Archive for the ‘My Favorite Bit’ Category

My Favorite Bit: Mur Lafferty talks about BOOKBURNERS

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

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

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

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

What’s Mur’s favorite bit?

Bookburners cover image

MUR LAFFERTY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LINKS:

Website

Twitter

Amazon

Indiebound

Barnes & Noble

BIO:

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

My Favorite Bit: Fonda Lee talks about EXO

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

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

What’s Fonda’s favorite bit?

Exo cover image

FONDA LEE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LINKS:

Website

Twitter

Facebook

Book Excerpt

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Indiebound

Powell’s

BIO:

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

My Favorite Bit: Watts Martin talks about KISMET

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

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

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

What’s Watts’s favorite bit?

Kismet cover image

WATTS MARTIN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LINKS:

Kismet on Amazon

Kismet on publisher’s site

Author’s website

Watts on Goodreads

BIO:

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

My Favorite Bit: Tim Lees talks about STEAL THE LIGHTNING

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

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

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

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

What’s Tim’s favorite bit?

Steal the Lightning cover image

TIM LEES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then I realized: I had a problem.

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

That wasn’t going to work.

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

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

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

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

LINKS:

HarperCollins (US)

Amazon US author’s page

Amazon UK author’s page

Barnes & Noble (US)

Booksamillion (US)

iTunes (US)

iTunes (UK)

BIO:

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

What’s Laura Anne’s favorite bit?

The Cold Eye cover image

LAURA ANNE GILMAN

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

 

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

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

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

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

And yet, this was my favorite bit to write.

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

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

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

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

Well-played, lizard brain.  Well-played.

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

LINKS:

Author’s website

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

Amazon

B&N

University Bookstore (signed books)

Mysterious Galaxy: (signed books)

BIO:

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

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

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

 

My Favorite Bit: Jaym Gates talks about UPSIDE DOWN

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

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

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

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

What’s Jaym’s favorite bit?

Upside Down cover image

JAYM GATES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LINKS:

Amazon

Website

BIO:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is Michele’s favorite bit?

Root of the Spark cover image

MICHELE FOGAL

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

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

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

How the Magic Started

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

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

REM State

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

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

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

Tapping into the Hive

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

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

Science vs Woo-woo

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

How it Helped

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

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

Ever-Evolving

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

Your Own Process

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

Wishing you a pinch of SF magic,

Michele

LINKS:

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

Amazon.com

Amazon.ca

Loose Id

All Romance Ebooks

Barnes & Noble

Google Play

Indigo / Kobo

Ibooks

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Goodreads

Pinterest

BIO:

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

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

My Favorite Bit: Ruth Vincent talks about UNVEILED

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

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

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

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

What’s Ruth’s favorite bit?

Unveiled cover image

RUTH VINCENT

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

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

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

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

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

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

LINKS:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Google Play

iBooks

BIO:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s Stephanie’s favorite bit?

Shades of Circle City cover image

STEPHANIE A. CAIN

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

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

Uh.

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

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

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

Uh.

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

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

Uh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s my favorite bit.

LINKS:

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

BIO:

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

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

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

My Favorite Bit: Jeremiah Reinmiller talks about GEARSPIRE: ADVENT

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

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

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

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

A place known as Gearspire.

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

What’s Jeremiah’s favorite bit?

Gearspire Advent cover image

JEREMIAH REINMILLER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LINKS:

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

BIO:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s Jon’s favorite bit?

Rescue Run cover image

JON DEL ARROZ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LINKS:

Rescue Run launch page

Amazon

Jon Del Arroz webpage

BIO:

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

My Favorite Bit: Lesley Conner talks about APEX MAGAZINE

Favorite Bit iconLesley Conner is joining us today to talk about Apex Magazine. Here’s the publisher’s description:

Apex Magazine is a monthly digital e-zine of professional-level science fiction, fantasy, and horror short fiction. The e-zine is edited by Jason Sizemore and is a multiple Hugo Award nominee. Apex Magazine has published many genre luminaries (Theodora Goss, Jeff VanderMeer, Gemma Files, Mary Robinette Kowal, Saladin Ahmed, etc.) as well as bright new talents (Onu-Okpara Chiamaka, Tade Thompson, Iori Kusano, and more). Visit http://www.apex-magazine.com for some fine speculative fiction!

