Archive for the ‘My Favorite Bit’ Category

My Favorite Bit: D.B. Jackson talks about Thieftaker

For full disclosure, I blurbed this book and loved it. It feeds all of my historical fantasy jollies, as well as being an interesting detective story. What’s particularly great about D.B. Jackson, which his bio doesn’t say, is that he’s a history professor. The man knows his stuff and in this case, his stuff is pre-Revolutionary war Boston.

And now, let’s see what his favorite bit is.


I like weaving together multiple plot strands, creating braids of narrative that carry my reader toward culminating scenes that they can anticipate but not fully predict.

I enjoy worldbuilding, taking a setting and making it come alive to the senses so that it is as rich and tactile as any “real” place my readers might know.

But most of all, I love to create characters whose triumphs and failings touch my readers’ emotions.

So, perhaps it’s predictable that my favorite bits in all my books involve those emotional payoff moments when all the terrible, mean, duplicitous, delicious things I do to my heros and heroines finally become too much for the poor souls to bear. Caught in that moment when they must buckle or find strengths they didn’t know they possessed, they act, for better or worse.

And in the aftermath, if I’ve done my job correctly, they have prevailed, but they have lost something that they can never regain. Invariably, these are the most powerful moments in my novels. And if as I write them, even my throat feels thick, even my eyes sting, I know that I’ve nailed the scene.

There is (at least) one such moment in my latest book, Thieftaker, a historical urban fantasy, which comes out today, July 3! My hero, Ethan Kaille, who is a thieftaker and conjurer in Colonial Boston, does battle with a mysterious spellcrafter who is determined that Ethan should cease his inquiry into the murder of a young woman, the daughter of a wealthy family. Ethan is on the verge of being beaten, his own conjuring powers overmastered by those of his enemy. What is worse, an innocent young man, the son of a woman Ethan once intended to marry, is doomed to die at the hands of this conjurer if Ethan fails.

But at the last moment, Ethan has one last opportunity to defeat the conjurer (at least for the moment), make his escape, and save the boy as well. The catch is that he must do something truly horrible — nearly as reprehensible in his own mind as anything the conjurer has done. He makes his choice, saving his own life and that of the boy.

But in the scenes that immediately follow he is wracked with grief at the choice he has been forced to make, and in the most painful of those scenes, he forces himself to confess to the woman he loves exactly what he’s done. And though I have read that scene again and again while revising the book, while copyediting it, while proofing it, I cannot get past the moment without choking up. I have had beta readers tell me that the scene reduced them to puddles, which, of course, I love to hear.

For me, a novel’s success or failure turns on character. If through my protagonist I can grab hold of my readers’ hearts, if I can make them grieve and fear and ultimately rejoice as he does, then I’ve succeeded as a storyteller. With this moment in Thieftaker, when Ethan’s pain is as visceral to my readers as any emotion of their own, I’ve done just that. Which is why it’s my Favorite Bit.

D.B. Jackson’s website

D.B. Jackson is also David B. Coe, the award-winning author of a dozen fantasy novels. His first book as D.B. Jackson, volume I of the Thieftaker Chronicles, will be released by Tor Books on July 3. 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: Aliette de Bodard talks about Obsidian and Blood

When so many writers are still playing with Europe as the field for their fantasy, Aliette de Bodard heads straight for the Aztec empire.  Her fiction is exciting because it is both familiar and strange.

And here’s another thing to make you crazy. She’s writing in a second language. Aliette grew up speaking French, because, well, she lives in France. I think that is part of what lends her use of language such vitality, that she is approaching it from the point of view of someone who loves it for its own sake, rather than someone who grew up with it.

Did I mention that she was nominated for the Campbell award last year? So let’s listen to her Favorite Bit of Obsidian and Blood.



My Favourite Bit of Obsidian and Blood is the monsters.

Obsidian and Blood is an omnibus which collects my entire Aztec noir series of the same name. Set at the height of the Mexica Empire, the books follow the adventures of Acatl, a priest of the Death God who investigates magical crimes. In the world of Obsidian and Blood, Aztec mythology is real: the shedding of blood through penance and sacrifice is the only thing that keeps the sun in the sky, and the earth fertile–not to mention a host of not-entirely-friendly gods appeased.

