Archive for the ‘My Favorite Bit’ Category

My Favorite Bit: Tina Connolly talks about COPPERHEAD

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Copperhead, the sequel to Tina Connolly’s Nebula nominated debut novel, fully lives up to the promise the first book. When I heard Tina read chapter one — and she is a phenomenal reader — at a SFWA reading, my immediate response was “Why do I not already have this book?” It’s witty, both in terms of the characters and its social commentary, and sets up a strong promise of danger. Does it fulfil that? My dears… why do you think I’m recommending this book?

So what is Tina’s Favorite Bit?



So, Copperhead. Sequel to Ironskin, which was on Mary’s blog for a My Favorite Bit last year (and later got nominated for a Nebula! I’m not saying the two things are related, but . . .)

Ironskin is the story of Jane, and it’s set mostly in the country. With Copperhead I knew I wanted to tell the story of Jane’s younger sister, Helen. It’s set six months later, in the city. Helen is trying to track down a list of a hundred women who have all upgraded to fey-beautiful faces—and now need to be made safe from the fey. And these women come from all walks of life. Many are upper class due to the original cost involved, but several of the key women we meet are the artistic sort—an actress, a jazz musician, a costumer.

And My Favorite Bit was absolutely that I got to spend a lot of time with theatre folk in this book.

One of my favorite authors growing up was Noel Streatfeild, who was one of the first—maybe the first—to start a certain subgenre of fiction: children working in the arts. (Ballet Shoes is her most famous book.) She was an actress herself, and she wrote very detailed stories of what it was like to be a kid in the 30’s going into the theatre, dance, skating, the circus. (She was very prolific and wrote for many decades, so later there were movie and TV stories, too.) Her kids were not dilettantes—these were stories about kids who worked hard at the things they loved, in creative fields where it’s difficult to succeed.

So that was one influence. Another, of course, was my own time in the theatre—it was pretty much my main obsession until I discovered that in writing you got to be ALL the characters.

So, chapter two, a flamboyant theatre actress named Frye walks in. She was supposed to be a minor part. But looking back, it’s pretty obvious (now!) that she was always going to take over and become a driving force in the book. I’m not sure how I could have ever thought she wouldn’t.

Helen comes from the country. She doesn’t fit easily into high society, though she tries. And now, through Frye’s influence, she’s thrown into a world of artistic bohemians, and she has a lot to learn about them, too. The world of Copperhead has a bit of a 30’s feel—I got to come up with appropriately ridiculous musicals for Frye and her friends to be in: Saucy Solstice Spectacular!, Painted Ladies Ahoy! (which Frye stars in and apparently involves a number with a lampshade.)

And then, of course, got to populate the scenes at Frye’s house (where actors drop in and out and sometimes stay for weeks) with even more theatre folk.

Besides the fun of just writing about them, it was really nice to have a set of career women to compare to some of the upper class, non-career women that Helen meets. Helen finds her expectations and stereoptypes confounded with all the women in general, but it was really interesting to delve into the reasons behind wishing to be more beautiful and charismatic—when it’s something that can help you in your chosen career.

Helen only brushes tangentially onto the theatre world as she’s trying to help The Hundred. I didn’t send her off to auditions and rehearsals and opening nights—she herself is decidedly uninterested in starting a new career in that direction. I suppose one of these days I’ll have to just sit down and write an entire novel about theatre people, which will be the equivalent of an entire novel full of My Favorite Bit.



Tina Connolly lives with her family in Portland, Oregon. Her stories have appeared in Lightspeed,, Strange Horizons, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Her first fantasy novel, IRONSKIN (Tor, 2012) was nominated for a Nebula, and the sequel COPPERHEAD comes out today! She narrates for Podcastle and Beneath Ceaseless Skies, runs the Parsec-winning flash fiction podcast Toasted Cake, and her website is

My Favorite Bit: Alethea Kontis talks about HERO

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Alethea Kontis is joining us today with her novel, Hero. Here’s the publisher’s description.

Rough-and-tumble Saturday Woodcutter thinks she’s the only one of her sisters without any magic—until the day she accidentally conjures an ocean in the backyard. With her sword in tow, Saturday sets sail on a pirate ship, only to find herself kidnapped and whisked off to the top of the world. Is Saturday powerful enough to kill the mountain witch who holds her captive and save the world from sure destruction? And, as she wonders grumpily, “Did romance have to be part of the adventure?” As in Enchanted, readers will revel in the fragments of fairy tales that embellish this action-packed story of adventure and, yes, romance.

What’s Alethea’s favorite bit?

HERO last cover


My favorite bit about Hero, my second novel and seventh published book, should be that it happened at all. When Enchanted was accepted and we pitched the rest of the Woodcutter Sisters books, the publisher politely said, “We see Enchanted as a stand-alone novel.” When Enchanted sold out its first print run in the first few weeks of release, the publisher politely said, “Remember how you said you had other books planned? We’d like two more please. The first one is due in three months.” And I actually delivered it on time. That should be the best part.

But in truth, my favorite bits about Hero are still the cross-dressing and mistaken-identity bits.

I blame this on my parents, who took my little sister and me to every Shakespeare in the Park under the sun when we were growing up. As young as six and eight, Soteria and I were blossoming child actresses with a deep appreciation for the stage. My parents didn’t have a lot of money back then, and Shakespeare in the Park was often free.

Shakespeare in the Park was generally held in the summer, and was by and large comedic. Fortunately, Shakespeare wrote a wealth of comedies, many of them involving fairies, cross-dressing, and mistaken identities. And all of them, in some way, shape, or form, concerning love.

Clothes have always been a problem for me. My young life contained two sets of clothes: t-shirts and jeans, and costumes. Through grade school, this sort of thing isn’t really a problem. When one emerges from university and is expected to be a functioning member of society, this is suddenly a Big Deal.

I have always hated dresses, and therefore never knew how to dress “as a girl.” Similarly, after experimenting with makeup for an entire year in middle school, I gave it up completely. It wasn’t until I was thirty (and trying to impress a boy) that I attempted wearing skirts in public. I almost couldn’t leave the house–I felt naked.

But women did this all the time. Society even expected it. So I walked out the door that day and into the rest of my life. I hooked up with a friend who became my personal shopper for a time, and taught me about fashion. I read books. I began to appreciate my body instead of hiding it. I looked forward to finding a style that was all my own.

And then I started getting snide comments at the corporate job where I had worked for almost a decade. I wore a matching red plaid skirt and hat to work one day and was asked if I was “in costume.” A few months later, I received a formal reprimand for “not adhering to the dress code”, though they refused to be specific as to my crimes. (I quit shortly after that incident.)

I look in my closet now, four years later, and what do I see? T-shirts and jeans. Costumes. (And a section I like to call “convention casual.”) I get compliments all the time on my corsets and my hair jewelry and my face paint (it’s not just makeup, it’s ART). Turns out I’ve known who I was all along. I even had the right wardrobe. I was just in the wrong place.

In Hero, the female protagonist wears trousers and is mistaken for her brother. The male protagonist has been cursed into taking the place of the blind witch’s daughter, and so wears skirts and pretends to be female so his “mother” doesn’t kill him. I wanted to not-so-subtly remind the young people of today that clothes may be an expression of who you are, but they are not the definition. I hope, even in some small way, that I achieved that goal.

Want to know a secret? I really wanted to call the male protagonist Orsino, but I was afraid that would be too obvious a Shakespeare reference so I stuck with Peregrine. I am thrilled, however, that we got to keep Hero as a title. Because, though “hero” is a male-centric word, it’s also the name of a character from one of Shakespeare’s famous comedies.

And she’s a girl.








New York Times bestselling author Alethea Kontis is a princess, a goddess, a force of nature, and a mess. She’s known for screwing up the alphabet, scolding vampire hunters, turning garden gnomes into mad scientists, and making sense out of fairy tales.Alethea is the co-author of Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark-Hunter Companion, and penned the AlphaOops series of picture books. Her short fiction, essays, and poetry have appeared in a myriad of anthologies and magazines. She has done multiple collaborations with Eisner winning artist J.K. Lee, including The Wonderland Alphabet and Diary of a Mad Scientist Garden Gnome. Her debut YA fairy tale novel, Enchanted, won the Gelett Burgess Children’s Book Award in 2012 and was nominated for both the Andre Norton Award and the Audie Award in 2013.

