Archive for the ‘My Favorite Bit’ Category

My Favorite Bit: Elizabeth Bonesteel talks about BREACH OF CONTAINMENT

My Favorite BitElizabeth Bonesteel is joining us today with her novel Breach of Containment. Here’s the publisher’s description:

A reluctant hero must prevent war in space and on Earth in this fast-paced military science fiction thriller from the author of The Cold Between and Remnants of Trust—a page-turning hybrid combining the gritty, high-octane thrills of James S. A. Corey and the sociopolitical drama of Ann Leckie.

Space is full of the unknown . . . most of it ready to kill you.

When hostilities between factions threaten to explode into a shooting war on the moon of Yakutsk, the two major galactic military powers, Central Corps and PSI, send ships to defuse the situation. But when a strange artifact is discovered, events are set in motion that threaten the entire colonized galaxy—including former Central Corps Commander Elena Shaw.

Now an engineer on a commercial shipping vessel, Elena finds herself drawn into the conflict when she picks up the artifact on Yakutsk—and investigation of it uncovers ties to the massive, corrupt corporation Ellis Systems, whom she’s opposed before. Her safety is further compromised by her former ties to Central Corps—Elena can’t separate herself from her past life and her old ship, the CCSS Galileo.

Before Elena can pursue the artifact’s purpose further, disaster strikes: all communication with the First Sector—including Earth—is lost. The reason becomes apparent when news reaches Elena of a battle fleet, intent on destruction, rapidly approaching Earth. And with communications at sublight levels, there is no way to warn the planet in time.

Armed with crucial intel from a shadowy source and the strange artifact, Elena may be the only one who can stop the fleet, and Ellis, and save Earth. But for this mission there will be no second chances—and no return.

What’s Liz’s favorite bit?

Breach of Containment cover image

ELIZABETH BONESTEEL

Mysteries have made me a prologue addict.

Despite writing science fiction, I spent a lot of the 90s and 00s reading mysteries. Prologues aren’t an unusual ingredient in the mystery genre: a brief scene at the start, maybe from the killer’s perspective, maybe of some significant event that happened weeks or years or centuries earlier. A good mystery prologue provides intrigue you can’t ignore, and makes you keep reading to find out how the events of the prologue illuminate the rest of the story.

I tend to use prologues for inciting incidents that don’t look like inciting incidents. The prologue isn’t the Big Bang that kicks the story into gear. It’s an event, sometimes small, sometimes large, that renders the remainder of the story inevitable. It’s the point when the safety bar comes down on the roller coaster, and even though the riders can’t see the track ahead, they’re stuck following it to the end.

In the first book, I wrote about a catastrophic accident that rippled for decades. In the second, I wrote about a young soldier’s first experience with failure and death.

In BREACH OF CONTAINMENT, I write about a box.

Not just a box, of course. I also write about Yakutsk, a small, cold moon, where much of the story’s action takes place. I write about Dallas, a seasoned parts scavenger, who is mostly contented with life on Yakutsk, but can’t ignore their nagging unease about the small, nondescript, not-quite-inert box found on the surface. I write about Jamyung, a scrap dealer, who recognizes the monetary value in the oddity but is deeply incurious about the oddity itself.

(Spoiler: Jamyung should have been less incurious.)

My first two books had elements of traditional whodunnits (although my villains are villainous enough I don’t think the reveal is ever much of a surprise). BREACH OF CONTAINMENT has a central mystery, but it’s not about who’s behind the various events of the story. We know who’s doing what. The mystery is what’s actually going on: why these events are happening now, how they’re related, why some characters are making the choices they’re making.

All of this makes it really, really hard to talk spoiler-free about the plot, which is kind of an important thing to be able to do when you’re trying to do promotion. I’m sure I’m not the first author who’s discovered that their real Favorite Bit is a massive spoiler and they can’t talk about it at all. I can’t even tell you what the deal is with Jamyung’s box.

(Here’s a non-spoiler part of the deal: I have a thing about squares, and that weird little box is designed to be exactly the kind of knick-knack I like to have around my house. My family, on the other hand, would stare at it, puzzled, wondering what charms I was seeing that they were missing. Beauty is subjective.)

I can say that this prologue is a microcosm of the whole story: Dallas’s affection for Yakutsk, Martine’s instant attraction to the Box of Doom, Jamyung’s eye for profit over aesthetics (and also safety).

And the cold. There’s a lot of cold in this book. I am fascinated by cold but I wouldn’t choose to live in it (insert New England winter joke here). I didn’t realize until the story was finished how much cold plays into everything in this book.

But so does warmth, in all its forms. The box is warm, even after sitting exposed on the sunless surface of a nearly airless moon. Martine’s attraction to the object makes her carry it inside the domed city. Empathy for Martine draws Dallas out of a comfortably solitary existence to investigate why life on Yakutsk is changing in so many unsettling ways. Yakutsk’s people are insular, businesslike, and often violent; but despite living in a culture that’s always one bar fight away from civil war, they share deep affection for their icy little moon.

And that matters. Soon enough? Depends on your perspective. But it matters.

Prologues engender a tremendous amount of hate. We all know why; I won’t regurgitate the usual schools of thought on the subject. My own inclusion of prologues may have as much to do with my love of film as my wide reading of mysteries; they often work well on screen. (Best prologue anywhere, ever: RAISING ARIZONA. Eleven minutes, riveting, and absolutely critical to the story.)

As with many aspects of my writing, I don’t always see the significance until the whole story is finished. For whatever reason, everything important always seems to end up in the prologue. Not the plot details, of course, or the whodunit or even the whydunnit, but the theme, the motivation, the moral center. (Be fair, my moral centers are generally some variant of “be kind to each other” because really, what else is there?)

So I should stop worrying about including spoilers when promoting BREACH OF CONTAINMENT. It’s all there, in the prologue, everything you need to know. (But do, if you like the prologue, consider reading the rest as well. Because a box is never just a box, is it?)

LINKS:

Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.ca

Barnes & Noble

IndieBound

Powell’s

Google Play

iBookstore US / iBookstore UK / iBookstore Canada

Kobo

Elizabeth Bonesteel’s website

Blog

Twitter

Facebook

BIO:

Liz Bonesteel lives in Central Massachusetts with her husband, daughter, various cats, and a lovely woodburning soapstone stove.

My Favorite Bit: J.S. Fields talks about ARDULUM: SECOND DON

My Favorite BitJ.S. Fields is joining us today with her novel Ardulum: Second Don. Here’s the publisher’s description:

The Charted Systems are in pieces. Mercy’s Pledge is destroyed, and her captain dead. With no homes to return to, the remaining crew sets off on a journey to find the mythical planet of Ardulum—a planet where Emn might find her people, and Neek the answers she’s long sought. Finding the planet, however, brings a host of uncomfortable truths about Ardulum’s vision for the galaxy and Neek’s role in a religion that refuses to release her. Neek must balance her planet’s past and the unchecked power of the Ardulans with a budding relationship and a surprising revelation about her own genealogy.

Ardulum: Second Don blends space opera elements and hard science into a story about two women persistently bound to their past and a sentient planet determined to shape their future.

What’s J.S.’s favorite bit?

Ardulum: Second Don cover image

J.S. FIELDS

I’m a scientist.

A wood scientist.

It’s a thing, I swear. You can get PhDs in it and everything. Sometimes they even make you a professor, and then you get to spend your life explaining to people why they don’t really need to replace their deck, the grey wood is still sound, and would you please put a coaster under your drink on my Indian rosewood table before you swell the microfibrils? K thanks.

I also write books, because telling people they use cutting boards all wrong doesn’t really fulfill my creative needs. ARDULUM: SECOND DON is the second in my wood science space opera series. I wove a fair amount of hard science into the books, but not the normal kind, mostly because physics and I have a long history of not getting along. Instead, I envisioned a galaxy where wood, specifically, wood cellulose, was the backbone of the technology (as it is quickly becoming here on Earth).

You don’t get very many chances to geek out over hard science in space opera—it’s meant to be more of a fun ride with at least one decent sized ship explosion more than an academic treatise. Still, I wanted the cellulose science in the ARDULUM series to be strong enough to hold its own should any of my unsuspecting graduate students get their hands on it (which has already happened, I’ve been told, and there is some horrifying plan to dress up as my characters for Halloween…during the school day). So I spent a fair amount of time in FIRST DON laying out the hows and whys of cellulose integration and manipulation: how it was layered into electronics and spaceships, how it reinforced lasers, etc.

But book two, oh, book two. With all the pesky hard science out of the way, the explanations already done, in SECOND DON, I finally got to play. It also meant that I got to dream bigger, since the groundwork for cellulose tech was already well defined in the series. So what does a wood science PhD do with such freedom? Well, I can’t speak for the twenty or so others on the planet, but I decided it was time to start playing with hemicelluloses.

In the Ardulum series, the various systems and galaxies all share a common technological core—their spaceships, weapons, and propulsion systems are all cellulose based. Communication, both on world and off, requires cellulose fibers. Nothing is untouched by cellulose, no matter how primitive or advanced a civilization. The main driver of tension across the series is the existence of a species that has a very specific form of telekinesis—they can manipulate cellulose to the point of seeing its crystalline forms, rearranging bonds, and generating huge amounts of energy from screwing around with hydrogen bonding.

How, then, does one defeat such a species while still maintain some basis of technology? The nerdiest answer is hemicellulose. Hemicellulose is still a sugar polymer, but unlike cellulose (basically a long chain of glucose), hemicellulose is branched and made of up several different sugars (and the specifics of those sugars varies by tree type). Some examples are xylan and galactoglucomannon (my Twitter handle is @galactoglucoman, which I think is hysterical). Even in current tech and engineering today, hemicellulose just doesn’t have the same capacity as cellulose, but it’s better than nothing.