What’s Lesley’s favorite bit?

Apex Magazine Nov 2016 cover image

LESLEY CONNER

Jason Sizemore and I have been going back forth about who should write this post. We both wanted to write it, but it was coming down to who had the time and who’s to-do pile was more likely to crush them. Between the Apex Magazine subscription drive, our annual flash fiction contest, getting ready to release Rosewater by Tade Thompson in November and Upside Down edited by Monica Valentinelli and Jaym Gates in December, and everything else Apex, schedules are tight! Finally Jason said he’d read slush if I wrote it, and with that he knew he had me, because Jason reading the stories that have been pushed up to his desk from the Apex Magazine slush pile is my favorite bit.

I know that sounds weird. Let me explain. When Jason reads slush, he’s reading stories that I’ve already read. Stories that were recommended by our slush readers and that I fell in love with and kept moving up the chain. So while he’s reading, if he comes across a story that he’s not sure about or that he’s questioning the ending or a character’s motivation, he asks me my thoughts on it. Aha! This is the moment that I look forward to most as managing editor of Apex Magazine. I whip my English degree off the wall, prop it on the couch beside me, and Jason and I start pulling the story apart.*

I cannot speak for every English program in every university, but my experience at WVU in the early-2000s was one of dissecting poetry and short stories and novels. I wrote countless papers defending my opinions about author intent, discussing pacing  and diction in class, picking sentences apart bit by bit, all while knowing there was no way I could be sure I was correct because I couldn’t ask the author, but I would build a damn good argument for my case. And I loved it. Sadly, in the world we live in, spending half an hour discussing the meaning behind one particular word or phrase in a book is not a skill you often have the need for in day to day life – even when a big portion of your life revolves around editing and writing – so when the chance comes up, I grab it!

There’s something about having an intellectual discussion about fiction: discussing how it makes you feel, whether you find it believable, if the pacing works that I find satisfying on so many levels. And when Jason and I get into these discussions over stories in the slush pile, that feeling of satisfaction is even greater.

Several of my personal favorite Apex Magazine stories are ones that Jason and I have discussed. “Blood on Beacon Hill” by Russell Nichols, “Anabaptist” by Daniel Rosen, “1957” by Stephen Cox, and “Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys: The Elephant’s Tale” by Damien Angelica Walters immediately come to mind. “The Love it Bears Fair Maidens” by K.T. Bryski coming out in the December issue is another one we chatted a long while about. And I’m not saying that Jason didn’t like those stories. The opposite in fact. These were stories that he did like, but that there was something about them that he needed to work out with another person before accepting. I feel like Apex Magazine is stronger because there is an open dialogue between us, allowing us both to see stories from other perspectives.

While Jason ultimately makes the final decision of whether or not to publish a particular story, being able to champion for my favorites is amazing. I feel like a gallant knight brandishing my sword and beating back the dreaded rejection letter. Even though I don’t always win the battle against rejection, these discussions leave me feeling invigorated. They are a good reminder of why I love reading and everything about the written word, and they are definitely my favorite bit of Apex Magazine.

*I don’t actually whip my degree off the wall. It isn’t even on a wall. It’s in an envelope in the back of my closet.

LINK:

Subscription Drive Page

BIO:

Lesley Conner is a writer/editor, managing editor of Apex Publications and Apex Magazine, and a Girl Scout leader. When she isn’t handling her editorial or Girl Scout leader responsibilities, she’s researching fascinating historical figures, rare demons, and new ways to dispose of bodies, interweaving the three into strange and horrifying tales. Her short fiction can be found in Mountain Dead, Dark Tales of Terror, A Hacked-Up Holiday Massacre, as well as other places. Her first novel The Weight of Chains was published by Sinister Grin Press in September, 2015. Best of Apex Magazine: Volume 1 marks her debut experience in anthology editing. She lives in Maryland with her husband and two daughters, and is currently working on a new novel. To find out all her secrets, you can follow her on Twitter at @LesleyConner.