My Favorite Bit: J Tullos Hennig talks about SHIREWODE

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J Tullos Hennig is joining us today with her novel, Shirewode. Here’s the publisher’s description.

Book Two of the Wode

The King of the Shire Wode. That is what they will call you.

Years ago, a pagan commoner named Rob of Loxley befriended Gamelyn Boundys, a nobleman’s son, against seemingly insurmountable odds—and with horrific consequences. His home razed by order of the Church, Rob was left for dead, believing his sister, Marion, and his lover, Gamelyn, had perished.

But Gamelyn yet lives. Guilt-ridden by his unwitting betrayal of Loxley, one of the last bastions of the Old Religion, Gamelyn rides off to seek absolution in the Holy Land. Rob vanishes into the greenwode and emerges as leader of a tight-knit band of outcasts who revolt against the powers that be.

When the two lovers meet again, it will be in a brutal, blindfolded game of foxes and hounds that pits Templar assassin against Heathen outlaw. Yet the past cannot be denied, and when Rob discovers Marion is also still alive, the game turns. History will chronicle Robyn Hood and Guy of Gisbourne as the deadliest of enemies, but the reality is more complicated—and infinitely more tragic.

What’s JTH’s favorite bit?



Thanks, Mary, for giving me the opportunity to ponder this.

And I did ponder a while before coming to the realization that nearly all my Favourite Bits start out as distinct challenges. This Bit, at its heart, had a weird polar opposition: something so familiar it could inspire groans instead of cheers… yet something no fictional representation has cared to broach.

There are so many Guys of Gisbourne, after all This Bad Guy has been in almost every version of Robin Hood for the past hundred years, he has graced books, plays, movies and television series. So my Guy (oh dear, that really does sound like the Mary Wells tune, doesn’t it? *facepalm*) had to have something different about him, some twist in motivation and being. Of course the main twist, that he and Robin (aka Robyn) were boyhood lovers, is definitely new, but it influences the story’s character, not just Guy’s. Also, many of those aforementioned Guys are a departure from the ballad, not the one-off horsehide affecting bounty hunter hired by the Sheriff to kill Robin Hood. I really wanted to go back to the original ballads.

And in those ballads lay the answer. Right there, in the text of Robin Hood and Guy of Gisburne. Bounty hunter. Horsey drag. And not just some little horsehide cape, but the Full Monty of “top and tayle and mayne”. While Guy has become quite popular, no one seems willing to deal with the horsy drag. And why?

Because it’s frankly more than a few bales shy of a cartload. Even Robin, in the original ballad, thinks Guy is addlepated for wearing it.

But, man, what an opportunity! I grabbed it and ran. And stopped about four paces in. I mean, it is addlepated. However to make it fly?

At least I had options:

  • Guy is not playing with a full deck.
  • Tie it into ritual folklore… this story is about forest deities and magic, after all.
  • Come up with a prosaic explanation. One that isn’t boring.

Starting with #1… I wanted Guy to not be either insane or dim-witted–those are roles he’s played many times already. #3… well, horsy drag is actually not as mad as one might suppose. Stalking horses were used for hunting, where, yes, people did dress up as horses to confuse their body lines. But while Guy is hunting, it’s not for the king’s deer but a wolfshead… a very human outlaw and one Guy believes to be a pretender to the magical covenant of the Shire Wode…

Given the choice between bread and mead and mythos… well, I’ll whinge, because I really like bread and mead, but mythos will always win. And this challenge (like most when you stop fighting them and just be present) layered itself, as I wrote, with all sorts of yummy subtext and symbolism. So…

What happens when a Templar assassin tries to infiltrate a Pagan ritual and ends up dressing as the hob horse, one of the more powerful symbols of Pagan ritual?

Here’s a bit of that Bit:


“The’ ’Ob ’Oss!”

“Th’ Wode Horse! The Tup!”

The Tup… The Wode Horse… It hissed through and over the crowd, excited murmurs, echoes in the trees.

“Aye, the Tup! An’ he’s brung seed to th’ dying ground!”

Within a matter of moments, Guy was amidst a small crowd of masked revelers, a dance twining and spiraling about him. The ones coming the closest were mostly females, and they were laughing, each trying to shove the other toward him.

Guy had to force himself to not turn tail and run. Inconceivable, that a bunch of maidens would nearly make him retreat when he had faced down desert armies.

Abruptly he remembered the teeth on his mask, groped at his chest, yanked at the string. The teeth snapped together with decided effect; the lasses shrieked, darted away. But they were laughing, and they kept coming back for more.

Fairly soon he was the center of laughing and hollering folk, pulled into the dance. The dancing line swung past the river, curled about, and came back to the caverns. Guy played his part, every sense heedful. Waiting.

“’Tis time for the horseplay, aye?” A growling purl of a baritone, its common accent not dodging its power in the least. Everyone turned, expectant. The surge forward and murmurings of the surrounding people revealed everything: who it was, and why.

Waiting was over. It stood, limned by fire, in the largest of the cavern openings. A man… a beast… unbelievably tall with an immense, fourteen-point rack seeming to sprout from the cowled head. Caped with furs and feathers, rags and leathers, it was impossible to see body shape, or to discern if there truly was a body beneath. The sight of it stirred the unlikeliest of fears in the deepest places; Guy barely caught himself from angling back in sheer instinct. It was the gilt on the tines, and the glint of chain—bronze and silvered—dangling from the rack of antlers like the scrapings of velvet, which pulled him further from superstitious instinct, from reaction to rational.

This was no simple pilfer from the king’s deer… the horns held upon them more wealth than any of these peasants would see in a lifetime. The Horns of the god? Was Guy looking at part of what his master had sent him for—one of the artifacts this murderous wolfshead had stolen?

The beast-man’s fire-lit eyes locked on him. Guy abruptly found himself in the midst of the circle, the masked revelers parting around him. He was left solitary, ringed by masked faces and glittering eyes.

“Did you think I’d let you do this, Gisbourne?” Full of some deep emotion, the beast-man’s mellifluous voice slapped Guy sideways and, inexplicably, traced shivers across his skin. “Take him.”


Again, many thanks, Mary, for being such a gracious host. You have a lovely place here!






About the Author:  With an inveterate fascination in other times and places, J Tullos Hennig has managed a few lifetime professions in this world–equestrian, artist, dancer–but has never successfully managed to not be a writer.  Abysmal luck had a lot to do with the late start in publishing, but her books are better now than thirty years ago, anyway.  She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her long-time spouse, and is beholden to several geriatric equines on retirement pensions–erm, pastures.

My Favorite Bit: Lynne M. Thomas talks about Glitter & Mayhem

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With a line-up of allstars, you expect great things. The sparkle-fest inside Glitter and Mayhem does not disappoint. In fact, just saying that it’s a science-fiction, fantasy, and horror anthology inspired by roller discos ought to be enough to make any reasonably interesting person run out and buy a copy. And it’s not just roller discos, it has night clubs, velvet ropes, and every glam scenario you can think of, all with a speculative twist.

Sounds groovy? It is. But here, let’s have Lynne Thomas, one of the Hugo-award winning editors who brought you this anthology, tell you about her Favorite Bit.

What’s Lynne’s favorite bit?



While we’re rather partial to glow skating, our favorite bit of Glitter & Mayhem is the sheer variety of parties that readers will find in this book.

We sought stories that would fit in a roller rink or a club: drugs, sex, glitter and debauchery, nightlife with an SF/F twist. We wanted to create the best party you’ve ever been to–even if you’re not quite sure you’re going to make it out alive, given the life-altering substances, alien invasions, and bone-rattling music. And we certainly got them. With stories ranging from sentient cocktails to deadly roller derby, to funkadelic space battles and glam aliens, to selkies and mermaids and princesses at the underground club (oh my!), we’re pretty sure you’ve never seen anything like this.

Twenty stories, twenty authors, creating an epic party floor, just for you. You’ll find Seanan McGuire exploring her New York Times Bestselling InCryptid universe, as well as stories by Christopher Barzak, Maurice Broaddus, Daryl Gregory, Maria Dahvana Headley, Tim Pratt, Diana Rowland, and more. Amber Benson provided a floor-rattling introduction, and Galen Dara created our amazing, eye-catching cover art.

Your party hosts are the Hugo Award-winning editors John Klima (Electric Velocipede) and Lynne M. Thomas (Apex Magazine), and the Hugo-nominated editor Michael Damian Thomas (Apex Magazine).