With that in mind, I wrote the use of hemicellulose into the backstory of the Charted Systems. There is a scene in SECOND DON where the crew are in a shipyard, looking to purchase a used spacecraft. Nicholas, our POV character for the chapter, runs his hands across a number of old model ships, and gets to have a very geeky internal monologue about early lightspeed history, the use of xylans in Earth’s first deep space shuttles, and how the technology evolved into fully integrated cellulose use. This sets the groundwork for THIRD DON, coming out in 2018, for when some species are forced to reverse engineer their spaceships back to old hemicellulose technology, in order to protect themselves from an increasingly aggressive group of telekinetic cellulose users.

Personally, one of the best parts of writing the ARDULUM series has been integrating these small, super nerdy cellulose snippets into the world building. I’m sure plenty of readers skip over them, since it isn’t pivotal for understanding the plot, but I love getting the chance to see the tech that I work with every day, or that is just a few decades out from being in consumer hands, be realized in an otherwise fun little space opera.

Plus, it apparently gives my graduate students something to dress up as for Halloween.

LINKS

Amazon

Website

Twitter

Goodreads

BIO

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

 

My Favorite Bit: Liz Duffy Adams and Delia Sherman talk about TREMONTAINE Season 3

My Favorite BitLiz Duffy Adams and Delia Sherman join us today to talk about Season 3 of the serial fiction Tremontaine. Here’s the series description:

Welcome to Tremontaine, where ambition, love affairs, and rivalries dance with deadly results.  In this serial, Ellen Kushner and a team of writers return readers to the world of scandal and swordplay introduced in her cult-classic novel Swordspoint. Readers familiar with the series will find a welcome homecoming while new fans will learn what makes Riverside a place they will want to visit again and again. Tremontaine follows Diane, Duchess Tremontaine, whose beauty is matched only by her cunning; Rafe Fenton, a handsome young scholar with more passion than sense; Ixkaab Balam, a tradeswoman from afar with skill for swords and secrets; and Micah, a gentle genius whose discoveries herald revolution. Sparks fly as these four lives intersect in a world where politics is everything, and outcasts are the tastemakers. Tread carefully, dear reader, and keep your wit as sharp as your steel.

What’s Liz and Delia’s favorite part?

Tremontaine Season 3 image

LIZ DUFFY ADAMS AND DELIA SHERMAN

When Ellen Kushner asked us to guest write an episode for Season Three of Tremontaine, we were delighted. After co-writing The Fall of the Kings with Ellen and editing Tremontaine’s first season, Delia missed playing in that world with those characters. And the episode we ended up with—not entirely by accident—gave us an opportunity to call up echoes of the mystical nature/sex/sacrifice religion that had been a feature of The Fall of the Kings, and that was particularly exciting to Liz as well.

But most of all, we missed writing with each other. We’d worked together last year on the Serial Box series Whitehall, creating not only three novella-length episodes about the early years of Catherine of Braganza’s marriage to Charles II of England, but also a creative partnership.

Collaboration is a lot of fun. Oh, you need ground rules and agreements on how you’re going to go about it and some skill in negotiation and not getting too invested in a favorite scene or sentence. Like every other kind of writing, it’s hard work. But it’s also play.

Liz is a playwright, and creating Whitehall and co-writing those episode with Delia was her introduction to the world of not only serial fiction, but of fiction full-stop. Everybody knows that theater is a collaborative art, but it’s also true that the writing part is almost always a solitary endeavor. However, Liz had her roots in the world of experimental theater, where her work was collaborative in every sense. That sort of experimental theater requires great trust, flexibility, and love of the process itself, in which everyone is writer/actor/director/designer, conceiving, creating, and performing the work as a creative cooperative. The idea of creating a collaborative piece of fiction, though a different proposition in a lot of ways, struck a chord for her.

So we each had some experience with the collaborative process. The question was, could we collaborate? We were friends; we loved each other’s work: the odds were good. But really, we got awfully lucky. Because no matter how much you like and admire someone, you have no idea whether you can successfully or happily create together until you’re in the thick of it. But we found ourselves working very well in harness. Our strengths were complementary; as for our weaknesses, well, two heads are genuinely better than one when trying to come up with a solution to a sticky plot problem.

The process of brainstorming story and structure, divvying up the drafting, and passing it all back and forth to edit and polish, turned out to be like the best sort of game: absorbing and tremendous fun. Liz’s ear for dialogue brought our characters to life and her sense of dramatic structure provided the arc of the story. Delia’s knack for physical description grounded the action. We divvied up the drafting: Because she’d been the editor for Season 1, Delia tackled the Kaab scene that begins the episode; because Liz fell in love with the drama and action of the hunting party, she fell headlong into the first draft there. Together we found our way through the subtle politics of the emotionally and technically complex card-playing scene that provides the episode’s climax.

Even with both of us working together, however, we would have been lost without the expertise of the entire Tremontaine writing team. Whenever we had a question (and we had lots) we could fling out a question and be sure of a helpful answer. Both of us are used to writing real-world historical fiction, where facts must be checked through extensive Googling or trips to the library. With Tremontaine, all we had to do was go on Slack and the other writers would supply us with links to martial-arts videos, lists of Kinwiinik names, discussions of card games and character interactions and plot lines of which we, as guest writers, couldn’t always remember the intricacies. Not to mention that details of plot and character changed as everyone worked on his or her own episode and had to be picked up and reflected both up and down the time stream.

It was complicated. It was, occasionally, frustrating. But finally, it was exhilarating and freeing to know that we were all, artistically, watching each other’s backs, providing feedback, support, suggestions, corrections, and, most important of all, encouragement. The Tremontaine writing team in their glorious third season have developed a well-honed, hard-won, beautifully functioning collaborative process, and we reaped the benefits of it.

And that, without doubt, was our favorite bit in Season 3 of Tremontaine.

LINKS:

Tremontaine Season 3

How Serial Box works

Liz Duffy Adams

Delia Sherman

Delia on Twitter

Delia on Facebook

BIOS:

Liz Duffy Adams is a playwright whose work has been produced Off Broadway at Women’s Project Theater, and at Magic Theater, Seattle Rep, and Humana Festival among other places. Publications include Dog Act in “Geek Theater: Anthology of Science Fiction and Fantasy Plays” (Underwords Press 2014) and Or, in “Best Plays of 2010” (Smith & Kraus); honors include a Lillian Hellman Award, Will Glickman Awardand New Dramatists residency. She created and co-wrote the historical serial fiction Whitehall for Serial Box. More at www.lizduffyadams.com.

Delia Sherman is the author of numerous short stories and novels for both adults and younger readers, situated somewhere along the spectrum of historical-fantastical-comical-romantic-feminist-sexually-diverse fiction. Her most recent projects—episodes of Whitehall and Tremontaine–have both been for Serial Box, in collaboration with Liz Duffy Adams.  She is or has been a teacher, an editor, a judge of literary awards, a member of literary foundation boards, a book store clerk, a gardener, a knitter, a cook, a traveler, and a flaming liberal.

My Favorite Bit: Alethea Kontis talks about WHEN TINKER MET BELL

Favorite Bit iconAlethea Kontis is joining us today with her novel When Tinker Met Bell. Here’s the publisher’s description:

Everybody knows that goblins and fairies can’t be friends. But that never stopped Tinker and Bell.

Bellamy Merriweather Larousse isn’t like the other fairies at Harmswood Academy, with her giant wings and their magical dust. “Southern Bell” works as a barista at The Hallowed Bean to help pay her tuition and remains active on the cheering squad, despite her insistence on associating with the unpopular crowd. Every day is sunny in Bellamy’s world and every cloud has a silver lining. The only way to upset Bell’s stalwart optimism is to threaten one of her misfit friends…or try to take one of them from her.

Unbeknownst to everyone—including him—outcast Ranulf “Tinker” Tinkerton is about to be named heir to the throne of the Goblin King, making him ruler of his fellow Lost Boys and the labyrinthine city they inhabit. Now that the time has come for Tinker to leave Harmswood behind, will he be brave enough to share his feelings for Bellamy? It’s no secret that he’s held a torch for her since the fourth grade, but no matter how long they’ve been friends, goblins will always be allergic to fairies.

Or will they?

What’s Alethea’s favorite bit?

When Tinker Met Bell cover image

ALETHEA KONTIS

When I tell people “I grew up at the movies,” what I mean is that my much older sister dated (and then married) a guy whose family owned all the movie theaters in Burlington, Vermont. I spent many a summer as a kid tearing tickets, sweeping up popcorn, and watching pretty much every major motion picture that got released.

In 1984, Romancing the Stone gave me my raison d’être. I wanted to be Joan Wilder, receiving that box of my own books like George McFly did at the end of 1985’s Back to the Future. And then, in 1986, David Bowie danced with Jennifer Connelly for about thirty seconds in a dreamlike masquerade-bubble sequence. I wanted that, too. I wanted that dress, that masque. I wanted some beautiful, mischievous imp of a man to look at me the way the Goblin King looked at Sarah, with so much said between us, even though neither of us spoke a word.

Yeah…I never got that.

But you know the great thing about being a writer? All those magical, amazing moments we are denied in life, we can someday write into a novel.

Contrary to just about everything I’ve ever penned, the title of When Tinker Met Bell came first. I had an optimistic, cheerleader fairy barista in The Truth About Cats and Wolves named Bellamy Larousse. She became my heroine. Tinker was…Ranulf Tinkerton, a goblin. But goblins and fairies can’t be friends. Why? Because goblins are allergic to fairies. Great. Now I’ve gone from Harry and Sally to Romeo and Juliet. How am I supposed to make a romantic comedy out of that? Well, I’ll…crown Tinker heir to the throne of the Goblin King! The Goblin King is immune to fairies. But before all that happens, Tinker promises Bell a dance. Once dance. At a masquerade. A Midwinter masquerade, so everything’s white. Bellamy will have a ridiculously huge, silver-white ballgown. Tinker will get a similarly ridiculous suit and a goblin mask. And then I’ll stick the two of them in a snow globe!