My Favorite Bit: Elizabeth Bonesteel talks about REMNANTS OF TRUST

Favorite Bit iconElizabeth Bonesteel is joining us today with her novel Remnants of Trust. Here’s the publisher’s description:

In this follow-up to the acclaimed military science fiction thriller The Cold Between, a young soldier finds herself caught in the crosshairs of a deadly conspiracy in deep space.

Six weeks ago, Commander Elena Shaw and Captain Greg Foster were court-martialed for their role in an event Central Gov denies ever happened. Yet instead of a dishonorable discharge or time in a military prison, Shaw and Foster and are now back together on Galileo. As punishment, they’ve been assigned to patrol the nearly empty space of the Third Sector.

But their mundane mission quickly turns treacherous when the Galileo picks up a distress call: Exeter, a sister ship, is under attack from raiders. A PSI generation ship—the same one that recently broke off negotiations with Foster—is also in the sector and joins in the desperate battle that leaves ninety-seven of Exeter’s crew dead.

An investigation of the disaster points to sabotage. And Exeter is only the beginning. When the PSI ship and Galileo suffer their own “accidents,” it becomes clear that someone is willing to set off a war in the Third Sector to keep their secrets, and the clues point to the highest echelons of power . . . and deep into Shaw’s past.

What’s Elizabeth’s favorite bit?

Remnants of Trust cover image

ELIZABETH BONESTEEL

When I was 8-1/2 months pregnant, my husband and I moved into a hotel.

We hadn’t planned it that way. We had expected our house to take longer to sell. We had not expected to have to seek temporary housing for my mammoth self. But while babies are relatively predictable—give or take a few weeks—real estate is not. And so, at nearly 9 months, I was packing up our kitchen.

My husband assembled the packing boxes and put all our dishes and spices out on the countertops. I sat in a chair and packed what I could reach. Realistically, I wasn’t much help. At this point I was both exhausted and uncomfortable, all the time. But I did something, which, for some insane pregnant-woman pride reason, was very important to me.

As I was writing REMNANTS OF TRUST, I remembered the move, and thought: If I can pack up a house right before I give birth, a pregnant woman can run a starship. And so Guanyin was born.

In the US, the cultural images we get of pregnancy are…odd. As with most stereotypes, there are grains of truth—morning sickness, hormonal surges, odd food cravings—but it’s all two-dimensional. Pregnancy is treated as this extreme condition, but at any one point on our little planet, there are a lot of pregnant women.

And for most of us, that pregnancy is an addition to an already crowded life. We don’t have the luxury of putting that life on hold. More than that, often we don’t want to. Perhaps the oddest cultural myth about pregnancy is that everything else should somehow suspend operations and get out of the way.

Guanyin can’t suspend anything. She is the captain of a generation ship, a ship most of the inhabitants call home for their entire lives. Officially her position is elected, but as a practical matter she’s something between president and dictator. She has an extensive staff, and the help of the whole population if necessary; but it is with her that the buck stops. Not only does she have a job she can’t ignore, in her culture it’s literally the most important job there is.

She’s also really, really good at being pregnant. When the book opens, she’s carrying her sixth child, after five uncomplicated births. And on this generation ship, where she has grown up seeing other women have children, she knows it doesn’t always work out that way. Above all other things, Guanyin is pragmatic. She knows she has benefited from good genetics and good luck, and that’s all the excuse she needs to keep having children.

Because on a generation ship, children are important—not so much as individuals, not any more than anyone else, but as tools of survival. In a future where populations tend to be small and isolated, reproduction and genetic diversity are critical issues. Not everyone has the desire or the ability to bear children. It makes sense that a woman like Guanyin, who has both, would choose to do it.

“But Liz,” I hear you ask, “it’s a thousand years in the future. What about technology? Surely they could just use artificial wombs.” Indeed. And in many places they do exactly that. It makes sense to have multiple resources for something as important as propagating the species.

But here’s the authorial insertion bit: I liked being pregnant. The whole experience fascinated me. And part of what fascinated me was that I could go through such a radical physiological change and still be entirely myself.

There’s a complaint, sometimes, that women in literature are too often written in relation to their families. I have a lot of sympathy for that, because women’s lives—like everyone’s lives—are full of stories that don’t have anything to do with their families. More often, though, I see women portrayed as either mothers or heroes, but not both—or at least not both at the same time. And that’s entirely counter to my experience in the real world.