The books are part epic fantasy, part mysteries: the crimes Acatl investigates have magical ramifications that can have a host of unpleasant consequences, from the anger of gods to the end of the Aztec Empire. Magic plays a large part: spells are cast through the use of hymns and living blood, and sorcerers, priests and other magic users are major players in Aztec politics.

I did a lot of research into Aztec mythology for writing the trilogy. Aside from getting the daily life details right, one of the things I was concerned with was finding what kind of magical threats Acatl could be dealing with. Fortunately, creepy monsters abound in Aztec mythology, and I had no difficulty finding horrible adversaries to make Acatl’s life a misery (yes, I’m a sadist. Only when it comes to my own characters, I swear!). In the first book, Servant of the Underworld, I introduced ahuizotls, who look like cute little otters–that is, except for the clawed hand on their tail, which they use to drag victims to the bottom of lakes, and feast on their eyeballs and fingernails…

But it’s the second book, Harbinger of the Storm, that features my absolute favourites: tzitzimime, or star-demons. The Aztecs believed that the stars were monsters; and that the end of the world would be heralded by their falling to earth and tearing everyone apart. A star-demon isn’t pretty to look at, since they have a skull for a face, a necklace of human hands and hearts–and eyes (or stars, or the faces of other star-demons) at every joint. But the bit that I absolutely love isn’t the horrible aspect. Rather, it’s the symbolism, which goes completely against what people expect of stars. One of the creepiest scenes in Harbinger of the Storm has Acatl racing against the clock to stop an impending star-demon attack: as he runs, he sees the stars fall one by one towards earth. It would be a pretty, romantic scene in most cultures; but here it morphs into something creepy and horrible which totally goes against the grain of the expected.

Darkness descended across the Sacred Precinct as surely as if a cloth had been thrown over the Fifth Sun; for a moment – a bare, agonising moment of stillness – everything hung in silence, and I allowed myself to believe, for a fleeting heartbeat, that Teomitl was right, that Acamapichtli was right and that we would survive this as we had survived everything since the beginning of the Empire.

And then the stars fell.

One by one they streaked towards the Fifth World, leaving a trail of fire in their wake, growing larger and larger, pinpoints of light becoming the eyes of monsters, becoming the joints on skeletal limbs, becoming small specks scattered across the dark-blue skirts of star-demons as they plummeted towards the Great Temple.

I heard screams, but I was already running, elbowing my way through the press of bewildered warriors. I turned briefly to see if Nezahual-tzin was following, but could see nothing but a heaving sea of headdresses and garlands.

Most of the crowd ahead of me was going in the opposite direction, away from the star-demons; and soon it was impossible for me to move at all, pressing against the current. As they flowed around me, I reached out for one of my obsidian knives. I brought it up in a practised gesture, and, rubbing my own warm blood against my forehead, whispered a small invocation to Lord Death. The cold of the underworld spread from the sign, and the press around me grew a little less dense. I pushed and pulled. I had to get there, had to warn Acamapichtli before it was too late, had to…

Faces frozen in grimaces of fear, my elbows connecting with someone’s chest, sending them tumbling to the ground, someone pushing back at me, me, stumbling, catching myself just in time, screams and moans, and the sour, sickly smell of fear mingling with that of blood.

I also have other monsters, of course. Beasts of shadows that tear out human hearts, ghosts that gather to bring supernatural plagues, a deity made up entirely of obsidian shards… But the star-demons are my favourites–they just give a whole new meaning to the sentence “look to the stars”!


Obsidian and Blood:amazon|Barnes and Noble|indiebound


Aliette de Bodard is a Computer Engineer who lives in a Parisian flat with more computers than warm bodies, and two Lovecraftian plants in the process of covering every piece of furniture in the living room with greenish tentacles. Her speculative fiction has appeared in Asimov’s, Clarkesworld, and the Year’s Best Science Fiction, and has garnered her a British Science Fiction Association Award, as well as nominations for the Hugo, Nebula and John Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Her Aztec noir trilogy, Obsidian and Blood, is published by Angry Robot. Visit for more information.

My Favorite Bit: Bradley P. Beaulieu talks about The Straits of Galahesh

I met Brad when we were taking Orson Scott Card’s Literary Bootcamp back in 2005. He was one of the people whose story made me think, “Yep. This guy will have a career,”  because it had really interesting world-building combined with lovely writing.