Some authors play God with their characters. I prefer the role of Fairy Godmother.

The thing I love most about the masquerade scene in When Tinker Met Bell is that it’s not just a three-minute montage set to David Bowie crooning “As the World Falls Down.” (Though you’re welcome to imagine the DJ is playing that in the background while you read.) There are longing looks, but there’s also dialogue. There is a war of emotions, laughter and tears, a discussion about wishes and treasures and the issue of consent…all made as romantic as humanly possible and covered in glitter snow.

There’s even an Easter egg for my fellow Shakespeare lovers! Mentions of Romeo and Juliet are un-subtly sprinkled here and there throughout When Tinker Met Bell, no surprise in a story about star-crossed lovers. But in that snow globe, keep an eye out for the moment when “palm to palm is holy palmers’ kiss.” Oh yeah. I went there. And then, dear saint, lips totally do what hands do. Because that’s what should have happened in the movie, right?

Maybe. Maybe not. But that’s what happens in my snow globe, and it is just as beautiful and perfect and meaningful a moment as I could have wished for. That scene is—quite literally—my dream come true.

And that is why it is my favorite bit.

LINKS:

Amazon

Nook

Kobo

Patreon

Facebook

Twitter

BIO:

Alethea Kontis is a princess, author, fairy godmother, and geek. Author of over seventeen books and contributor to over twenty-five more, her award-winning writing has been published for multiple age groups across all genres. Host of “Princess Alethea’s Fairy Tale Rants” and Princess Alethea’s Traveling Sideshow every year at Dragon Con, Alethea also narrates for ACX, IGMS, Escape Pod, Pseudopod, and Cast of Wonders. Alethea currently resides on the Space Coast of Florida with her teddy bear, Charlie. Find out more about Princess Alethea and the magic, wonderful world in which she lives here: https://www.patreon.com/princessalethea

My Favorite Bit: Tom Doyle talks about WAR AND CRAFT

My Favorite BitTom Doyle is joining us today with his novel War and Craft. Here’s the book’s description:

America, land of the free… and home of the warlocks. America’s occult defenders are the secret families who have sworn to use their power to protect our republic. But there are those who reject America’s dream and have chosen the Left-Hand way.

In this triumphant conclusion to Tom Doyle’s imaginative alternate historical America, we start with a bloody wedding-night brawl with assassins in Tokyo. Our American magical shock troops go to India, where a descendant of legendary heroes has the supernatural mission for which they’ve been waiting.

Preparing for that mission, powerful exorcist Scherie Rezvani searches for secret knowledge with a craft agent of the Vatican and tries to cope with the strange new magics resulting from her pregnancy. To save her unborn child from the Left Hand, she will risk damnation and the Furies themselves.

It all comes to a head in a valley hidden high in the mountains of Kashmir. Our craftspeople will battle against their fellow countrymen, some of the vilest monsters of the Left Hand Path. It’s Armageddon in Shangri-La, and the end of the world as we know it.

What’s Tom’s favorite bit?

War Craft cover image

TOM DOYLE

Sometimes I don’t know what I’m going to value in a story until well after I’ve finished it. For instance, Lieutenant Scherezade Rezvani, or Scherie (pronounced like Sherry in Springsteen’s “Sherry Darling”) is the heroine of the conclusion of my trilogy. She’s also the Islamic-American daughter of Iranian immigrants. When I first introduced her in American Craftsmen, or even while I was writing War and Craft, these aspects of her background didn’t seem like a big deal to me. Times have changed.

I didn’t make an initial fuss about these character elements because, structurally, this was an unoriginal move on my part. Tales of the military heroism of American newcomers are as old as the country. Despite pervasive and cruel discrimination, Catholic immigrant soldiers from Ireland and Germany in the Civil War and Japanese-American soldiers in World War Two were noted for their self-sacrifice. Action films frequently highlight the different backgrounds of American fighters. This is a very well-worn trope.

This familiar story had a harsh, implicit moral: exceptional sacrifice bought the newcomers their place at the American table. This standard wasn’t fair or ethically correct. It was often unevenly applied, and it was completely ignored in war after war for African-American soldiers. But it was a real cultural assumption, and it was basically optimistic about the openness of American society to immigrants and different religions.

Again, it’s an old story, but one we seem to be forgetting. Often it appears that we aren’t paying attention anymore to such sacrifice.

But what about my character, Scherie? She’s a science fiction and fantasy fan, a loving person, and (it turns out) a stone-cold killer for her country. Her parents are exiles from Iran. Her mother suspects something about Scherie’s magician-soldier friends, and her father had a troubled past in Iran’s secret police. At the beginning of the series, Scherie and her family are still caught up in the politics of exile in the manner of many immigrants (e.g., the Irish, Cubans).

Scherie is the first person point-of-view character for War and Craft, so we find out more about her faith. She’s not particularly devout; for example, she yells a continuous string of profanity along with her exorcisms. But she is proud of her heritage–when threatened with Dante’s version of hell, she thinks, “Yeah, Christian hell–so what? If I had to spend eternity with Saladin, so be it.” Besides fighting her powerful enemies, Scherie must personally face some of the big religious and philosophical questions: sin, damnation, redemption, predestination, choice. The fate of the world hinges on how she answers these questions. She meets her bitterest trials with the jihad of the spirit and the words “God is great.”

One of the odder relationships that emerged as I wrote the trilogy was the friendship between Scherie and the oft-times evil spirit of Madeline Morton (the smaller figure in white on the cover). Beginning in book 2, The Left-Hand Way, Madeline is unusually protective of Scherie, though she offers this protection in a manner peppered with rage, sarcasm, and mockery. Much to my own surprise, this friendship between a nineteenth century New England ghost and a twenty-first century soldier became the central bond of War and Craft, and what these two characters are willing to do for each other is an important hinge of the story.

Due to some accidents of Ukrainian history that took place while I was writing The Left-Hand Way, my trilogy concludes with events in 2014. Looking around at the world of 2017, I wonder what Scherie would think of this country that she served so well. So I’m mostly glad that I finished War and Craft before the election, as a marker of what I then considered the American norm–even an American cliché. Writing Scherie then was natural narrative; writing her now would have to be a bigger, angrier statement.

It seems to be a curse of speculative fiction that we continue to have to make the same narrative arguments–e.g., that slavery is evil even when it’s sentient robots or replicants. It would be nice to be able to move on to some higher level problems; then, those could be my favorite bits.

LINKS:

War and Craft: Amazon Barnes & Noble Powell’s

The Left-Hand Way: Amazon Barnes & Noble Powell’s

American Craftsmen: Amazon Barnes & Noble Powell’s

Tom Doyle: Website Facebook Twitter

BIO:

Tom Doyle is the author of a contemporary fantasy trilogy from Tor Books. In the first book, American Craftsmen, two modern magician-soldiers fight their way through the legacies of Poe and Hawthorne as they attempt to destroy an undying evil–and not kill each other first. In the sequel, The Left-Hand Way, the craftsmen are hunters and hunted in a global race to save humanity from a new occult threat out of America’s past. The final book of the trilogy (and the subject of this Favorite Bit), War and Craft, was just released September 26th.

Some of Tom’s award-winning short fiction is collected in The Wizard of Macatawa and Other Stories. He writes in a spooky turret in Washington, DC. You can find the text and audio of many of his stories on his website.

My Favorite Book: Fran Wilde talks about HORIZON

Favorite Bit iconFran Wilde is here today to talk to us about her novel Horizon. Here’s the description:

In the Bone Universe trilogy finale, the living sky-city of bone towers is on the brink of destruction. Rebellion roils the skies. And almost-siblings, always friends Kirit Skyshouter and Nat Brokenwings seem to have lost everything, including each other. As the city crumbles, Kirit, Nat, Ceil, Moc, and others must learn how to trust each other in order to save their families, friends, and community from destruction.

What’s Fran’s favorite part?Bone Universe cover image

FRAN WILDE

… In which the author gives away a line from the final chapter of her trilogy. Muahaha.

When I sat down to write Updraft, a single sentence started me down a particular path.

I’d already written two short stories set within the world of the Bone Universe. Both would go on to become part of Updraft and Cloudbound. But this one sentence hit my heart and my ear fully wrought and I put it on an otherwise white page and let it sit there for a while.

On a morning like this, fear was a blue sky emptied of birds.

Craftwise, the sentence captured in one quick glance time of day and setting. Also mood. Something had happened. Was happening. There had been birds at some point recently, but these were gone. The sky was blue. It was morning. And the speaker, she knew what fear was.

The speaker was Kirit.  Her community’s fear: a terrible predator. The first monster to appear in the Bone Universe, in fact: skymouths. And by the time this sentence happens, the birds have rightly cleared the air to make room for my monsters.

But all that was to come. For a few days, that sentence was all that existed of Updraft while I brainstormed sensory details and overheard Kirit bargaining with her mother about whether she could fly with her through the dangerous skies.

“On a morning like this…” was my way into the book. It was a thread I tied for myself as I walked the maze of that first novel draft, and all those that came after. The sentence moved down a bit in the chapter as Kirit and Ezarit prepared to face the day, but it stayed through all of the drafts, fully intact.

In Cloudbound, the line only echoed slightly — “expeditions like this,” “in a situation like this” “[Dix] would not get away like this,” as my characters descended into a place where there was no blue sky, no distinction between morning and evening except a slight shift in filtered light. That was the right decision, as the phrase is Kirit’s, and Cloudbound’s narrator, Nat, has other verbal tics.

But the thread was still there, the thematic line still pointing to fear of the unknown, and also to the known. The moment of fear and the startled birds of Updraft became birds used to attack and deceive the community in Cloudbound, the sky filled with something sudden.