All because we think glow skating is awesome.

After the 2012 WorldCon in Chicago, John Klima, Michael Damian Thomas and myself were chatting on Twitter with some authors about how we missed everyone terribly after the convention ended. We needed an excuse to get everyone together again, preferably for a party, because we like those a lot. Book launch parties, in particular, are something we enjoy, as they combine two of our favorite things: books and parties. Michael noticed that San Antonio, the site of this year’s WorldCon, has a retro roller rink that does GLOW SKATING. Which we all agreed would be an ideal site for the Best. Book. Launch.Party. Ever.

Of course, a book launch party requires a book. We went from wanting an excuse to go glow skating to trying to create an SF/F anthology where glow skating seemed perfectly reasonable, so long as you understand that the cocktails may be alive, and the people skating with you may be aliens or something else entirely.

We went to Kickstarter back in February to find other folks to join (and fund) the party. In partnership with Apex Publications and through the generosity of our backers, we are now publishing Glitter & Mayhem. When the Kickstarter ended, we had no fiction in hand (yet). Glitter & Mayhem, like the most memorable parties, was put together in a bit of a creative frenzy, from reading submissions to finalizing stories, and submitted to the publisher in about six weeks. Total.

Since the launching point of Glitter & Mayhem was to create an anthology that would go well with a glow skating launch party, we are of course hosting one in San Antonio at WorldCon for our anthology contributors and Kickstarter backers.

Glitter & Mayhem the most glamorous party in the multiverse, is available for purchase via Apex Publications and other fine purveyors of books on September 1, 2013.

We sincerely hope you’ll join the party. We’ve brought the glitter.





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David Celsi is a dear friend of mine and an amazing artist. His work appears in  the New York Times, Dark Horse Comics, and a ton of other publications. But he also does this thing — the 24 hour comic — in which he creates a comic from start to finish in 24 hours. Lots of comic artists do this, but David’s are funny, irreverent, and striking. This volume, from Dark Horse Comics, gives you a chance to see comics in the raw. Dive in. It’s fascinating and wonderful.

What’s David’s favorite bit?


My new book, EVERYBODY GETS IT WRONG! (AND OTHER STORIES): DAVID CHELSEA’S 24 HOUR COMICS VOLUME 1, published by Dark Horse, collects the first six (out of sixteen so far) 24 hour comics I have drawn. The 24 Hour Comic challenge was devised by Scott McCloud, the author of UNDERSTANDING COMICS: to draw an entire comic book in a single day, at the rate of one page an hour.

I drew my first 24-Hour Comic mostly as a vacation from artist’s block. I had been wrestling for some time with plans for an ambitious graphic novel, basically getting nowhere. Eventually I decided it was time to do something drastic to prove to myself that I could actually complete something, so I invited some cartoonist friends over for a “24 Hour Comics” session in May 2004. All in all, that first experience worked out far better than I would have expected, and in the years since I have tried to meet a self-imposed quota of one or two a year.

Of the stories in this collection, JESUSLAND is my personal favorite, even though it is somewhat dated. It was drawn just after the 2004 Presidential election, when Democrats like me were in shock and awe at how Republicans had mobilized the Evangelical vote to give George W. Bush a second term. Since that election had been fought so much in religious terms, I fantasized that it would be followed by another one to choose a State Religion, with the leading contenders being the Catholic Church and its historic enemy Evangelical Protestantism (never mind that the two groups had been on the Republican side in the last election- I wanted them back at each other’s throats).

In depicting the characters, I borrowed a device from Art Spiegelman’s MAUS. Each religious group was personified as a different animal- Catholics were cats, all varieties of Protestant from Anglicans to Unitarians were rabbits, Jews were mice (just as in Maus), Atheists were apes (one wears a Darwin t-shirt), and Scientologists were space aliens. I was never able to come up with a suitable animal to represent Mormons, so they don’t appear.

While having fun satirizing a number of tempting targets, including then-President Bush, Pope Benedict, and the hubbub over the Terry Schiavo case, I was also able to make a number of serious points, one of which I put into the mouths of two members of the most marginalized and ridiculed religious groups of all, the Jehovah’s Witnesses: that Christians ought to be opposed to democracy in principle because when Pilate put it to a vote, the mob chose Barabbas over Jesus.

In this scene I take aim at Scientology and Mel Gibson’s brand of hyper-conservative Catholicism. The blackmailing tactics employed by Travolta and Cruise simply reflect a longstanding rumor about Scientology; the obscure detail I’m particularly proud of is that Gibson happens to be directing a film called The Prioress’s Tale. At the time, Mel’s Jesus movie The Passion Of The Christ had just been released and was being widely criticized for its supposed Anti-Semitism; I figured it would be logical for him to follow up with a classic tale of Jewish villainy from literature. Chaucer fans will of course recognize the Canterbury Tale of a Christian child stoned to death by Jewish villagers, which has embarrassed scholars for centuries, and is still considered so offensive that it is often censored out of modern editions. (In the real world, Mel Gibson followed up The Passion of The Christ with Apocalypto, a bloody story set in Pre-Columbian Peru that nobody remembers.)

The Prioress’s Tale recurs later in the story as a movie poster on a wall, graced with an approving quote from conservative pundit Michael Medved: ”You’ll scream for blood!”




David Chelsea grew up in Portland, Oregon, and later moved to New York City for a spell. His comics and illustrations have appeared in numerous publications, including the New York Times, the New York Observer, and Portland Monthly. He is the author of the graphic novels David Chelsea In Love and Welcome To The Zone and the how-to book Perspective! For Comic Book Artists and its sequel Extreme Perspective!

David now lives with his wife Eve, son Benjamin, daughter Rebecca, a cat, and a snake in a big house in Portland’s historic Irvington neighborhood.

David has completed sixteen 24-hour Comics stories to date, a world’s record until someone tells him different. A collection of the first six, EVERYBODY GETS IT WRONG! (AND OTHER STORIES): DAVID CHELSEA’S 24 HOUR COMICS VOLUME 1, was recently published by Dark Horse.

My Favorite Bit: Mindy Klasky talks about SINGLE WITCH’S SURVIVAL GUIDE

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Mindy Klasky is joining us today with her novel, Single Witch’s Survival Guide. Here’s the publisher’s description.

Jane Madison’s life is perfect: She’s left her unsatisfying librarian job, moved to the country with her boyfriend David (who is also her hunky astral warder), and opened a school for witches.  Alas, Jane never thought her students would be so challenging. And she didn’t think Hecate’s Court would mandate a Major Working by Halloween. And she never imagined she and David would end up fighting about … everything!  Before long, Jane wonders if she should ditch the Madison Academy. But that would have dire magical repercussions – in addition to tossing her love-life in the trash. Jane needs a Single Witch’s Survival Guide!

Single Witch’s Survival Guide is the first volume in the Jane Madison Academy Series.

What’s Mindy’s favorite bit?



Thank you, Mary, for letting me chime in on My Favorite Bit from Single Witch’s Survival Guide, the first volume in the Jane Madison Academy Series!

Once upon a time (because that’s how all the great stories begin), I was a little girl who attended religious school at my synagogue.  And I was a little girl who loved books.  So when I was allowed to choose my first elective class, I chose “Library”.

Alas, the synagogue library wasn’t exactly well-stocked with exciting stories – at least not for an elementary school student.  But I found one book that I cherished – enough to check it out over and over and over again.

The volume was a collection of folktales, translated from Yiddish.  And my favorite folktale was “The Man Whose House Was Too Small”.  You can read a version of it here:  Link:  (tl; dr:  A man complains to his rabbi that his house is too small, then follows the rabbi’s successive instructions to bring his chickens, then his goats, then his cow into the house.  When the rabbi tells him he can return all the animals to the barn, the man revels in how large his house has become.)

I have always loved that story.  At heart, it’s about learning to be content with what we have.  It’s about changing the lenses for our everyday-viewing glasses, about making a basic adjustment to who we are and what we think so that we emerge happier and healthier.

And that’s why “The Man Whose House Was Too Small” became a backbone for Single Witch’s Survival Guide.