Behold! I was right. How smug I feel to recognize someone else’s talent.

Like his short story back in the day, he’s created a fascinating and rich world for his novels that feels like something out of Russian folklore, but with windships. Not zeppelins. No, no. These are wooden ships that fly through magic.  But let me get out of the way and have Brad tell you about his Favorite Bit.


My second book, The Straits of Galahesh, was recently released from Night Shade Books. It’s the second book in The Lays of Anuskaya trilogy.

And my favorite bit in the book—is a bridge.

Hey, don’t roll your eyes! Yes, it’s a bridge…

Let me explain. In the book, the eponymous straits bisect the island of Galahesh. The island has been settled for centuries, and although the people of the islands have had the ability to navigate the wind using massive, age-of-sail-styled windships, they have not been able to cross the straits. This is because the ley lines that run through and among the islands are thrown about wildly at the straits. You see, at the straits—that is, because the straitsexist—there is a confluence of currents both in the sea and in the magical lines that allow wind-based travel. It twists the magic the ships need to fly so significantly that they cannot easily cross it, nor, in fact—due to the peculiarities of how the ley lines whorl—go around. Because of this, trade has always been difficult. But the barrier at the straits isn’t all bad. It is also a natural barrier, preventing Anuskaya’s bellicose neighbor, the Empire of Yrstanla, from attacking the islands directly.

As the book opens, a bridge is being built by the Emperor over the straits. The bridge is massive, an undertaking never before thought possible. The reason for its construction isn’t clear to our heroes, but they judge that nothing good can come of it. The bridge itself, known as the Spar, is something that represents a bit of the Anuskaya and a bit of Yrstanla. It has a foothold on both sides of the straits, and that makes it a meeting point between these two powers, a catalyst, if you will. It could lead to increased trade, increased relations… Or it could lead to war, and I loved that as simple a thing as a bridge could not merely represent such things, but directly provide for them.

The other part of it (raising my geek flag a bit here) was that I wanted something grand and cinematic for the book. The cover for the first book, The Winds of Khalakovo, was a beautiful rendering by the amazingly talented Adam Paquette. The cover for Straits went in a new direction to try to “code” better for the epic fantasy fan, but I didn’t know that early on, and I had in my head this beautiful white bridge with churning seas below and tall cliffs to either side, windships above with stately white clouds and blue skies beyond. In my mind’s eye I pictured some of the mesmerizing paintings by Michael Whelan, covers like the ones for The Integral Trees and The Way of Kings and The Memory Sorrow and Thorn trilogy, paintings with such wonderful scale. It helped me to visualize not only the scenes at the Spar, but others where I wanted similar feelings of depth and breadth and height.

I also like that the bridge was not quite complete as the story opened. In fact, in the prologue, its construction had yet to begin. And so the work on the bridge was an analogue for the work I was doing, not merely writing and completing this particular book, the second in a trilogy, but creating a bridge of sorts from Book 1 to Book 3.

The Spar was one of those elements that felt good in its early conception, and, now that the book is done and out in the world, feels larger than the spans that rise above the white waters below and the stone roadway that runs across it. It feels as though it’s connecting many things, both within the book and without, which gives me deep satisfaction.

And that’s why it’s my favorite bit.


STRATA: A story of the Future Suns, available now on the Kindle and Nook.
The Winds of Khalakovo, available now in print, and on the Kindle and Nook.
The Straits of Galahesh, available from AmazonB&N, and Indiebooks.

Bradley P. Beaulieu is the author of The Winds of Khalakovo, the first of three planned books in The Lays of Anuskaya series. In addition to being an L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Award winner, Brad’s stories have appeared in various other publications, including Realms of Fantasy Magazine, Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, Writers of the Future 20, and several anthologies from DAW Books. His story, “In the Eyes of the Empress’s Cat,” was voted a Notable Story of 2006 in the Million Writers Award.

My Favorite Bit: David Brin talks about Existence

David Brin is one of those authors that I probably don’t need to introduce. So let me tell you about the first time I met him. At the Denver WorldCon, I had signed up to do one of the inaugural Strolling With the Stars walks as one of the Stars. I ‘d just won the Campbell and, despite that, was having a severe case of imposter syndrome because the other star was David Brin. He was incredibly generous. I hadn’t sold a novel yet at that point, but he asked me about my fiction and then engaged me in the sort of “What if” discussion that I suspect he must go through when writing.