In the Bone Universe, day turns to half-light and night, and fear becomes danger. In Horizon, where the three narrators span the height of the Bone Universe — from (yes) the ground, to the top of the bone towers, but that first line remains — fear and danger are tied together by the sky, and the lack of things, the birds and all that threatens this community. Danger becomes nightmares.

The birds are few and far between now. The sky is filled with strangers’ dark wings and the space left by missing friends.

In Horizon, three voices pick up the narrative — Kirit, Nat, and an old friend — Wik’s brother, Macal. That first line echoes further now. From Macal’s first words, “Each night our city dreamed of danger, crying out for help I could not give,” to Kirit’s last words…

…. wait, I’m not going to give you those yet because I need to finish this essay and that phrase always makes me choke up.

One thing I love about trilogies is that they allow for the expansion of a single thematic thread across multiple plot arcs and many different experiences. They allow the point of view characters to grow and change. Mary has kindly hosted me as I’ve written about several of those themes over the past three years – from craft issues like writing the middle of Updraft first to thematic threads like disability representation in the Bone Universe. (Thank you so much, Mary!)

Craft and theme go hand-in-hand. There are many lines and themes that weave themselves through Horizon – my unconscious singing to me, perhaps. There are many more that I developed on purpose. These include the theme of community, of using songs to influence change, not just control. The idea that no single community is truly alone. The idea of omission, of what is not said, out of fear, and how that transforms. And the understanding that a community needs all kinds of people in order to survive.

Moreover, third books in trilogies have to tie up a lot of threads, while remaining their own complete piece. As I wove Horizon’s three voices together, I found those threads made interesting patterns. I was never sure which character would get the final chapter either, not until the end of the second draft.

But when I wrote one particular line towards the end of Horizon, I knew the minute I set it down on the blank page of a new chapter that it was the right line, for the book, and for the trilogy.

And that’s why a few of Kirit’s last lines in Horizon are my favorite bit, and I’m going to do a possibly odd thing and share them with you here. Ready?

On a morning like this, joy is a sky filled with birds.
It is the sound of laughter, of wind ruffling a patchwork wing…

So now you know my favorite bit. I hope you find your favorite bit in Horizon, and in the Bone Universe. Hey, maybe drop me a line and tell me what it is!

On your wings,

Fran Wilde

September 2017

LINKS:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Indiebound

Fran’s website

Blog

Twitter

BIO:

Fran Wilde’s novels and short stories have been nominated for two Nebula awards and a Hugo, and include her Andre Norton- and Compton-Crook-winning debut novel, Updraft (Tor 2015), its sequels, Cloudbound (2016) and Horizon (2017), and the novelette “The Jewel and Her Lapidary” (Tor.com Publishing 2016). Her short stories appear in Asimov’s, Tor.com, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Shimmer, Nature, and the 2017 Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror. She writes for publications including The Washington Post, Tor.com, Clarkesworld, iO9.com, and GeekMom.com. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook, and at franwilde.net.

My Favorite Bit: Catherine Schaff-Stump talks about THE VESSEL OF RA

My Favorite BitCatherine Schaff-Stump is joining us today with her novel The Vessel of Ra. Here’s the publisher’s description:

While traveling in Venice in 1837, Lucy Klaereon, in order to save her family’s honor and her immortal soul, decides to commit suicide by drowning herself in the Grand Canal. Unfortunately for Lucy, she is rescued. Her rescuers believe they can separate her from the demon Ra, whom she is destined to fight because of an ancient family pact.

What Lucy does not know is that her rescuers have their own agenda. Paolo Borgia, head of a deposed magical family, wants to use Ra for his own purposes. Lucy is given an alternative, to separate herself from her demon and family, which she gladly welcomes. When she finds out the truth about Ra, Lucy’s purpose changes from not only freedom, but to righting an ancient wrong.

Octavia, Lucy’s older sister, is in pursuit. She has been trained since birth to kill Lucy when Lucy loses her battle with Ra. At the ritual to free Ra, the two sisters clash with surprising results. Octavia is possessed by Ra and Lucy is determined to free her sister and keep Ra from reshaping the world in his image.

There is one small problem. Lucy has been murdered. However, she’s not about to let a small detail like that keep her from correcting her mistakes. Lucy will save Octavia, even if it kills her again.

What’s Cath’s favorite bit?

The Vessel of Ra cover image

CATHERINE SCHAFF-STUMP

The Klaereon family has haunted me since 2002. Inspired by another author’s work, in search of an explanation for one character’s machinations, a voice in my head told me that he would tell me a story.  Tell me a story he did. The Vessel of Ra is the beginning a 90-year ascent from Gothic darkness, spanning four generations.

The Vessel of Ra begins in 1837 Venice, a decaying city that has been buffeted back and forth between the French and the Austrians a couple of times. In this setting, Lucy Klaereon decides she will kill herself to avoid her family’s dark fate. For good and for ill, she is rescued by alchemist Carlo Borgia, and sets about changing her destiny. The odds are against her because she is in a Gothic novel.

Gothic tales are multi-faceted. The Klaereon ancestral home, Mistraldol, has been merged with the Abyss, so you never know what you will find in its rooms. Like the characters in Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, Octavia Klaereon and her father Caius typify the Gothic at its worst—broken people who spiral into their own insecurities and excess. Like Jane Eyre in her titular novel, Lucy Klaereon takes it upon herself to be the salvation of the morally ambiguous.  All of these characters, including the settings, have light and dark in them. I loved writing this book, discovering gradations of morality as characters are presented with increasingly complicated elements of the supernatural and increasingly complicated relationships among themselves. All of these people are broken, but they’re doing the best they can.

Because The Vessel of Ra is Gothic, gloom coats this novel like a rainy November day, and yet there are elements of hope and heroism. Drusus Claudian, Octavia’s newlywed husband, shines like a Noblebright hero who got off the plot bus at the wrong novel stop. Carlo Borgia assumes responsibility for his family’s crimes and becomes a man who jury-rigs his way out of magical situation after magical situation with virtually no magic at all. Lucy will stop at nothing to save her sister. The dark curse itself came about for the best of reasons. Can these characters overcome their baser natures, or will their efforts be thwarted by manipulative Egyptian gods, whispering shadows, and the specter of life on the outside of conventional morality?  Will the sinister nature of the Gothic win?

For me, the answers to these questions are not clear, even though The Vessel of Ra is finished. I hope you’ll read this book and discuss what you think these answers are with me.  Morality is complicated in the landscape of the Gothic.

LINKS:

Cath’s website

Amazon

Goodreads

Twitter

Facebook

Unreliable Narrators

BIO:

Catherine Schaff-Stump writes speculative fiction for children and adults, everything from humor to horror. Her young adult Gothic historical fantasy The Vessel of Ra is available from Curiosity Quills. Cath lives and works in Iowa with her husband. During the day, she teaches English to non-native speakers at a local community college. Her most recent fiction has been published by Paper Golem Press, Daydreams Dandelion Press, and in The Mammoth Book of Dieselpunk. Cath is a co-host on the writing and geek-life fan podcast Unreliable Narrators.

My Favorite Bit: Susan Forest and Lucas K. Law talk about THE SUM OF US: TALES OF THE BONDED AND BOUND

Favorite Bit iconSusan Forest and Lucas K. Law are joining us today with their anthology The Sum of Us: Tales of the Bonded and Bound. Here is the publisher’s description:

The world of caregivers and unsung heroes, the province of ghosts . . .

If we believe that we are the protagonists of our lives, then caregivers— our pillars—are ghosts, the bit players, the stock characters, the secondary supports, living lives of quiet trust and toil in the shadows. Summoned to us by the profound magic of great emotional, physical, or psychological need, they play their roles, and when our need diminishes . . .

Fade.

These are their stories.

Children giving care. Dogs and cats giving care. Sidekicks, military, monks, ghosts, robots. Even aliens. Care given by lovers, family, professionals. Caregivers who can no longer give. Caregivers who make the decision not to give, and the costs and the consequences that follow. Bound to us by invisible bonds, but with lives, dreams, and passions of their own. Twenty-three science fiction and fantasy authors explore the depth and breadth of caring and of giving. They find insight, joy, devastation, and heroism in grand sweeps and in tiny niches. And, like wasps made of stinging words, there is pain in giving, and in working one’s way through to the light. Our lives and relationships are complex. But in the end, there is hope, and there is love.

AUTHORS:
Colleen Anderson, Charlotte Ashley, Brenda Cooper, Ian Creasey, A.M. Dellamonica, Bev Geddes, Claire Humphrey, Sandra Kasturi, Tyler Keevil, Juliet Marillier, Matt Moore, Heather Osborne, Nisi Shawl, Alex Shvartsman, Kate Story, Karina Sumner-Smith, Amanda Sun, Hayden Trenholm, James Van Pelt, Liz Westbrook-Trenholm, Edward Willett, Christie Yant, Caroline M. Yoachim, and Dominik Parisien (Introduction).

What are Susan’s and Lucas’s favorite bits?

The Sum of Us cover image

SUSAN FOREST:

As a mother, a wife, a daughter and a friend, I know some things about what it means to be a caregiver. I’ve changed diapers and dried tears, held someone close, waited, and listened. I’ve weighed my own needs against the needs of those near to me. I held my mother’s hand as she passed on to whatever undiscovered country lies beyond.

But despite the commonalities between my experiences and those of other caregivers—and we are all caregivers—as a human being isolated in my own skin, my own mind, I can never know, truly and intimately, another person’s experiences of those same relationships.

Stories, though. Ah, stories! Stories bring me as close as I can come to understanding my fellow humans on this earth. That is my favorite bit.