In my novel, Jane Madison is a librarian who finds out she’s a witch.  Everything in her life is going perfectly when she decides to create a school for witches.  But then, her students turn out to be a lot more challenging than she expects.  And Hecate’s Court demands that Jane and her students complete a Major Working by Halloween.  And Jane finds herself fighting constantly with her astral warder (who happens to be her boyfriend, or beau, or significant other, or whatever word is most appropriate for a young thirty-something in a committed relationship).

Jane is filled with discontent – about her magical life and her mundane one.  Alas, she doesn’t go to the local rabbi for a solution.  But she does seek guidance from the next-best source – her octogenarian grandmother.  Before long, Jane’s life is turned upside down, to the point that she might as well be surrounded by chickens, and goats, and a cow.

My Favorite Bit of Single Witch is a story I first read almost forty years ago.  And I loved playing with that ancient folktale and making it part of a light, witchy novel for today.


Sample the first chapter of SINGLE WITCH:

Buy the book here:


Mindy Klasky learned to read when her parents shoved a book in her hands and told her she could travel anywhere in the world through stories. She never forgot that advice.

Mindy’s travels took her through multiple careers – from litigator to librarian to full-time writer. Mindy’s travels have also taken her through various literary genres for readers of all ages – from traditional fantasy to paranormal chick-lit to category romance, from middle-grade to young adult to adult.

In her spare time, Mindy knits, quilts, and tries to tame her endless to-be-read shelf. Her husband and cats do their best to fill the left-over minutes.

My Favorite Bit: Michael J. Martinez talks about THE DAEDALUS INCIDENT

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Michael J. Martinez is joining us today with his novel The Daedalus Incident. Here’s the publisher’s description.

Mars is supposed to be dead…a fact Lt. Shaila Jain of the Joint Space Command is beginning to doubt in a bad way.

Freak quakes are rumbling over the long-dormant tectonic plates of the planet, disrupting its lucrative mining operations and driving scientists past the edges of theory and reason. However, when rocks shake off their ancient dust and begin to roll—seemingly of their own volition—carving canals as they converge to form a towering structure amid the ruddy terrain, Lt. Jain and her JSC team realize that their routine geological survey of a Martian cave system is anything but. The only clues they have stem from the emissions of a mysterious blue radiation — and, inexplicably, a 300-year-old journal that is writing itself.

Lt. Thomas Weatherby of His Majesty’s Royal Navy is an honest 18th-century man of modest beginnings, doing his part for King and Country aboard HMS Daedalus, a frigate sailing the high seas between continents…and the immense Void between the Known Worlds. Across the Solar System and among its colonies—rife with plunder and alien slave trade—through dire battles fraught with strange alchemy, nothing much can shake his resolve. But events are transpiring to change all that.

With the aid of his fierce captain, a drug-addled alchemist, and a servant girl with a remarkable past, Weatherby must track a great and powerful mystic, who has embarked upon a sinister quest to upset the balance of the planets—the consequences of which may reach far beyond the Solar System, threatening the very fabric of space itself.

Set sail among the stars with this uncanny tale, where adventure awaits, and dimensions collide!

What’s Michael’s favorite bit?



When you see a 300-year-old journal writing itself…well, you may need a moment.

My absolute favorite bit in THE DAEDALUS INCIDENT stems from that moment. It wasn’t something I was planning to talk about now, a week before the book’s print release, because it’s one of those great “reveals” that I wouldn’t want to spoil. But the marketers did it for me in the book description, which is right above this little essay, so I figure I might as well run with it.

The characters in the book are astronauts and scientists stationed at a backwater mining colony on Mars, in a future that could very plausibly look like our own – and certainly one in which journals don’t write themselves. Up until they witness this rather incredible event, they had many different theories as to what’s been going on around Mars – earthquakes, wild radiation events, the very ground sculpting itself into new shapes. Their theories to that point were at least scientifically possible, if not all that plausible. Even the discovery of the journal in the first place was chalked up to a very odd happenstance: Someone just up and brought an antique to Mars, then dropped it in a cave? OK, then. People can be weird like that, I guess.

But when they have that antique journal locked in a containment lab, and see the letters start appearing on the page without warning, as if by magic…they got nothing. No ideas, no theories, nada. In that moment, they’re lost.

And the journal’s writing describes a place – a universe, really – in which sailing ships from the 18th century ply the Void between planets.

My favorite bit comes from my characters’ very visceral, very unnerved reaction to all of that. I’ve read a decent amount of fantasy and science fiction over the years, and seen more on the big and small screens. And I got tired of seeing some wondrous, amazing, utterly impossible thing happen…and the main character’s response is to make a blasé quip or shoot at it.

In DAEDALUS, the characters see the letters appear, and just watch…and process…and tremble a little bit as the world they know gets completely, irrevocably upended. It takes time for them to wrap their heads around it. Even when even more bizarre things start to happen – up to and including a frigate crashing into the planet – they’re still trying to get a grip on their own feelings and emotions from that one key moment when life as they knew it changed forever.

That’s my favorite bit, because to me, it’s the most human one.



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Twitter: @mikemartinez72


Michael J. Martinez has spent 20 years in journalism and communications writing other people’s stories. A few years ago, in a moment of blinding hubris, he thought he’d try to write one of his own. THE DAEDALUS INCIDENT is the result. Mike currently lives in northern New Jersey with his wonderful wife, amazing daughter and The Best Cat in the World. He’s an avid traveler and homebrewer, and since nobody has told him to stop yet, he continues to write fiction. He is a proud member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

My Favorite Bit: Jim C. Hines talks about CODEX BORN

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Look! Jim C. Hines has a new Libriomancer book! I adored the first in this series and was delighted to read Codex Born. Jim’s main character, Isaac Vainio is a reference librarian but more than that, he’s a type of magician who can pull magic out of books. Not just magic, actually. He can pull any object that will fit through the pages out of a book. Excaliber? Check. Lightsaber? No problem. Phaser? You got it. So he can take these things, kick ass, and appropriately catalog the bad guys afterwards.

What I was really excited to see in the new book, is an expansion of one of my favorite characters, Lena. She’s a dryad and can do amazing, amazing things with anything wood. Jim handles thorny issues of identity and self-awareness in this book, so it’s not only a full-throtle adventure, it also makes you think. I highly recommend this series.

So what’s his Favorite Bit?



Lena Greenwood is one of the most challenging characters I’ve ever written. That was a deliberate, if masochistic, choice on my part. I wanted her to challenge assumptions about the prototypical strong urban fantasy heroine. Lena is short, heavyset, dark-skinned, and badass enough to take out a sparkling vampire with a pair of chopsticks.

And she’s problematic as hell. In Libriomancer, we learn Lena is a dryad, born from the pages of a novel called Nymphs of Neptune, a book which, like so many others, plays directly into male sexual fantasies. Lena’s nature is defined by that book, meaning her personality molds itself to the preferences and desires of her lover. In her words, “I was a fantasy. I had more in common with the airbrushed centerfold of a men’s magazine than I did with a real human being.”

How often do we see women portrayed in exactly this way? Even their strength is fetishized. Comics offer some of the most obvious examples, creating women who are simultaneously strong and powerful, but also exaggerated and posed to appeal to the desires of men. They’re drawn for sexual consumption. Lena makes the same connection in Codex Born.

“Ridiculously clothed women stared up at me from the pages, bodies contorted into bone-bending poses that better displayed their exaggerated curves … I reached out to turn the page of a recent issue of Catwoman. In one panel, the breasts straining to burst from her leather bodysuit were larger than her head, and her waist was thinner than her neck.”

Part of what I wanted to do in this book was show Lena’s struggle to come to terms with who and what she is, and her efforts to try to move beyond the limits of her nature. One step in that process was to acknowledge and explicitly reject ideas about feminine perfection and idealized beauty, and to recognize that the myth of the perfect fantasy lover is both ridiculous and destructive.

That’s what led to one of my favorite parts of Codex Born, in which Lena muses about humanity and our ideas on beauty and relationships:

Maybe that’s why they created me. To be their other half, the answer to the myth.Easier than scouring the planet for an impossible dream. Easier, too, than learning to set aside the dream and embrace a human being who is as flawed and imperfect as you.

Humans are so obsessed with true love, the perfect relationship. They imagine that one elusive person who fits their quirks and foibles and desires like a puzzle piece. And of course, when a potential mate falls short of that perfection, they reject them. They were too old, too young, too silly, too serious, too fat, too thin. They liked the wrong TV shows. They hated chocolate. They voted for the other guy. They didn’t put the toilet seat down.