I shall always be grateful to him for his kindness that morning and for giving me a peek at his process. And now, he’s going to give you a peek as well by talking about his Favorite Bit of his newest novel, Existence.


Before I tell you about my “favorite bit” from the new novel EXISTENCE (June 2012:, I’d like to offer an aside — one piece of advice that I give students of writing.

Whatever their favorite genres, I recommend that new authors make their first major project a murder mystery.

The reason is simple.  All other genres let the author get away with flaws in plotting and suspense, by distracting the reader with genre-specific  razzle-dazzle, e.g. romantic tears or dying dragons or scifi tech-speak. But in a murder mystery, there is only one question; did the dramatic, whodunit revelation pay off?  Was it simultaneously both surprising and well foreshadowed?

Does the reader experience a pleasurable moment of self-loathing? “It was all there but I just missed figuring it out! I’m sooooo stoooopid!”If that’s how your reader feels, at that crucial moment, then she or he will buy your next book. That’s the wonderful, ironic fact.

I always try to have one or more suspense arcs in my novels — sometimes half a dozen, running in parallel. And I also circulate my manuscripts-in-progress to up to fifty harsh pre-readers, as quality control, before ever letting the publisher’s editors see it.  Achieving that special “aha!” moment is the one thing I fret over, above all else.

Which brings us to my “favorite bit” from EXISTENCE. In fact, there are several such moments and all have been fine-tuned to wreak maximum sado-masochistic tension and release from the customer. But one of them stands out.  It occurs when a diverse team of investigators are interrogating an “alien artifact” in order to determine whether its passengers — virtual beings who claim to carry a message for Earth — are for real, or an elaborate hoax.  And, if they are truly alien, how much of their message to believe. This process of peeling away layer after layer of deception and truth makes up one major theme.

My favorite moment… and that of more than a dozen pre-readers… comes when a Russian member of the commission has a sudden epiphany.“My God, I don’t believe it.!  It’s a…”

And no.  I will not finish that sentence here.  Nor did I give it away in the fancy-schmancy lavish premier-trailer that renowned web artist Patrick Farley made for EXISTENCE. ( )  A gorgeous 3-minute taste of the book that doesn’t give away any major spoilers, nor will I do so here.

But I’ve explained WHY it is my favorite bit. And why I always tell myself — even plunging into the heart of the sun or a distant galaxy — to write a mystery whodunit! And to make the surprised reader shout:

“Dammit, I shoulda seen that coming, it’s soooo obvious!”


Existence amazon|barnes&noble|indiebound


David Brin is a scientist, technology speaker, and author.  His new novel from Tor Books is Existence.   A film by Kevin Costner was based on The Postman.  His fifteen novels, including New York Times Bestsellers, have been translated into more than twenty language.   Earth, foreshadowed global warming, cyberwarfare and the world wide web. Davidappears frequently on shows such as Nova and is in demand as a speaker about future trends. His non-fiction book — The Transparent Society: Will Technology Make Us Choose Between Freedom and Privacy? — won the Freedom of Speech Award of the American Library Association.

My Favorite Bit: Alethea Kontis talks about The Wonderland Alphabet

Alethea Kontis is one of my first writing friends. Anyone who knows her, knows that she is funny, enthusiastic, and incredibly generous. She pretty much set the tone for my introduction to fandom and the SF community. She’s continuing to set the tone for an introduction to the world of the fantastic with her children’s books. Here’s Alethea to talk about The Wonderland Alphabet: Alice’s Adventures Through the ABCs and What She Found There





C is for Contrarywise

My favorite bit about The Wonderland Alphabet: Alice’s Adventures Through the ABCs and What She Found There is not that I get to work with (and sit at tables with, and get interviewed with, and sign books beside, and plan new projects with) one of my dearest friends: Janet K. Lee.

That should be my favorite bit. Indeed, it takes a very close second.

The Wonderland Alphabet wasn’t originally meant to be a real book at all; it was a way for Janet to hang on to her coveted spot in the inaugural Nashville art show Proto Pulp: Classic Books of the Future when she realized that a non-disclosure agreement prevented her from displaying original pieces of the graphic novel on which she was currently working (Return of the Dapper Men). She was going through an Alice in Wonderland phase at the time; I had just sold AlphaOops: H is for Halloween. We worked in the same office building.