Guanyin is, like many women, dealing with her pregnancy as a normal part of her life. It’s in the background hum, from her interludes with her children to the metaphors she chooses. She is a practical, thoughtful, strong-minded professional who never loses sight of her responsibilities. She’s also, for the duration of the tale, a big, clumsy, pregnant lady.

I could have used her help packing my kitchen.

LINKS:

HarperCollins.com / HarperCollins.co.ukHarperCollins.ca
Amazon.com / Amazon.co.ukAmazon.ca
BarnesandNoble.com
IndieBound
Powell’s
Google Play
iBookstore US / iBookstore Canada
Kobo

BIO:

Elizabeth Bonesteel began making up stories at the age of five, in an attempt to battle insomnia. Thanks to a family connection to the space program, she has been reading science fiction since she was a child. She currently lives in central Massachusetts with her husband, her daughter, and various cats.

My Favorite Bit: Sarah Smith talks about WHITEHALL: COMPLETE FIRST SEASON

Favorite Bit iconSarah Smith is joining us today to talk about Whitehall: Complete First Season. Here’s the publisher’s description:

Whitehall is set in the 17th century court of King Charles II and focuses on his queen, Portuguese princess Catherine of Braganza. Her journey to find her place as the foreign wife in a court riddled with political and religious intrigue – not to mention the many mistresses of Charles the “Merry Monarch” – is a tale of perseverance only a true queen could endure. Love mingles with betrayal before a sensual renaissance of art, culture, and sex in this lush historical serial.

What’s Sarah’s favorite bit?

Whitehall cover image

 

SARAH SMITH

Palace Romance

Years ago, in a fit of giggling, Ellen Kushner (she of Tremontaine) and I made up a genre. In Big House Romance the love interest isn’t a hero; it’s a house. “Last night I dreamed I went to Manderley again.” “Maria…lived in an enormous house in the wilds of Northamptonshire, which was about four times longer than Buckingham Palace, but was falling down.” From Beauty amazed by the Beast’s library, to Hogwarts, to the snow falling on the conjoined maze of houses that is Riverside, the Big House is a world, peopled by its own denizens, rich with its own possibilities.

Whitehall is the Biggest House of all.

It really existed. It was the largest building in Europe, possibly the largest building that has ever existed in Europe. It covered the whole of London between Trafalgar Square and the Houses of Parliament. Whitehall was larger than Versailles, larger than the Vatican. If you discovered a new room in Whitehall every day, it would have taken you five years to find them all; Whitehall had somewhere between 1500 and 2000 rooms.

The government was centered there; the Queen and King (and the King’s mistresses) lived there, and so did most of the rest of the nobility, in tiny apartments viciously fought over. It was as changeable as a fairy castle, rooms created and torn down, mutating purpose and ownership according to the latest dictates of favoritism and need. Policy and wars were made at Whitehall; the future of England was plotted in its twisting corridors; fashion came from Whitehall too, and no actor, or especially actress, flourished unless they succeeded in Whitehall’s eyes.

Here it is.  One building, a huge maze built higgledy-piggledy over half a thousand years, spreading over acres and acres: ancient stone married to new white granite, wrought iron springing from old wood, and brick filling in everything. A small town on the outside; a Fabergé Easter egg inside, glittering with fabulous paintings, jewels, gold, and statues. Gardens, a tiltyard, a cock-fighting pit, a laundry, the Queen’s aviary …

Image: The Old Palace of Whitehall by Hendrik Danckerts

And the most delicious part of Whitehall? Just when Charles and his Queen Cat were living there, somebody described the whole thing. Drew a plan of it, wrote down where everybody lived, what the rooms looked like, even what some of them smelled like. “In the Guard Chamber [let] there be noe Tobacco taken in Smoake, … no ill Savour of Beere … in the Morninge [let] the Dores and Windowes be sett open, and something burnt in the room to take away the Scent of ye Watch of ye Night”–you can smell the wet wool, the fusty air, the farts and dog breath and illicit tobacco and beer.