They invent a million excuses for rejection, a million ways to find others unattractive. Their skill at seeing ugliness in others is matched only by their ability to see it in the mirror, to punish themselves for every imagined flaw. No matter who I’ve become, I never understood that facet of humanity.

I remember when Isaac introduced me to Doctor Who. In one episode, the Doctor met a man who said he wasn’t important. The Doctor replied, “I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t important before.”

I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t beautiful. People have simply forgotten how to see.

Frank Dearing was a selfish, petty, controlling bastard, but when he was working in the field, the hard muscles of his body shining with sweat as he coaxed life from the dirt…the man was an asshole, but he was a hot asshole.

Nidhi Shah was softer. She dressed to minimize the physical. Age and stress had mapped faint lines onto her face. And she was gorgeous. Even before you stripped off her clothes and kissed your way down her neck…

Then there was Isaac Vainio, a skinny geek of a man who lugged his pet spider around everywhere he went. But he had such passion, such raw joy and excitement. That passion transformed him into something sexier than any rock star.

The more we narrow the definition of beauty, the more beauty we shut out of our lives.






Jim C. Hines is a level 6 geek, multiclassed as a writer and customer support person. He generally wears leather thieves’ armor (with 39 hidden pockets for everything from bookmarks to a sonic screwdriver) that gives him a +2 armor class bonus. He took blogging as a bonus feat and recently spent some skill points in Sanchin-Ryu karate, earning a black belt that gives +3 to roughhousing with his two children. He also put points into juggling and yo-yo tricks, because juggling and yo-yos are cool. He gets an automatic penalty to all encounters with goblins, who still haven’t forgiven him for everything he put them through in his GOBLIN QUEST trilogy. Jim is worth 350 XP. Roll on Treasure Chart F to determine what he will be carrying. For complete character stats or excerpts from his work, please check out

My Favorite Bit: Chris F. Holm talks about THE BIG REAP

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Chris F. Holm is joining us today with his novel The Big Reap. Here’s the publisher’s description.

The Collector Book Three

Who Collects the Collectors?

Sam Thornton has had many run-ins with his celestial masters, but he’s always been sure of his own actions. However, when he’s tasked with dispatching the mythical Brethren – a group of former Collectors who have cast off their ties to Hell – is he still working on the side of right?

What’s Chris’s Favorite Bit?



With apologies to Mary, I have a confession to make: I’ve no intention of talking about my favorite bit of THE BIG REAP today. You see, THE BIG REAP is the conclusion of my (first) Collector trilogy, and if I were to tell you about the bit I liked the best – the scene that broke my heart to write – I’d be spoiling something I’ve been building toward for three books. So instead, if you’ll forgive my impertinence, I offer up My Second Favorite Bit.

Each of my Collector novels has its own flavor. DEAD HARVEST blended fantasy with classic crime pulp in the vein of Chandler and Hammett. THE WRONG GOODBYE folded in a healthy dose of Lovecraft and a dash of buddy comedy. For THE BIG REAP, I wanted to pay homage to the horror movies that warped my childhood – from stone classics like Dracula and Frankenstein, to the cheesy B-movies whose schlock was lost on poor, credulous pre-teen me.

One such schlockfest was Poltergeist 2. Though largely dismissed as a tacky cash-in on the original’s critical and commercial success, this movie lodged itself in my psyche on the strength of a horrifying scene in which Craig T. Nelson ingests a demonic tequila worm.

Yes, I know how silly that sounds. And truth be told, I never thought it would find its way into my fiction. But when I needed my protagonist to get from point A to point B on the quick, a funny thought occurred to me: I should send him through a wormhole. So I wrote Sam his own bottle, his own noxious beverage, his own worm. He’s understandably reluctant to drink it:

“Uh, is that a live worm?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Lilith. “It’s only half of one. The mouth-bearing half, to be precise. The, uh, bottom half is somewhere else. Once you consume it, it will, well, cause you to generate a sac of sorts, much like the one you see at your feet. Its other half will do the same. Within the cocoon, the worm will feed on you, causing your vessel to be digested. Fear not, it derives no sustenance from your meat; what it gleans its energy from is the molecular resonance which anchors you to this particular plane of existence. The creature itself exists across many planes at once, which is why it can be split in two without injury. Once it’s done with you, you will pass, reassembled, like so much refuse from its system. This worm was long used whole to facilitate astral projection, for in its normal feeding cycle, the victim would simply experience wild hallucinations only to awaken precisely where they were they began. But a few dark mages realized its potential for physical transport as well.”

She handed the bottle to me. I eyed it dubiously. “So I drink this, and then get eaten, and then get shit out someplace else?”

But, as his enemies bear down on him and his options for egress dwindle, Sam’s left with no choice:

I uncorked the bottle. Watched the grub-looking worm thingy wriggle toward the surface, its front end opening into a four-pointed star of a mouth, exposing a pink interior ringed all around with tiny teeth. Got dizzy from the sight, and from the tincture’s noxious fumes.

And then, eyes closed, I drank.

For a moment, nothing happens – but then the half-worm sinks its teeth into Sam’s stomach lining, and his pores begin secreting a resinous brown goo that hardens as it hits the air. The pain as it engulfs him is excruciating – at least until the world around him drops away:

Suddenly, a vast bluish plane unfolded all around me, dotted with a billion billion points of light. Souls, I realized or was told or always knew: all that are, or were, or ever will be. The whole of human existence, laid out across a thin skein of light. I zoomed backward from it – weightless, bodiless – and that wisp-thin plane became but one whorl in the vast fingerprint of all existence, a single undulating tree-ring in the cross-section of the universe. The other planes were red and green and purple and black and a thousand other colors not yet imagined, or perhaps impossible for our own eyes to discern. And between those planes swam flew floated massive beasts like whales like sharks like snakes like oh my God like giant worms and I was in one I was one I am one I will forever be one and then, as quick as it began, I felt a pain in my stomach that reminded me I had a stomach I felt a tingle in my limbs that reminded me I had limbs I felt an awful burning in my sinuses that reminded me how godawful that rotting worm sac smelled and then I was tumbling twisting falling naked in a slick of amniotic fluid toward a filthy flop-house mattress a massive ruptured cocoon hanging above me and it was cold and damp and dark a basement I thought or a storeroom or a warehouse empty and abandoned and still I fell as if forever but not forever merely seconds and somewhere nearby or faraway both trumpet-loud and whisper-soft a phone was ringing ringing ringing in the dark.

Thusly is Sam transported from the wilds of Romania to a dingy basement some five thousand miles away. I was delighted an unlikely inspiration allowed me to turn this necessary bit of table-setting into something strange and wondrous in its own right. Oh, and any Herbert fans reading this might be amused to know the mage who concocted the “potent mélange of wormwood and peyote, psilocybin and belladonna, all steeped in pure grain alcohol” in which the worm resides is named Shaddam. Because, c’mon, how can you write a scene involving a worm and traversing space-time without a nod to DUNE?









Chris F. Holm’s Collector novels recast the battle between heaven and hell as Golden Era crime pulp. The third book in the series, THE BIG REAP, is available July 30 in the US, and August 1 worldwide. He lives on the coast of Maine with his lovely wife and a noisy, noisy cat.

My Favorite Bit: Michael R. Underwood talks about Celebromancy

My Favorite Bit icon Michael R. Underwood’s new book, Celebromancy, is ridiculous fun. For full disclosure, I narrated the audio book so I’m biased but, I have to tell you that this was the most fun I’ve had recording a book in a while. I got to make light saber noises. Seriously, y’all. Go buy this book in either ebook or audio.

What’s it about?  Here’s the publisher’s description.

Fame has a magic all its own in the no-gossip-barred follow-up to Geekomancy. Ree Reyes gets her big screenwriting break, only to discover just how broken Hollywood actually is.

Things are looking up for urban fantasista Ree Reyes. She’s using her love of pop culture to fight monsters and protect her hometown as a Geekomancer, and now a real-live production company is shooting her television pilot script.

But nothing is easy in show business. When an invisible figure attacks the leading lady of the show, former-child star-turned-current-hot-mess Jane Konrad, Ree begins a school-of-hard-knocks education in the power of Celebromancy.