I can—and I did—list the insights into caregiving that I found in The Sum of Us: Tales of the Bonded and Bound (Laksa Media). That deserving care doesn’t depend on the receiver’s worth. That caregiving can involve deep sacrifice and many can’t bear that cost—and, choosing not to give care has its costs as well. That, as draining as caregiving can be, it can be joyous, too, and give purpose to a life. Most of us know, if not from personal experience then from the zeitgeist, that the relationship between the caregiver and care-given can be mutual and interchangeable; that caregivers may have to suffer anger and resentment from their loved ones.

We understand that sometimes people who seem not to care, do; and we know that caregivers can be desperate to save the ones they love. That caregivers are aging and becoming fragile; that caring can be an escape from one’s own life; and that witnessing death can also be a kind of caregiving. Caregivers are persistent. Despite setbacks, they continue to give, again and again.

Yet these understandings—intellectual, listed—are only words, dead on the page. They have no vibrancy, no resonance. They give no access to the deep felt meanings they represent. Only the act of reading the story—of living the life of the character within the pages, his feelings and thoughts and interactions, his experiences of giving and receiving care—gives these insights vitality. Significance. It is in how the authors have brought their ideas to life in story that makes their ideas—simple or profound—resonate, rattle around in my brain, stick to me. Change me.

My favorite bit is reading the stories for The Sum of Us.

LUCAS K. LAW:

My favorite bit is not only just reading the stories but the anticipation of seeing the stories in publication, hoping they will show up inside the public and academic libraries across the world. When I was little, my mother often took me to our village library. What a joy it was to flip through those picture books from the shelves! The smell. The touch. The words.

 

One of the earliest picture books that captured my imagination was “Harold and the Purple Canyon.” Whenever Harold encounters a problem, he shows his resourcefulness and imagination by finding a way to solve it.

When Susan and I solicited the stories for The Sum of Us, our concern was receiving too many stories containing similar characters. When we think of caregiving, we often think of the old, frail, and disabled. Someone who is helpless. Someone who is at the end of life. Someone who is taking our time and energy.

Like Harold, the authors surprised me with their staggering range of caregivers and concepts of caregiving—a henchman looks after a supervillain, the soldier in charge of the governor’s children, a cat helps his patients pass on, an android tends to a terminally ill patient, a service dog looks after an ice hockey player, a young apprentice guides a blind welder, an old couple with diminished capabilities depend on each other to survive an earthquake, an aging tutor overcomes the reservation of her pupil to build a submersible vessel, a hospice director trying to do the right thing, a pious monk makes the final decision, and many more.

Their stories open my eyes about the vast opportunities in caregiving. Caregiving is everywhere, directly and indirectly. And caregivers can be anyone. Sometimes it is us in ways we don’t consider. How about when we recycle? How about when we volunteer for a non-profit organization?  How about when we say kind words to a stranger?

Dominik Parisien said it best in his Introduction:

“Caregiving can feel like the province of ghosts . . . They were there all along—caregivers surround us—but it is mainly in those moments of terrible need that we notice them. Many of us think of caregivers as individuals on the periphery. As a result, it is easy to let caregivers fade. It is not necessary that we do not appreciate their support . . . Rather, in our focus on ourselves we often fail to recognize the needs of the person fulfilling our needs.”

Stories are meant to be shared and reflected upon; especially stories that capture the breadth and depth of caring and of giving, and delve into the complex world of caregivers—a segment of our population that is often taken for granted.

We ask you to join us and place “caregivers” and “caregiving” on the forefront. The best gift, my favorite bit, is for you to suggest The Sum of Us: Tales of the Bonded and Bound to your local public and school libraries. Get the stories into as many hands as you can, just like that little Malaysian boy who came home with a knapsack of library books each week to discover a world beyond his own environment.

So let’s inspire the world to recognize those who care. One person at a time.

LINKS:

Susan Forest

Twitter

Facebook

Website

Lucas K. Law

Twitter

Facebook

The Sum of Us

Read an Excerpt

Book page

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Indiebound

Powell’s

Kobo

Apple iBooks

Nook

BIOS:

Susan Forest

Susan Forest is a four-time Prix Aurora Award finalist and a writer of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Her novel (Bursts of Fire), the first in a seven-volume YA fantasy epic series, Addicted to Heaven Saga, will be out Fall 2018 from Laksa Media and followed by Flights of Marigold (2019). Her collection of short fiction, Immunity to Strange Tales, was published by Five Rivers Publishing. Her short stories have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies such as Asimov’s Science Fiction, Analog Science Fiction and Fact, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and OnSPEC Magazine. Susan has co-edited two anthologies on social issue-related themes with Lucas K. Law and they are working on their third, Shades Within Us: Tales of Migrations and Fractured Borders (Fall 2018). Susan is the past Secretary for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA).

Lucas K. Law

Lucas K. Law is the managing editor of Laksa Media and the co-editor of Strangers Among Us: Tales of the Underdogs and Outcasts and The Sum of Us: Tales of the Bonded and Bound, along with Susan Forest. Their next anthologies are Shades Within Us: Tales of Migrations and Fractured Borders (Fall 2018) and Seasons Between Us: Tales of Identities and Memories (2019). Lucas also co-edits Where the Stars Rise: Asian Science Fiction & Fantasy (Oct 2017) with Derwin Mak. He has been a jury member for a number of fiction competitions including Nebula, RITA and Golden Heart awards. When he isn’t editing, he divides his time between Calgary and Qualicum Beach as a corporate and non-profit consultant in business planning and corporate development.

My Favorite Bit: Stephanie Burgis talks about SNOWSPELLED

Favorite Bit iconStephanie Burgis is joining us today with her book Snowspelled. Here’s the publisher’s description:

In nineteenth-century Angland, magic is reserved for gentlemen while ladies attend to the more practical business of politics. But Cassandra Harwood has never followed the rules…

Four months ago, Cassandra Harwood was the first woman magician in Angland, and she was betrothed to the brilliant, intense love of her life.

Now Cassandra is trapped in a snowbound house party deep in the elven dales, surrounded by bickering gentleman magicians, manipulative lady politicians, her own interfering family members, and, worst of all, her infuriatingly stubborn ex-fiancé, who refuses to understand that she’s given him up for his own good.

But the greatest danger of all lies outside the manor in the falling snow, where a powerful and malevolent elf-lord lurks…and Cassandra lost all of her own magic four months ago.

To save herself, Cassandra will have to discover exactly what inner powers she still possesses – and risk everything to win a new kind of happiness.

What’s Stephanie’s favorite bit?

Snowspelled cover image

STEPHANIE BURGIS

I’ve always been a driven, ambitious person; I know how to push through challenges with strict discipline. So when I got my first “career” job in my late twenties, just after getting my first literary agent, I was certain that from then on I would be set. I planned to jog every morning and work every day. I’d write novels during my lunch breaks, prove myself at my dayjob, enjoy the fact that I’d finally (after years of grad school) hit a professional income level – and I would achieve and achieve and achieve, forever after.

Until…

It felt like a fairy’s curse descending out of nowhere when I got sick in 2005 and never got better again. I was a healthy 28-year-old who loved to hike and jog and travel, but suddenly my head swam whenever I walked for even half a block. When I spent twenty minutes upright in my kitchen, cooking muffins, I had to collapse afterwards as my teeth chattered with exertion. Worse yet, the doctors couldn’t work out what was wrong with me…so week after week, I had to call in sick to work with no explanation and no prospect of any cure.

I kept throwing myself back into motion each time I began to feel slightly better, only to collapse worse than ever before, every time. Because, it turned out when the diagnosis finally arrived, pushing through was no longer a recipe for success for me.

I had M.E./CFS, an illness that leeched away 95% of my physical and mental energy without taking away a single percent of my drive and ambition. By the time it was diagnosed, I had had it for two years, which meant that it was almost certainly a permanent condition.

So I found out at age 30 that I could never go back to that day job – or to any other job that required working outside my home – because I would never be physically independent again.

Suddenly, I had no job and no income. I couldn’t even walk to the local store. I had prided myself all of my life on my independence, my strength, and my essential competence. But suddenly I had none of those things anymore.

The rest of my life felt like a yawning black pit opening before my feet, with everything I had planned and hoped for suddenly gone.

I saved myself, in the end, by writing. I threw myself (while lying on a couch and moving as little as possible) into a frothy MG Regency-era fantasy adventure, Kat, Incorrigible, which was full of highwaymen, loving but bickering sisters, magic and hilarity, and it absolutely saved me emotionally. Then it saved our family financially, too, when it sold as the first book in a high-paying trilogy.

But people kept asking me over the next few years: when would I ever write about a heroine like me? That is, someone dealing with chronic illness, because that kind of experience isn’t represented nearly often enough in fiction – especially not from the perspective of a person who has it, rather than just (as almost always) their long-suffering family members.

And I tried, over the years. I really did. But here’s the problem: my writing is my escape from M.E. I don’t want to stay trapped in my illness even in my fictional worlds. So every attempt fell flat…until 2016, just after the November election.

I was furious and scared by the results of that election. So I started writing a romantic fantasy novella, Snowspelled, just for fun as a comfort project, an escape project, full of sparkling humor, magic, romance and adventure – and it became the most personal project I’ve ever written. In my heroine, Cassandra Harwood, I finally found myself writing about that life-shattering transition I’d experienced in my twenties…but this time, with a twist.

Unlike me, Cassandra doesn’t have M.E.; unlike Cassandra, I’ve never been able to cast magic. Our stories (and personalities) are very different in many ways.

But like me, Cassandra spent her life working towards an ambitious goal – in her case, to change her society’s rules and become the first lady magician in Angland (where ladies, being the more practical sex, are meant to stick to politics while men see to the more emotional and tempestuous magic) – only to find herself derailed in her mid-twenties by a horrible, life-changing incident that takes away her ability to cast magic…and with it, not only her goals and dreams for the future but also her entire definition of herself.