Read the descriptions of Whitehall, look at the pictures, and here’s a world. We know these people through their rooms. A driven ex-soldier king making a country out of glitter and theater; his grasping mistresses trying to get what they can, his politicians trying to control him; the shy foreign queen who, perhaps alone of all of them, loves him. There is no mercy in crowded Whitehall: King Charles’s Catherine and his demanding mistress have apartments just around the corner from each other, so Catherine has to avert her eyes not to see Barbara, has to stop her ears not to hear her rival’s laughter.  King Charles’s council chamber has been taken over for someone’s apartments, so he has taken over Cat’s audience chamber; while Catherine lies near death from a fever, his Privy Council is deciding her future almost outside her bedroom door. The King and his awkward Queen have separate apartments, but Jenny discovers the secret passage between Catherine’s bedchamber and Charles’s rooms, the expression of their secret love.  When Clarendon pleads with Charles to betray Catherine and his country, they choose the Matted Corridor, where steps are muffled and statues provide hiding places to whisper secrets.

Even religion has its rooms in Whitehall. The Chapel Royal is just by the Great Hall, Whitehall’s theater; churchmen and actors put on their robes in the same rooms. Catherine’s private oratory, like her religion, is a far more hidden space.

Image: map of Whitehall

Such a gift! Such a place to live, and such people in it! Jenny the maid sees it: “all Whitehall, the grand gilded places and the famous people, the suitors crowding the presence chamber and the eating hall, the pages like Edmund who wanted to be knights—precious little use, any of them—and, skittering like mice, the servants, hordes of servants, Meg and Tamsin, Mavis and herself, bearing pails and mops and linen, dishes and food and clothes. Making everything run. Without us there would be nothing.” Catherine sees “Whitehall of schemes, Whitehall of enemies, Whitehall of lies.” Charles sees Whitehall as a place of fools and whores, but illuminated by love and unexpected honesty.

It’s the biggest house of all, and I love it.

Welcome to Whitehall.

LINKS:

Originally presented in 13 episodes by Serial Box, the Whitehall: Complete First Season has been gathered together and is available at your favorite eBook retailer. Whitehall was team written by Liz Duffy Adams, Delia Sherman, Barbara Samuel, Sarah Smith, Madeleine Robins, and Mary Robinette Kowal. Learn more at SerialBox.com.

BIO:

Sarah Smith is one of the writers of WHITEHALL, the Restoration drama about one man, two women, and a palace, now available as a complete first season at www.SerialBox.com. Sarah is sarahwriter on Facebook and Twitter; read all about her books at www.sarahsmith.com.

My Favorite Bit: Stephanie Burgis talks about CONGRESS OF SECRETS

Favorite Bit iconStephanie Burgis is joining us today with her novel Congress of Secrets. Here’s the publisher’s description:

In 1814, the Congress of Vienna has just begun. Diplomats battle over a new map of Europe, actors vie for a chance at glory, and aristocrats and royals from across the continent come together to celebrate the downfall of Napoleon…among them Lady Caroline Wyndham, a wealthy English widow. But Caroline has a secret: she was born Karolina Vogl, daughter of a radical Viennese printer. When her father was arrested by the secret police, Caroline’s childhood was stolen from her by dark alchemy.

Under a new name and nationality, she returns to Vienna determined to save her father even if she has to resort to the same alchemy that nearly broke her before. But she isn’t expecting to meet her father’s old apprentice, Michael Steinhüller, now a charming con man in the middle of his riskiest scheme ever.

The sinister forces that shattered Caroline’s childhood still rule Vienna behind a glittering façade of balls and salons, Michael’s plan is fraught with danger, and both of their disguises are more fragile than they realize. What price will they pay to the darkness if either of them is to survive?

What’s Stephanie’s favorite bit?

Congress of Secrets cover image

STEPHANIE BURGIS

Vienna has had a hold on my family’s imagination for a very, very long time.

Over a hundred years ago, my Croatian great-grandfather traveled to Vienna as a teenager to be a tailor’s apprentice. He wandered around the city in awe of its beauty and culture. He attended Mass in the Stefansdom cathedral, where Mozart had been married. He went back to Croatia to be with his family once his apprenticeship was finished…but then World War I broke out, and he fled to America, never to see Vienna again.