Attempting to help Jane Geekomancy-style with Jedi mind tricks and X-Men infiltration techniques, Ree learns more about movie magic than she ever intended. She also learns that real life has the craziest plots: not only must she lift a Hollywood-strength curse, but she needs to save her pilot, negotiate a bizarre love rhombus, and fight monsters straight out of the silver screen. All this without anyone getting killed or, worse, banished to the D-List.

So what’s Michael’s Favorite Bit?

Celebromancy by Michael R. Underwood


For the Geekomancy My Favorite Bit, I focused on Drake Winters, steampunk inventor and kind-hearted man out of time.

In Celebromancy, set six months after the end of book one, Hollywood has come to town. Ree has sold a pilot to a production company, and the executive producer is none other than Jane Konrad, a former child actress who has become a major celebrity – partially for her impressive performances, but more recently for her personal implosion.

When I started to design the second novel in the Ree Reyes series, I wanted to explore a whole new style of magic – Celebromancy. Whereas Geekomancy is the magic of fandom, of the personal relationship to a text or character, Celebromancy is the magic of fame – of being adored, despised, of being known. Writing about Celebromancy meant writing about celebrity, about how contemporary culture (especially in the USA) focuses on creating celebrities and fostering incredibly asymmetrical relationships with people you’ve never met.

Social Media has allowed celebrities to create more direct relationship with fans, but the need for immediacy, for all-access coverage to fill blogs and 24 hour news networks has created such an incredible demand for celebrity coverage – it’s almost ritualistic. I don’t follow celebrity gossip, but it’s impossible to not be exposed to it, as it’s become so ubiquitous. We’re always been shown celebrities, reminded of how beautiful or talented they are, or on the flip side, how fickle, traitorous, or scheming they are.

Celebrities are, in some ways, the contemporaries of Greek Gods – lager than life figures who live very distant lives which sometimes impact our own. We collectively devote a huge amount of time and attention to them without ever knowing them as people.

For me, that was more than enough to be the source of a magic system. Celebromancy is about taking that exposure, that attention, and manipulating it. A Celebromancer can turn fan attention into a feedback loop, where some attention becomes more attention, or a passing interest becomes a sustaining passion. Many Celebromancers use their power to turn in better and better performances, which increase their popularity, fortune, and magical power all at once. It’s a feedback loop, in the same way I see modern celebrity as a feedback loop itself.

Jane Konrad, the guest star of the book, is an example of both the power and the danger of Celebromancy.


Celebromancy  amazon | B&N | | ibooks audible


Michael R. Underwood grew up devouring stories in all forms: movies, comics, TV, video games, and novels. He holds a B.A. in Creative Mythology and East Asian Studies from Indiana University and an M.A. in Folklore Studies from the University of Oregon, which have been great preparation for writing speculative fiction. Michael went straight from his M.A. to the Clarion West Writers Workshop and then landed in Bloomington, Indiana, where he remains. When not writing or selling books across the Midwest as an independent book representative, Michael dances Argentine Tango and studies renaissance martial arts. Celebromancy  is his second novel from Pocket Star for all eBook platforms.

My Favorite Bit: Jinx Strange talks about SILENT CITY

My Favorite Bit iconJinx Strange is joining us today with his weekly online serial, Silent City. 

Here’s the publisher’s description:

Silent City is a weekly online serial that follows the lives and affairs of the citizens of the eponymous underground settlement. Once a political and philosophical refuge from the magic-industrial city of Shaize, Silent City is now home to miscreants, outcasts and their would-be defenders.

To say that this ongoing saga of rats, plague doctors and even demon-possessed trains is non-traditional would be an understatement.  From the ambitious weekly publication schedule to the unapologetic mashing-up of genres, Silent City marches to the beat of its own sickly heart:

Take a classic Victorian ballroom epic, then bind it in rusty chains to a steampunk flight of magical techno-fancy.  Wrap it in burlap and sell it to a house of ill repute, and when you find it floating face-down in the Thames a week later, kick the cholera-soaked mess into the nearest open trench.  Years later,  you find it inexplicably standing over your bed, wearing a plague doctor mask.  Then the rats come.

That’s Silent City.

So what is Jinx’s favorite bit?



It would be a filthy lie to suggest that I wasn’t desperately in love with the whole of this project, from its morally ambiguous ensemble cast, to the grimy, pseudo-historical setting, to the insistent, desperate way the story asserts itself:  Silent City scratches around inside my skull like a trapped and dying animal behind a freshly laid brick wall.

There is one character that keeps emerging, in spite of my desire to keep this ensemble cast on equal footing:  The plague doctor, Lavinia Strani. Oddly enough, no one has yet described her to me as their favorite, which delights me to no end, as this embodies Lavinia’s angst.  She wouldn’t be recognized.  She wouldn’t be anyone’s favorite, in spite of her sacrifices.

Lavinia, more than any other character, embodies Silent City’s current theme of coping with devastating loss.  As a young woman, she was pressed into service to cope with victims of the Blackrattle Plague, a path which took her from promising young chemist to hopeful plague doctor.

After four years of being ravaged by the plague, Shaize eventually recovered, but left Lavinia twisting in the wind when they refused to acknowledge her as a legitimate doctor and license her to practice.  Bitter and determined, she set out for entry to the mysterious, almost mythical place beneath the sewers and drain tunnels of Shaize:  Silent City.  This path took her from bitter plague doctor to desperate guardian.

Forever at odds with the legitimate imperial government, the reigning Duke of Shaize sent the constabulary into the sewers to find and flush out Silent City once and for all, and but for a tip, they would have been successful.

What they found, however, was only cruel, agonizing death in the choking, damp tunnels of the sewers.  They died in the dark, afraid, boiled alive and gassed by the former chemist.

What I love about Dr. Lavinia Strani is that hers is the bone-weary story of a person who has only ever had the best of intentions, but who lives in a world that just won’t let her be the person she wanted to be.  She’s sacrificed everything, nearly everyone she cared about, to save Silent City. She just wanted to be a healer, but it seems at every turn that her skills are only called upon to do harm.

She’s been at this life so long that it feels like everything good has worn away in this damp, stifling place, and that she has to bitterly deal with the creature she’s become.  It’s too late for Lavinia Strani to have anything good.

Instead, you have a woman tangled in her own fury.

Lavinia’s story is the sad sort of affair of someone who’s lost too much, but that is strangely complemented by a heady sort freedom.  After all, when you don’t have any feelings left to hurt, what do you have to fear from pain?

Characters in Silent City all cope with their loss in various ways, but readers will find in Dr. Strani a woman who is long past trying to heal.  It seemss all that’s left in her is a gnawing, cancerous desire for revenge–or does she still carry a candle of hope and redemption, the flame of which is infinitely fragile?

What I love about Lavinia is that I myself don’t know.  As with all of the characters of Silent City, I try not to force her into a mold of who I think she should be, but merely let her be, the product of her circumstances and experience.  I’m sure we will arrive at a moment when we learn whether Lavinia’s heart is irreparably broken, or whether she will find something in the world for which to burn.

I expect I’ll be as surprised as you will.






I grew up on a steady, unsupervised diet of stand-up comedy and horror movies. I like to play with people who like to play with me. My first book was awful.(But I still love it.) Learn more about me at

My Favorite Bit: E. C. Ambrose talks about ELISHA BARBER

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You’ve been looking for a new historical fantasy series, right? Today we have E. C. Ambrose’s new book Elisha Barber, which is the first in the Dark Apostle series. Here’s the publisher’s description.

England in the fourteenth century: a land of poverty and opulence, prayer and plague… witchcraft and necromancy.

As a child, Elisha witnessed the burning of a witch outside of London, and saw her transformed into an angel at the moment of her death, though all around him denied this vision. He swore that the next time he might have the chance to bind an angel’s wounds, he would be ready. And so he became a barber surgeon, at the lowest ranks of the medical profession, following the only healer’s path available to a peasant’s son.

Elisha Barber is good at his work, but skill alone cannot protect him. In a single catastrophic day, Elisha’s attempt to deliver his brother’s child leaves his family ruined, and Elisha himself accused of murder. Then a haughty physician offers him a way out: come serve as a battle surgeon in an unjust war.

Between tending to the wounded soldiers and protecting them from the physicians’ experiments, Elisha works night and day.  Even so, he soon discovers that he has an affinity for magic, drawn into the world of sorcery by Brigit, a beautiful young witch… who reminds him uncannily of the angel he saw burn.