Snowspelled is not about that moment of shattering loss. Set four months afterward, it’s light and frothy and was deliciously fun to write, as Cassandra finally emerges from her grief to find herself snowbound in the most awkward house party of her life, along with an assortment of scheming lady politicians, bickering gentleman magicians, an enchanted snowstorm, interfering family members, and – worst of all – her infuriatingly appealing ex-fiancé, who refuses to understand that she’s given him up for his own good. But when she is confronted in the whirling snow by a menacing elf-lord, she has to find out what inner powers she does still possess after all…

And I can’t even express how cathartic it felt to write from the perspective of a strong, determined heroine who’d experienced that kind of earthquake exploding in her carefully-planned life – and then to show her finding a shining new future after all, replete with unexpected happiness, satisfaction and adventure.

…With, of course, a lot of flirting, banter, and fun along the way!

I lost my first definition of myself in my twenties. But I love the person that I’ve grown into, and I loved writing Cassandra toward happiness, too. I laughed so much as I wrote this novella. I hope you guys will laugh when you read it, too – and I hope it’ll be a comforting escape-read.

It hurts to lose our first adult dreams. But sometimes our new ones are even better.

LINKS

Twitter

Amazon US

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

Amazon UK

BIO

Stephanie Burgis lives in Wales, surrounded by castles and coffee shops, with her husband (fellow writer Patrick Samphire), their two sons, and their very vocal tabby cat. Her first historical fantasy novel for adults, Masks and Shadows, was included in the Locus Recommended Reading List 2016; Romantic Times Book Reviews called her second novel for adults, Congress of Secrets, “a perfect combination of romance, historical fiction and fantasy.” To find out more (and read the first two chapters of Snowspelled), please visit her website: www.stephanieburgis.com

My Favorite Bit: Michael J. Martinez talks about MJ-12: SHADOWS

My Favorite BitMichael J. Martinez is joining us today with his novel MJ-12: Shadows. Here’s the publisher’s description:

It’s 1949, and the Cold War is heating up across the world. For the United States, the key to winning might be Variants―once ordinary US citizens, now imbued with strange paranormal abilities and corralled into covert service by the government’s top secret MAJESTIC-12 program. Some Variants are testing the murky international waters in Syria, while others are back at home, fighting to stay ahead of a political power struggle in Washington. And back at Area 51, the operation’s headquarters, the next wave of recruits is anxiously awaiting their first mission. All the while, dangerous figures flit among the shadows and it’s unclear whether they are threatening to expose the Variants for what they are . . . or to completely destroy them. Are they working for the Soviet Union, or something far worse?

What’s Mike’s favorite bit?

MJ-12: Shadows cover image

MICHAEL J. MARTINEZ

As my ever-gracious host is no doubt aware, one of the benefits of writing historical fiction is leveraging actual history for one’s work. And sometimes, there’s just a piece of history that seems too good to be true.

There’s a very real series of historical events in MJ-12: Shadows – the CIA’s ham-handed efforts to install a strongman in Syria in 1949 so that, yes, the new government would agree to extend an oil pipeline through Syria to the Mediterranean coast. (Sadly, things never seem to change.) One incident during this CIA campaign stood out.

The CIA efforts were led by an officer named Miles Copeland. Up until the records of his activities were declassified, Copeland was known largely as an intelligence policy commentator and author – and the father of Stewart Copeland, drummer for the Police. Small world indeed.

But now the cat’s out of the bag and we’re starting to get details about early intelligence efforts during the Cold War. Most of it is stranger than fiction to some degree or another, and Copeland’s Syria activities are no exception.

Copeland and his partner, Stephen Meade, spearheaded the CIA’s efforts in Syria to destabilize Syria’s democratically elected government and install Hosni al-Za’im, America’s preferred military strongman. And by spearheaded, I mean they were basically the only agents there, and had more petty cash and bad ideas than common sense. Honestly, it’s kind of amazing they came out alive.

One of the key’s to Copeland’s efforts was to sway international opinion of the democratic government, and Copeland thought that if the government was seen violating diplomatic norms, that would do the trick. So he let slip that he was keeping super-secret, critical information about the Syrian government at his house.

Copeland thought that the government would then send a burglar to retrieve the documents, and Copeland could catch said burglar in the act and give the government a black eye.

To say things didn’t work out as planned is a monumental understatement. I almost didn’t put the incident into MJ-12: Shadows because it seemed too far-fetched…for a novel about super-powered covert agents, no less.

But I did, so I won’t spoil it here. It’s my favorite bit in MJ-12: Shadows and the MAJESTIC-12 series thus far. I hope you’ll check it out.

LINKS:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

IndieBound

Books-A-Million

Mysterious Galaxy

BIO:

Michael J. Martinez is the author of the Daedalus trilogy of Napoleonic era space opera adventures as well as the MAJESTIC-12 series of superpowered spy-fi thrillers. He likes mashing genres together, obviously. His short fiction has appeared in Unidentified Funny Objects 4, Cthulhu Fhtagn!, Geeky Giving and The Endless Ages Anthology for Vampire: The Masquerade. He lives with his very understanding wife and amazing daughter in the New Jersey suburbs, which are neither understanding nor amazing. He can be found online at michaeljmartinez.net and on Twitter at @mikemartinez72.

My Favorite Bit: Ferrett Steinmetz talks about THE UPLOADED

Favorite Bit iconFerrett Steinmetz is joining us today with his novel The Uploaded. Here’s the publisher’s description:

Life sucks and then you die… a cyberpunk family drama from the ingenious author of Flex.

In the near future, the elderly have moved online and now live within the computer network. But that doesn’t stop them interfering in the lives of the living, whose sole real purpose now is to maintain the vast servers which support digital Heaven. For one orphan that just isn’t enough – he wants more for himself and his sister than a life slaving away for the dead. It turns out that he’s not the only one who wants to reset the world…

What’s Ferrett’s favorite bit?

 

The Uploaded cover image

FERRETT STEINMETZ

As a Christian, I generally see two types of Christians in science fiction books.  Neither reflects my reality.

The first is what I call the “smash and crash” Christian – whatever scientific wonder has been devised to make everyone’s lives better, these Christians hate it as though it were emitted straight from Satan’s bowels.  They’re greedy for power, preaching to vacuous congregations without a single neuron to share between them, raising crowds of wrench-wielding Luddites to show up in the third act and wreck whatever miracle machinery is improving the world.

Why do these stone-throwing zealots despise the miraculous?  It’s never really explained.  In these books it’s taken as a given that a Christian is not only diametrically opposed to science, but unable to wield it.  So they’re book-dumb, though if they’re lucky they may be possessed of a crude cunning, not unlike a stoat or a weasel.

Ah, but what if the author’s sympathetic to religion?  Then you get the “hugs and mugs” Christian, who wraps you in a warm embrace before bringing you a mug of decaffeinated herbal tea.  This Christian wears cool sweater-vests and serves as a faith-flavored psychiatrist, never judging anyone except when they’ve done something so bad the plot requires the protagonist the be course-corrected back on the road to heroism.  They may even flirt a little, just enough to provide fan-shipping possibilities.  Their faith is diffuse, their beliefs never so firm as to inconvenience anyone.

What I rarely see in novels is Christianity’s morality in justifiable opposition to the main characters’ goals.  A faith with teeth, if you will.  A faith where yes, perhaps their beliefs start with the Bible but grows to object to this so-called wonder technology for both pragmatic and compassionate reasons.

Which wasn’t too hard to create in my novel The Uploaded, given it’s all about what happens 500 years after humanity’s perfected its computerized Heaven.  Digitally preserving people’s brains is the big social change that’s transformed humanity as we know it.  Nobody worries about meat-deaths any more – when your body kicks off, the last saved copy of your consciousness gets uploaded to the Upterlife’s game servers, where you can choose to check in on Earth or play in the most vividly imagined MMORPGs for all eternity.

Which sounds good, but… like most world-changing technologies, it’s had long-term, unforeseen consequences.

Because when you know for-sure there is a palpable, verifiable Heaven, you let the rest of the world slide.  Your view shifts myopically to focus on the reward; society has to place laws against suicide to ensure you stick around to keep the servers running.  Cruelty gets written off; why should someone care how cruel they are to you in life when you’ve got an eternity of pleasure awaiting you when you die?  The living are sold into slavery, kept in line through venal promises of unlocking bonus treasures in the Upterlife.  The sick are cut down with a laugh.

And if you’re a Christian with serious beliefs, not only is this new technology corrupting the world and encouraging callous evil, but people are confusing souls with programs.  Yes, it’s very nice that there’s a simulation of your dead Mom talking to you, and it’s certainly a beautiful replication, but… that set of computerized emotions can vote.  It can own property.  It can decide who gets access to vital, life-saving technology and who doesn’t   – and because the dead’s priorities are always dead-first, the best and brightest tech goes to upgrading the Upterlife servers.

It’s bad enough when people are following false prophets, but these prophets aren’t even real.  They’re just… simulated echoes of what someone used to be.  With each passing year inside the servers, these replicas forget what it was like to be human.  Yet they’re in charge.

Worst of all, the Upterlife is popular.  A lot of so-called Christians, when a virtual Heaven is dangled before them, forget immediately about the real thing and accept this rampant cruelty.

And if you’re a Christian – a true Christian – do you have any choice but to oppose this?  You can’t hope for political change; there are twenty generations of dead, and even if every living person voted for something they’d never get their agenda through if the dead opposed it.  You can’t persuade people; the dead sift through the saved brain-scans of potential Upterlife applicants, and if the applicant’s too rebellious they’re condemned to die an ugly meat-death.

Your only choice is to rebel through physical force.  To take up the sword.

They call it crime.  You call it your only choice.