Still, he never forgot that city. Living in Youngstown, Ohio, he raised his children on stories of Vienna’s beauty. The best of everything was in Vienna, he told them! My grandfather, his youngest son, learned German at home before he learned English in kindergarten, and needless to say my mother and I both ended up studying German too at various points, drawn by the romance of all those family memories. When I announced, at nineteen, that I’d be studying in Vienna as part of a college exchange program, my grandfather was delighted.

Still, I had no idea just how hard I would fall in love with Vienna when I got there. It didn’t hurt, of course, that I was already obsessed with eighteenth-century music history – and Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven all lived and performed there at various points. Vienna was the center of musical culture in the Classic era.

But then you add in the gorgeous palaces, the cobblestoned streets, and oh, yes, the amazing cakes and coffee…yeah, I was a goner.

As soon as I got back to America, I scrambled to find an excuse – any excuse! – to return to Vienna. I ended up applying for and winning a Fulbright scholarship to study at the University of Vienna for a year and teach at a Viennese secondary school. And when I met my British husband a few years later, it only made sense for us to spend 6 months living in Vienna before we moved together to the UK.

Finally, a few years later, I made it back once again, this time funded by an academic grant to research my PhD thesis (on opera and politics in eighteenth-century Vienna) by studying original eighteenth-century manuscripts at the Austrian National Library…which just happens to be located in the magnificent Hofburg palace in Vienna.

Every day for two weeks, I sat at one of the long wooden tables in the music library, poring over delicate eighteenth-century operatic scores, while the smell of blooming lilacs drifted in through the open windows…

…But every afternoon when the library closed, everything changed. I stopped thinking about music or about my PhD thesis. Instead I wandered through the narrow cobblestoned streets of Vienna’s first district with a very different book in mind.

I was already plotting out Congress of Secrets, my historical fantasy novel set at the Congress of Vienna in 1814. And it was an incredible historical moment for the city.

Aristocrats and royals from all across Europe gathered in Vienna that year to celebrate the downfall of Napoleon with glittering fêtes, ceremonies, balls and gossip. At the same time, behind that glittering round of social festivities, diplomats from all of those countries were hard at work fighting their own metaphorically bloody political battles, negotiating to re-divide the continent after decades of war.

Meanwhile, the Austrian emperor’s paranoia had led to the development of a terrifyingly powerful Viennese secret police force that spied on everyone. Vienna had once been famous for coffee houses where everything and everyone could be freely debated; by 1814, no one dared discuss politics in public anymore, for fear of being turned in by one of the secret police’s many informants. It wasn’t only the local Viennese who were under inspection, either. During the Congress, the secret police kept an eye on everyone. Local servants went through the fireplaces of important visitors, pulling out letters to be turned into the secret police, and Emperor Francis received regular reports.

That would be an incredibly rich and fascinating historical setting for any writer to play with, even without any magical component. But of course, in my version of events, Francis isn’t just getting his strength from information. He’s also been secretly resorting to dark alchemy for years…

…as my heroine knows all too well. Her childhood was destroyed by the dark alchemy hidden behind Vienna’s glamorous façade. Now she’s back under a new identity, using the Congress as her excuse to return to her first home and finally save her father from imprisonment…

…But only if the secret police don’t find out her true identity – and if she isn’t tripped up by the competing schemes of her father’s old apprentice, now a charming conman working on his biggest gamble yet.

All of those disguises, deceptions and schemes are tied inescapably to the narrow streets and palace corridors of Vienna, my favorite city in the world. There’s darkness, there’s intrigue, there’s the kind of magic that can kill your soul, and there’s even unexpected romance…

…But none of it could take place anywhere but in Vienna.

The truth is, I agree with my great-grandfather. I’m still in love with that city, too!

LINKS:

Website

Twitter

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Goodreads

BIO:

Stephanie Burgis grew up in East Lansing, Michigan and now lives in Wales, surrounded by castles and coffeeshops. She is the author of two historical fantasy novels for adults, MASKS AND SHADOWS and CONGRESS OF SECRETS, both published in 2016 by Pyr Books. She also writes MG fantasy novels, and her MG Regency fantasy trilogy, KAT, INCORRIGIBLE, was published by Atheneum Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. To find out more and read excerpts from her novels, please visit her website: www.stephanieburgis.com