In the crucible of combat, utterly at the mercy of his capricious superiors, Elisha must attempt to unravel conspiracies both magical and mundane, as well as come to terms with his own disturbing new abilities. But the only things more dangerous than the questions he’s asking are the answers he may reveal.

What’s E. C.’s Favorite Bit?

Elisha Barber by E. C. Ambrose


J. R. R. Tolkien once claimed that, when he discovered Strider sitting in the dark recesses of Barleyman Butterbur’s common room, he didn’t know who he was or what he was doing there. That kind of discovery is both fascinating and disconcerting for the author.

I had a moment like that in Elisha Barber, with a character I’d already met and dismissed.

In the first scene, Elisha’s estranged brother bursts in on him while he’s shaving the beard of a fellow called Martin Draper, a wealthy merchant and the head of the Draper’s Guild. Elisha’s sister-in-law is in childbirth—and it’s all going wrong. When Elisha leaves at his brother’s urgent call, the merchant puffs up and shouts at him, insisting that he’ll report Elisha to the Barbers’ Guild for failing to finish the job.

Rounding on the man, Elisha said, “I hope they’ll consider a woman’s life of more value than half a beard.”

“A whore’s life,” the draper answered, then stepped back as Elisha held up the razor still gripped in his fist. His mobile face registered his regret, but Elisha was in no mood to play the draper’s game.

“Helena,” Elisha said in a low and terrible voice, “is a whore no longer, but you’ll be a bugger for the rest of your life, so I’ll ask you to keep your threats to yourself.”

Pale, the man’s jaw dropped, his half-beard bisecting his lips.

As he turned to follow his brother, Elisha thought it a fitting image, half a beard for a man with a double life. No, the order would hear of nothing from him for a variety of reasons.

Martin’s sexuality was a bit surprising, but how had Elisha found out? And what did Martin’s regret mean? My favorite bit? Not yet–just a curious exchange that suggested something a little deeper to the moment than I had thought. I shrugged and kept writing. After all, the scene was about Elisha and his brother, really. But a few chapters later, Elisha returns to his home after dark and has an argument he’s glad none would overhear. Both Elisha and I were surprised to find Martin there waiting for him. . .

“Martin,” Elisha gasped, trying to still the wild pulse.

Martin darted a quick glance around at the use of his name, then mounted the steps, and shut the door. He bent down and collected a silver knife which lay at the turned-up toes of his shiny boots. “I came, I’ve been waiting—” He gave a nod toward the fireplace beyond which was Elisha’s own chamber.

“About this afternoon,” Elisha began. “I am sorry, I hadn’t expected Nate, after so long—and to find me there—”

Laughing gently, Martin lifted another knife in his clean, beringed hand. He shook his head. “Don’t apologize, Elisha. I know what’s happened today. I least of all would ask any such apology from you. It is I who should apologize. I was playing at the supercilious merchant, and got a little carried away. Half your fee indeed.”

Elisha brought one knee up before him to act as a prop for his aching head. “How long were you waiting?”

“Not long.” Martin gathered a probe and a lancet, then a curved parting blade.

“Long enough to hear?”

He nodded.

Elisha blew out a breath.

Martin Draper, Master of the Draper’s Guild, crouched on the floor, one by one gathering Elisha’s filthy tools. Fastidiously, he avoided kneeling down and besmirching his clothes. Every so often, he wiped both tools and hands on a delicate kerchief not quite up to the task.

“Don’t do that,” Elisha said at last, snatching the handful of tools and reaching out for the next. “Your wife will notice blood.”

Laughing again, Martin rose. “My wife is dallying with a weaver, unless I miss my mark. Handsome lad he is, too. And a good thing, since he’s like to be the father of my next child.”

“I’ve no idea how you manage.”

“I am a tradesman, Elisha. I contract, I conspire, and, above all, I compromise.”

This is the scene that really hooked me, showing my protagonist as embedded in his world, just as he’s about to be ripped out of it. It embodies the delight of writing, learning more and finding the unexpected gifts that arise from the subconscious. The idea factory is still working hard, even when I think I’m doing something else.

Martin’s presence allowed me to reveal the back story for Elisha’s estrangement from his brother, and to build in some treasures I make use of later on, not only in this first volume, but continuing through the series. Startled as I was by Martin’s return, I followed through with the discovery, writing my way into knowing him—and knowing my protagonist all the better as a result. I didn’t know, at first, what Martin was doing there, what he wanted, or what his relationship with Elisha could be. More than business, clearly, but never lovers. Martin remains, to me, one of the most clear and intriguing characters in the book.


Elisha Barber  amazon | B&N | indiebound | audible


E. C. Ambrose is a newly minted history buff, part-time rock climbing instructor and accidental scholar. Along with the Dark Apostle series, published works include “The Romance of Ruins” in Clarkesworld, and “Custom of the Sea,” winner of the Tenebris Press Flash Fiction Contest 2012. Currently, the author works as an adventure guide. Past occupations include founding a wholesale business, selecting stamps for a philatelic company, selling equestrian equipment, and portraying the Easter Bunny on weekends. E. C. spends too much time in a tiny office in New Hampshire with a mournful black lab lurking under the desk.

For sample chapters, historical research and some nifty extras, visit

E. C. Ambrose blogs about the intersections between fantasy and history at




My Favorite Bit: T. L. Costa talks about PLAYING TYLER

My Favorite Bit icon

T. L. Costa is joining us today with her debut novel Playing Tyler.

Here’s the Publisher’s description:

When is a game not a game?

Tyler MacCandless can’t focus, even when he takes his medication. He can’t focus on school, on his future, on a book, on much of anything other than taking care of his older brother, Brandon, who’s in rehab for heroin abuse… again.

Tyler’s dad is dead and his mom has mentally checked out. The only person he can really count on is his Civilian Air Patrol Mentor, Rick. The one thing in life it seems he doesn’t suck at is playing video games and, well, thats probably not going to get him into college.

Just when it seems like his future is on a collision course with a life sentence at McDonald’s, Rick asks him to test a video game. If his score’s high enough, it could earn him a place in flight school and win him the future he was certain that he could never have. And when he falls in love with the game’s designer, the legendary gamer Ani, Tyler thinks his life might finally be turning around.

That is, until Brandon goes MIA from rehab and Tyler and Ani discover that the game is more than it seems. Now Tyler will have to figure out what’s really going on in time to save his brother… and prevent his own future from going down in flames.

So what is T. L.’s Favorite Bit?

Playing Tyler by T. L. Costa


My favorite thing about this book is my main character, Tyler.

Not having an agent or a publisher when I first sat down to write the book three years ago, all I knew was that I needed to write a book about drones and ethics and the future of warfare.

So when I sat down and began to write Tyler, I knew the basics. I knew he had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, a condition that I am all-too familiar with, I knew his birthday, his favorite snack, but it wasn’t until I gave him his voice that he became real to me. His voice, with its relentless, furious pace, became a reflection of his personality, of his situation, of his relationships.

I would go to the mall, the grocery store, the bank, and ask myself, “What would Tyler notice?” “How would he see this situation that I’m in right now?” It reminded me a bit of how I would prepare to play a certain character onstage. I would close my eyes, and then, when I opened them next, pretend I was my character as they observed their surroundings. What would they order at a coffee shop? What would they write in a text to a friend?

I love Ani, too. The story is told in a dual narrative and she was a joy to write. A game-designing prodigy, she’s brilliant and tough and willing to stand up to authority to carve a place for herself in the world. She is everything I would have wanted to be when I was sixteen. But there is something special about Tyler.

This kid, despite his disadvantages, fights for his future, for the future of the people he loves, without giving it a second thought.  He is open and honest and, inevitably, oh-so-confused by Ani, his crush.

The openness of his character, the way he sees the world, the way he wants so much to be a hero, to be somebody, the way he makes very human mistakes and learns from them, all of it had to be reflected through his voice.

It was great fun to write, I sincerely hope it will be as much fun to read.


Playing Tyleramazon | B&N | indiebound





T. L. Costa is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and has a Masters of Teaching from Quinnipiac University who taught high school for five years before becoming a full-time mom and writer.

She has lived in Texas, New York, New Jersey and Spain. Currently, she lives in Connecticut with her husband and two children.

My Favorite Bit: D. B. Jackson talks about THIEVES QUARRY

My Favorite Bit icon

Look! A new Thieftaker book. I am so enjoying D.B. Jackson’s historic fantasy series. It’s set in pre-Revolutionary War Boston and isn’t just historic fantasy, but is a full on mystery novel. Such fun.