And so my favorite bit in The Uploaded is Evangeline, the young NeoChristian who’s spent her entire life training for the moment she can take down the servers.  The other characters in The Uploaded, who were raised in the post-Upterlife society, think she’s dumb; she’s not.  She uses technology just fine, can field-strip a rifle and hijack a spirocopter better than any of them.  They think she’s thuggishly violent.  They think she’s deluded by her sky-beard.

She’s not.  She sees the pain the Upterlife has created clearly, simply because her faith has not numbed her to suffering but attuned her to it.  She knows that God offered Adam and Eve stewardship of the Earth, and so there’s a better world to be created from the ruins of this one.  And she knows the cost of fighting this new and monstrous society, because she’s watched her fellow NeoChristians get abducted and tortured – but she’s loathe to kill not because she believes it’s a sin, but because she’s unwilling to condemn the ignorant to Hell without giving them a chance.

She’s afraid.  But she knows who also died to save mankind, and He gives her strength.  Which is why she’s willing to risk having her brains ripped apart by the brainwashed servants of the servers.

She’s not naive.  She’s not misguided.

She’s just ready.

LINKS:

Excerpt of the first two chapters

B&N

Amazon

Powells

Indiebound

BIO:

Ferrett Steinmetz’s debut urban fantasy trilogy FLEX (and THE FLUX and FIX) features a bureaucracy-obsessed magician who is in love with the DMV, a goth videogamemancer who tries not to go all Grand Theft Auto on people, and one of the weirder magic systems yet devised. His latest book THE UPLOADED, well, you just read about it, didn’t you?  He was nominated for the Nebula in 2012 and for the Compton Crook Award in 2015, for which he remains moderately stoked, and lives in Cleveland with his very clever wife, a small black dog of indeterminate origin, and a friendly ghost.

He Tweeters at @ferretthimself, and blogs entirely too much about puns, politics, and polyamory at www.theferrett.com.

My Favorite Bit: Paul Weimer talks about THE DOWN UNDER FAN FUND REPORT

My Favorite BitPaul Weimer is joining us today with his 2017 DUFF Report, What I Did On My Summer Vacation. Here’s a description of the project:

The Down Under Fan Fund Report is compiled by the Down Under Fan Fund Representative as a record of their trip to the other side of the world to connect with SFF fandom, and bring disparate portions of the SFF community together. Having originated in 1970, the Down Under Fan Fund sends fans from Australasia to North America and back again in alternate years. Entirely run on donations from the SFF community, the Down Under Fan Fund report itself is made available so that all proceeds from its sale can help replenish the Fund. The 2017 Down Under Fan Fund delegate, Paul Weimer, traveled from Minnesota to the 2017 National Science Fiction conventions of both New Zealand and Australia, and saw many things along the way, ranging from Hobbiton to the Sydney Opera House. The 2017 Down Under Fan Fund Report details his experiences.

What’s Paul’s favorite bit?

2017 DUFF Report Cover

PAUL WEIMER

For me, writing the Down Under Fan Fund report was very much like writing a travelogue. I was a stranger in a strange land, having traveled to the antipodes in search of conventions and other SFFnal and touristy things. It did take me a few days to truly get my bearings in New Zealand, driving on the opposite side of the road, dealing with technical problems, sulfur sensitivities, nearly not finding Hobbiton in time for my tour, and then the stress of performing my duty and attending the first of the two cons, Lexicon, in the resort town of Taupo. But it had been to that point an often-challenging trip to manage.

It was like a sign from the heavens, thusly, that as I left Taupo on an early morning, the sky was overcast if not rainy, making a long drive down the desert road and across a fair chunk of New Zealand to be an experience of sullen skies, poor photographic conditions, and a lot of driving. I had already learned that driving in New Zealand was a slow and ponderous affair, doubly so in rain and fog. I wound up in less than stellar lodgings after a day and a good chunk of the night driving where New Zealand had seemed mostly grey, flat and nothing like the Middle Earth I had hoped to see in and between the convention. Only brief breaks of clarity sustained me on that drive, but my hopes to see the great three central mountains of the north island of New Zealand had been occluded. A suggestion that author Adam Christopher had made to me months ago, when first planning the DUFF trip, had turned out to be a wash.

The next day, waking up in that questionable motel, seemed to promise nothing better. I had to get to Wellington at the bottom tip of the island that evening, but I wanted one more shot at real scenery in New Zealand before the next part of my trip, over in Australia. So, I went for it, driving up Mount Taranaki in the early grey morning in search of a waterfall. I found my waterfall, and a mountain wreathed in clouds, the top as invisible as the ones on the desert road had been. It was a pity, too. Mount Taranaki is a stratovolcano standing in the middle of flat country. Think of it as a somewhat smaller version of Mount Fuji from Japan and you’ll get the idea.

And yet, despite the weather, it was then, after the short walk to the waterfall, as I stood by my car, key in hand, something drew me to take a hike. I could have left after the waterfall, it was a long drive to Wellington, after all. The day was not getting any longer. And still, I found myself climbing a path through the goblin forest, a twisted and faerie looking forest of covered branches that gave the air of an Elven court. When I emerged from that forest an hour later at the “Hillary Seat”, the face of the mountain above me came into view.

Reader, the clouds had parted. The fog was gone. The rain was abolished. The sun was out. The snow packed top of the mountain peak gleamed in the sunlight. The flanks of the mountain were vibrant with color of brown and green. It was a transformative experience, looking up at one of the great mountains in the world, there for my eye and camera to capture (and yes, there are photos of that glorious vista in the report). I stood rooted to the spot for long minutes, unwilling to break the vision of all I had hoped to see in New Zealand in terms of scenery.

I would go on to a fantastic second con in Melbourne (aside from having gotten New Zealand con crud), and see many fantastic things in Australia in the company of most excellent people. And my report is full of photos of everything I saw and everyone I met, from beaches in New Zealand, to Hobbit holes, to the Sir Julius Vogel Awards, to the podcasters of Galactic Suburbia, the Great Ocean Road, and much more. However, it is that moment on Mt. Taranaki, after that hike that something told me I had to take against all rational thought, and to my benefit, that I go back to again and again in my mind. And that’s why it’s my favorite bit.

LINKS:

Paul’s Website

Purchase the Down Under Fan Fund Report

Learn more about DUFF

Learn more about Fan Funds

The Skiffy and Fanty Show

SFF Audio

Paul’s columns at B&N

Paul’s columns at Tor

BIO:

Paul Weimer is a SF writer, reviewer, and podcaster and an avid amateur photographer. When he isn’t doing any of that, he’s often found rolling dice and roleplaying. His audio work can be found on the Skiffy and Fanty Show and SFF audio. His reviews and columns can also be found at Tor.com and the Barnes and Noble SF blog, amongst other places.  Paul is best seen on twitter as @princejvstin.

My Favorite Bit: Alan Gratz talks about BAN THIS BOOK

My Favorite BitAlan Gratz is joining us today with his novel Ban This Book. Here’s the publisher’s description:

A fourth grader fights back when From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg is challenged by a well-meaning parent and taken off the shelves of her school library. Amy Anne is shy and soft-spoken, but don’t mess with her when it comes to her favorite book in the whole world. Amy Anne and her lieutenants wage a battle for the books that will make you laugh and pump your fists as they start a secret banned books locker library, make up ridiculous reasons to ban every single book in the library to make a point, and take a stand against censorship.

What’s Alan’s favorite bit?

Ban This Book cover image

ALAN GRATZ

There’s a lot I love about this book, but there’s one bit I especially love, because I got to work in a bit of my own fandom into the story.

I’m a long-time Star Trek fan. The first novel I ever tried to get published was a Star Trek novel (Pocket Books didn’t buy it) and before I became a published kids book author, I wrote Star Trek fan fiction. I later got to write a young adult Star Trek novel that I actually got paid for—Starfleet Academy: The Assassination Game—but it’s not often that my Trek fandom crosses over with my books for young readers.

One of the other students in Amy Anne’s class is, like me, a die-hard Trek fan. His name is Jeffrey Gonzalez. Jeffrey is very close to his grandmother, and when she dies he has a really hard time dealing with. He has such a hard time that he becomes surly and contentious, and eventually gets into a fight at school that gets him suspended. Amy Anne is the only other student who realizes why he’s so upset, and being the budding librarian she is, she thinks she has the perfect book to help him work through his feelings: Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia.

And it works. When Jeffrey reads the book, he finally lets out the emotions he’s kept bottled up inside, all the tears he didn’t allow himself to shed. It’s a cathartic moment for him, a real soul-cleanser. When Jeffrey comes to thank Amy Anne for the book, he tries to explain what happened to him, and this is where his (and my) love of Trek comes back in. The best way Jeffrey can explain the change that came over him is through a classic episode of Star Trek:

“I’m just glad you feel better,” I told Jeffrey. “You got really mean there for a little while.”

“I know,” Jeffrey said. “That was the Mirror Universe me.”

“The Mirror Universe you?”

“Yeah,” he said. “In Star Trek, there’s this Mirror Universe, and everybody there is the opposite of what they are in this universe. So if you’re good here, you’re bad there. The Mirror Universe Jeffrey took over for a little while, but Jeffrey Prime is back now.”

He was losing me. “Well, whoever you are now, I’m glad you’re back.”

Jeffrey smiled and saluted me with his fingers in a V shape. “Live long and prosper,” he told me.

“You too,” I said.

I have a little more fun with the Mirror Universe bit just a chapter later, when Amy Anne discovers that her beloved school librarian, Mrs. Jones, has been replaced with her opposite number—a celebrity magazine-reading, kid-hating shusher whom Amy Anne quickly nicknames the Mirror Mrs. Jones. Amy Anne even has to consider which version of herself she likes better—the quiet, meek, no-trouble Amy Anne that she was, or the boat-rocking, rule-breaking, activist Mirror Amy Anne she’s become.

