, or anyone I come across in life. It pays to remember we’re not the only souls in the vastness of space.

LINKS:

Rescue Run launch page

Amazon

Jon Del Arroz webpage

BIO:

Jon Del Arroz began his writing career in high school, providing book reviews and the occasional article for the local news magazine, The Valley Citizen. From there, he went on to write a weekly web comic, Flying Sparks, which has been hailed by Comic Book Resources as “the kind of stuff that made me fall in love with early Marvel comics.” He has several published short stories, most recently providing flash fiction for AEG’s weird west card game, DoomtownReloaded, and a micro-setting for the Tiny Frontiers RPG. Star Realms: Rescue Run is his debut novel. You can find him during baseball season with his family at about half of the Oakland A’s home games in section 124.