I am also intensely jealous of his covers, which perfectly capture the tone of the novels. Look how gorgeous this is.

Thieves Quarry by D.B. Jackson

So what’s his Favorite Bit?


When I write about writing, I often point to character as the single most important element of storytelling. Characters with depth, characters who connect with readers, characters who fascinate, who entice, who enrage. As both reader and writer, I find that characters and their developmental arcs are what keep me engaged.

At least that’s sort of true. Recently I have come to realize it’s not characters in isolation that affect me so deeply, but rather the relationships among characters.

In Thieves’ Quarry, the second book in my Thieftaker Chronicles — coming out from Tor Books today, July 2! — my protagonist, Ethan Kaille, is called upon to investigate the murder of nearly one hundred soldiers and sailors aboard a British naval vessel. Boston is on the verge of being occupied by the army of His Majesty, King George III, and Ethan’s inquiry soon draws the unwanted attention of the Crown’s agents in the city, of Samuel Adams and his fellow revolutionaries, and of several thieves all of whom are trying to track down a cache of stolen pearls.

But as with Thieftaker, the first volume of the series, the narrative of Thieves’ Quarry revolves around Ethan’s interaction with his rival in thieftaking, the beautiful and dangerous Sephira Pryce. Their relationship is fraught with conflicting emotions and impulses: they loathe and fear each other, but Sephira needs Ethan, and Ethan, in turn, is driven by their rivalry to be better at what he does. And underlying every encounter is a subtle sexual tension that both would deny exists.

The challenge of this second book lay in drawing upon the aspects of their interaction that worked in book one, while also keeping their relationship fresh and exciting by introducing new dynamics.

Sephira has several men in her employ; Ethan works alone. She is influential, wealthy, beloved. Ethan is a loner, an ex-convict whom few people trust, much less wish to help. Until now, Ethan’s one advantage over Sephira has been his ability to conjure. So, the first thing I’ve done in Thieves’ Quarry is give Sephira access to magick by adding a conjurer to her retinue of toughs. Ethan’s spellmaking advantage is now gone.

But then I muddy the waters a bit. Without giving away any spoilers, I will say simply that I put Ethan in a situation where, in a way neither of them could have expected, he has little choice but to help Sephira. She insists that this changes nothing between them, but she knows better, and so do we. Don’t get me wrong: they remain rivals, even enemies. They trade threats, they work at cross-purposes at almost every opportunity, Ethan has to fight off Sephira’s men with spells as well as with his blade and fists.

At the same time, though, they take their interaction in directions I had not anticipated when I started the book. I knew that Sephira’s decision to employ a conjurer would upset the equilibrium of their rivalry, and I knew as well that Ethan’s act of kindness would force the two of them to regard each other and all that passes between them in a new light. I didn’t understand, though, how those changes would manifest themselves in the narrative.

Often, when I write a book, I’ll have plot points outlined in a general sense, but the details of dialog and action come into focus organically, as I write. I create in the moment, and so quite often I discover what happens much as my readers do. Writing the scenes with Ethan and Sephira, “watching” as they sparred and cajoled and ultimately reached a new level of understanding, I was both surprised and pleased with the outcome. I had hoped that they would find a way to acknowledge that their relationship had become more complicated, more nuanced, without actually removing from their interactions the sharp edges that make every scene between them so compelling.

I won’t say that I got it right immediately. These scenes took a good deal of work and revision. But in the end, I found that balance I was after. Sephira and Ethan remain rivals; on a fundamental level they are so different and are in such direct competition with each other, that they can never be anything but. After the events chronicled in Thieves’ Quarry, however, they share something more. Call it an understanding, call it a deepening of their mutual respect, even as they continue to circle one another, waiting for their next battle. You’ll have to read the books if you want to know exactly what I’ve done.

I can tell you, though, that their shared story still lies at the heart of the Thieftaker series. Not despite the changes I have put in their relationship, but rather because of them, Sephira is still Catwoman to Ethan’s Batman, Kate to his Petruchio, Nurse Ratched to his McMurphy, all rolled into one. Among all the characters I’ve developed and all the story lines I’ve written, theirs remains the most intriguing relationship I’ve ever created. And that is why, taken together, their scenes in Thieves’ Quarry are My Favorite Bit.

Relevant Links:

Thieves’ Quarry  amazon | B&N | indiebound | audible


D.B. Jackson is also David B. Coe, the award-winning author of more than a dozen fantasy novels. His first book as D.B. Jackson, the Revolutionary War era urban fantasy, Thieftaker, volume I of the Thieftaker Chronicles, came out in 2012 and is now available in paperback. The second volume, Thieves’ Quarry, comes out today, July 2, just in time for the July 4th holiday. D.B. lives on the Cumberland Plateau with his wife and two teenaged daughters. They’re all smarter and prettier than he is, but they keep him around because he makes a mean vegetarian fajita. When he’s not writing he likes to hike, play guitar, and stalk the perfect image with his camera.

My Favorite Bit: Bradley P. Beaulieu talks about THE FLAMES OF SHADAM KHOREH

My Favorite Bit iconBradley P. Beaulieu and I met at Orson Scott Card’s Literary Boot Camp in 2005. The story that he wrote in that class stays with me to this day. Now, he’s got three novels out and I toooootally knew him when.

So please give Brad your attention as he tells you about his Favorite Bit.

The Flames of Shadam Khoreh by Bradley P. Beaulieu

It happened as a matter of chance.

In the early pages of my third book, The Flames of Shadam Khoreh, I’m telling a story of a growing war, a war that was born and that blossomed in the second novel in the trilogy. The primary characters are on a quest to find a fabled stone, a crucial piece needed to heal the rifts that have been forming throughout the world. They’re searching for the lost valley of Shadam Khoreh, a place far removed from the warfront, and I feared that the trouble brewing in the world—largely the war itself, but also the fallout from the deadly wasting disease caused by the rifts—wouldn’t get enough attention. I felt that the weight of worldly events wouldn’t be fully realized.

So I added another character.

His name was Styophan Andrashayev, and he was a soldier, a strelet in service to Nikandr Khalakovo and his brother, the Duke. Styophan was sent west in command of a small fleet of windships to treat with a band of vicious tribesmen known as the Haelish. The Haelish had long been enemies of the Empire, and so the Grand Duchy had good reason to speak with them.

But when Styophan’s fleet arrives, things are … not what he expected, and he soon finds himself on a long journey to deal with the surprises the Empire had in store for him.

As I read over the novel one last time before calling it final, I found that Styophan, without my even realizing it, had stolen the show. My ears perked up when I came to his sections. I was invested in the other threads, certainly—they were filled with characters and a story I had come to love, after all—but there was something about Styophan that intrigued me.

It took a review to crystalize it for me. Justin Landon at Staffer’s Book Review called Styophan an everyman character, and he is. He’s removed to a degree from the weight that sits on the shoulders of the aristocracy. He’s not embroiled in magic and the ephemeral nature of using it. He loves his country dearly, but his mind is weighed more by thoughts of his wife and growing a family than it is the welfare of the entire Grand Duchy.

Styophan, in other words, brought a sense of counterpoint to the other characters—a view from the trenches—and it helped to round out the tale that would have been poorer without it. In paintings you’ll see light used to counterbalance dark, an opposing color used to make the primary stand out more. Such was the case here. Styophan’s addition brightened the entire story.

And that’s why his tale is my Favorite Bit.

The Winds of Khalakovo, available now from AmazonBarnes & NobleSmashwords, and Audible.
The Straits of Galahesh, available now from AmazonBarnes & NobleSmashwords, and Audible.
The Flames of Shadam Khoreh available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords

Bradley P. Beaulieu is the author of The Flames of Shadam Khoreh, a Russian-inspired epic fantasy that has been called “a special series with one of the best concluding volumes in the history of epic fantasy.” Brad and his novels have garnered many accolades and most anticipated lists, including two Hotties—the Debut of the Year and Best New Voice—on Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist, a Gemmell Morningstar Award nomination for The Winds of Khalakovo, and more. In May of 2013 Brad released Lest Our Passage Be Forgotten & Other Stories, his premiere short story collection. Brad also co-hosts Speculate! The Podcast for Writers, Readers, and Fans at For more, please visit