She certainly knows which one has made the greatest impact on her universe.

LINKS:

Alan’s web site

Alan on Twitter

Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe (my hometown indie!)

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

IndieBound

BIO:

Alan Gratz is the author of a number of novels for young readers, including Samurai Shortstop, The Brooklyn Nine, Prisoner B-3087, Code of Honor, Projekt 1065, and The League of Seven series. His latest novels are the New York Times bestselling Refugee, and Ban This Book. A Knoxville, Tennessee native, Alan is now a full-time writer living in Western North Carolina with his wife and daughter. Visit him online at www.alangratz.com.

My Favorite Bit: Spencer Ellsworth talks about A RED PEACE

 

Favorite Bit iconSpencer Ellsworth is joining us today with his novel A Red Peace. Here’s the publisher’s description:

A Red Peace, first in Spencer Ellsworth’s Starfire trilogy, is an action-packed space opera in a universe where the oppressed half-Jorian crosses have risen up to supplant humanity and dominate the galaxy.

Half-breed human star navigator Jaqi, working the edges of human-settled space on contract to whoever will hire her, stumbles into possession of an artifact that the leader of the Rebellion wants desperately enough to send his personal guard after. An interstellar empire and the fate of the remnant of humanity hang in the balance.

Spencer Ellsworth has written a classic space opera, with space battles between giant bugs, sun-sized spiders, planets of cyborgs and a heroine with enough grit to bring down the galaxy’s newest warlord.

What’s Spencer’s favorite bit?

A Red Peace cover image

SPENCER ELLSWORTH

I feel weird talking about “my favorite bit” with A Red Peace because this novel just fell right out of me. It was fun to make up. It was fun to write. It was even fun to revise, and revision is NOT SUPPOSED to be fun. Revision is supposed to be when you weep into your booze and your life in narrated in a bad French accent and is black and white. “Ze artist sufferz for ze art.” That kind of thing.

A Red Peace wasn’t that. It was a total brain dump, one part 80s kid, saturated with Star Wars and Transformers, and one part history buff obsessed with the failed “noble” revolutions of the 20th century.

But when I’m thinking about the book, there are three places that really stand out to me, where a character really found their voice.

The first was in the (very short) omniscient prologue, when the heroic Resistance has beaten the evil Empire (sound familiar? It’s supposed to) and their heroic, handsome leader, John Starfire, gives the command:

Kill every human being in the galaxy.

That moment was the seed of the story—the idea of following a brave rebel leader to the point where he starts to look less like Luke Skywalker and more like Stalin.

(That, and space bugs.)

My antagonist, Araskar, was a tricky character to write, and he was all wrong in my first draft. He had to be likable, but at the same time, he had to continually make terrible choices because he couldn’t face the fact that his cause had become evil.

For the second draft, I wrote him into a white-hot, blood-and-mud soaked battle, to show that he could actually do heroic things with a small unit—but when his superior officer tells him they’re going to hunt down children, his cognitive dissonance is such that he decided just to get high.

Finally, Jaqi, our hero, my favorite forthright smuggler who gets into all this trouble because she wants a fresh tomato, was a blast to write all the way through. She’s the first character I ever wrote who can’t read, who has little interest in galactic affairs, and who is all the more interesting for it.

My favorite bit of Jaqi’s story is a part that… I really don’t want to give away!

It’s when she realizes something. Something very important.

Guess you’ll have to read the book.

LINKS:

BIO:

Spencer Ellsworth has been writing since he learned how, starting with the sweeping epic “Super Tiger” in crayon on scratch paper. His short fiction has been published at Lightspeed Magazine, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Tor.com and many other places. He is the author of the Starfire Trilogy, a series of short space opera novels coming from Tor.com in fall 2017 and early 2018, starting with A RED PEACE on August 22nd, 2017. He lives in Bellingham, Washington with his wife and three children.

My Favorite Bit: William C. Tracy talks about THE SEEDS OF DISSOLUTION

Favorite Bit iconWilliam C. Tracy is joining us today to talk about his novel The Seeds of Dissolution. Here’s the book’s description:

On a bright August day, the sun disappears.

Sam van Oen barely escapes freezing to death in his house, as his watch stops and fire ceases to burn. He is pulled into the Nether—a nexus between ten alien cultures—where he meets Rilan and Origon, two maji who can control the musical foundation of the universe. While coping with anxiety attacks prompted by his new surroundings, Sam must learn to hear and change the Symphony, and thus reality, in order to discover what happened to his home.

But more freezing voids like the one that started his journey are appearing, and Sam’s chances of getting back are fading. The Assembly of Species is threatening to dissolve and the maji are being attacked by those they protect, while rumors grow of an ancient, shape-changing species of assassins, returning to wage war.

The Dissolution is coming.

What’s William’s favorite bit?

 

The Seeds of Dissolution cover image

WILLIAM C. TRACY

First off: the sales pitch. I’m funding The Seeds of Dissolution through a Kickstarter project, not to help write the story, but in order to bring more art, maps, and other extras into the printed book. I love finding illustrations in the novels I read, and I wanted to do the same with what I write. So please check it out and help me bring this story to life!

Now, my real favorite bit. The more I write, the more I appreciate putting diverse people and philosophies into my stories. This will be my first full novel in the Dissolutionverse, though it’s also one of the oldest stories I’ve written. When rewriting this novel to bring it up to date with my novellas, I was struck by how much it was a “white boy becomes the chosen one” story. It still is, to some extent, but I’ve made an effort to diversify my stories, in order to learn about the different sorts of people I’ve encountered. I’ve written about this before, in the Favorite Bit posts for my previous novellas, Tuning the Symphony and Merchants and Maji.

In The Seeds of Dissolution, Sam (the aforementioned white boy protagonist) now has fairly strong panic attacks based on social situations and new environments. I have not had panic attacks myself, which meant I needed to do a lot of research and talk with people who do have social anxiety. I didn’t want to make it something superficial that was cured by magic. It’s a part of Sam and he has to cope with it. In the process, I was able to recognize those times when I was afraid to speak in front of others, or go to new places. We all have anxiety at some point, and talking to those people who have to deal with it all the time taught me a great deal. Even though he has anxiety issues, Sam is still very loyal to close friends. He wants to connect with others, even if he is prevented at times by his mental state.

This leads to the other change for this character. Sam is bi/pansexual. This, I think, has actually been a long time coming. His attraction(s) in this book were originally one person, then female, then male, then two people. I could never get the dynamic right between Sam and the love interest until I realized Sam is not constrained by the person’s gender, and once this happened, the relation between the three characters started to come together. There are of course still some pitfalls and surprises in their relationship, but I’ll let you read about it, as it’s pretty central to the main story!

Working with people who don’t identify as male or female helped me to make the species of the Great Assembly more diverse. When designing an alien species, there’s no real reason for having two genders rather than more or less, and a lot of people on Earth already don’t fit into those parameters. One of my beta readers is non-binary, and helped me to flesh out the ten species of the Dissolutionverse considerably. One species now has three genders, another has four, and another reproduces asexually. Every addition has only made me more interested in writing these stories and learning about these people.

One of my favorite characters is named Hand Dancer, who is a member of the Lobhl, a species who communicates only with their hands. In-universe, bringing them into the Great Assembly of species caused many to balk at the changes needed to ease communication, and even 50 cycles later, the species is rarely seen. The species is also gender fluid by nature, conforming to a gender by need and mental state rather than biology. I love describing Hand Dancer’s communication, especially since the story takes place in a giant crystal that translates between species! Here’s a few short excerpt to show what I mean:

<Forgive our intrusion, Councilor,> Hand Dancer signed. Origon watched the large and expressive hands twirl through the sentence. The six fingers and two thumbs on each hand curved and twisted in a different direction, and both hands were heavily tattooed. It was disconcerting talking to a Lobhl. Most of the time, Origon could ignore how the Nether changed speech so others’ words were in his native language in his head, but the Lobhl communicated almost entirely with their hands. There were no facial expressions, and the bald creatures didn’t even have a crest to signal with. The meaning appeared directly in Origon’s mind, as if Hand Dancer had said the words a moment before and Origon was remembering them. It made him want to itch something, though he didn’t know what.

<As I seem to be included, may I ask what is going on?> Origon started, and saw the others do the same. How they could hear the signing when they weren’t looking at the Lobhl, like a cough in an echoing building, was beyond him. He would never fully understand the Nether.

Hand Dancer listened for a moment as well, in him, a stretching of thumbs. Then his hands moved again. <I must be female during this task, for concentration.>

I’ve had a lot of fun while writing The Seeds of Dissolution because I’ve gotten to talk to people from different backgrounds, genders and sexualities, and different mental states. I hope it has added more realism into my world, and made my characters more interesting.

Please take a look at the Kickstarter for The Seeds of Dissolution. There are a lot of great backer rewards, with chances to buy original artwork, be tuckerized in the story, get maps, buttons, and pins, and get an extra short story, just for backers. See you around the Dissolutionverse!

LINKS:

Kickstarter

Website

Kickstarter updates

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads

BIO:

William C. Tracy is a North Carolina native and a lifelong fan of science fiction and fantasy. He has two self-published novellas available: Tuning the Symphony, and Merchants and Maji, both set in his Dissolutionverse. The Kickstarter for the first novel, The Seeds of Dissolution, will run in August/September 2017.

He also has a masters in mechanical engineering, and has both designed and operated heavy construction machinery. He has trained in Wado-Ryu karate since 2003, and runs his own dojo in Raleigh. He is an avid video and board gamer, a reader, and of course, a writer. He and his wife also cosplay, and he has appeared as Tenzin, Jafar, and in several steampunk outfits.

In his spare time, he wrangles three cats and a bald guinea pig, and his wife wrangles him (not an easy task). They both enjoy putting their pets in cute little costumes and making them cosplay for the annual Christmas card.