“There’s never been an Alice in Wonderland alphabet book,” Janet said to me.

Like a rabbit with a pocket watch, one was decidedly overdue.

I went home and pulled Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There off my shelf. I wrote the alphabet down the left hand side of a notebook page, just I had done with the AlphaOops books, and noted every possible word for every possible letter. Some letters had only one word. Some had plenty. Some had none (X, Z), and for those I used a little imagination. I gave the list to Janet, who circled (where applicable) the objects that called to her illustrative genius.

And then came poetry.

I started writing sometime between the ages of eight and ten. But it was not prose; I was a poet. My favorite books when I was very young (4-5) were Gelett Burgess’s Goop Tales. Shortly after that came Mother Goose, Dr. Seuss, and my beloved Ogden Nash. Sometime around middle school, my little sister discovered Shel Silverstein. And my parents took us to Shakespeare plays every summer, or whenever we could find them. Like the fairy tales, the work of these poets was often very dark but always very clever.

So very, very me.

Because this Wonderland Alphabet project was only for Janet (and the tiny white cards that accompanied her artwork in the show), I didn’t give a fig about making my verse perfect and palatable. I wrote the poems because they were FUN…and yes, I giggled a lot while doing it. (10 points for spotting the Shakespeare reference. 100 if you catch the far more subtle Ogden Nash homage.) Janet had an equally amusing time with the illustrations, posting each one on her Facebook wall as she finished. The first annual Proto Pulp show was a smashing success.

And then Return of the Dapper Men won the Eisner Award for Best New Graphic Novel.

“What else do you have?” the eager publisher asked Janet.

“Well, my friend Alethea and I did an Alice in Wonderland alphabet book a while back,” Janet replied. “She’s a New York Times bestselling author now, you know.”

Thus and Thence, The Wonderland Alphabet: Alice’s Adventures Through the ABCs and What She Found There came to be.

And they didn’t change my poetry at all. Not one blessed, subversive word.

THAT is my favorite bit.

[The Wonderland Alphabet is rated E: For Everyone. The book contains content suitable for readers of all ages. It may contain minimal violence.]

Even at 5 years old, Alethea knew what paradise was.

RELEVANT LINKSAlethea Kontis’s website and Janet Lee’s website

The Wonderland Alphabet: Alice’s Adventures Through the ABCs and What She Found Thereamazon|barnes and noble|indiebound


Eisner Award-winning artist Janet Lee lives in Nashville, the Wonderland of the South, and loves to drink tea with rabbits when she can.

Alethea Kontis is a New York Times bestselling Fairy Tale Princess.


My Favorite Bit: Sean Williams talks about Troubletwisters: The Monster

Welcome to the inaugural post of a new feature here called, “My Favorite Bit.” This is a series of guest posts in which I ask authors and other creative types to talk about their favorite bit of their newest work. Sometimes it will be a scene, a sentence, a character, or a bit of world-building. It might even be a piece of research that never made it on the page. The key is that it’s something that they love LOVE sooooo much.

For my first guest, we have Sean Williams in to talk about his latest collaboration with Garth Nix. I met Sean at a World Fantasy convention years ago, but have had the pleasure the last couple of years of serving on the board of SFWA with him. He’s our current overseas regional director and has done a darn fine job in that position.

As a writer though, he’s the kind of guy who makes the rest of us feel like we’re slacking. He’s only two years older than me and has written thirty-five novels. Thirty-five. And he wins awards, major awards, with these.

But now, I’m going to get out of the way and let Sean tell you about his Favorite Bit of  Troubletwisters Book 2: The Monster


Collaborations are fun. I think so, anyway. With the right person. They’d be pretty horrific with the wrong person–like a marriage, I guess, although I wish in no way to imply that I have anything but professional feelings for either of my collaborators, Shane Dix and Garth Nix. (The same might not be said for Caprica Six, were she available. Or real.) Just friendship in spades, which is where these things start. Writing can be a lonely game, and so is touring; why not engineer things so sometimes you have company along the way?

My latest novel is the second in a five-book middle-grade fantasy series Garth and I have been working on for several years, now. Troubletwisters: The Monster is the follow-up to Troubletwisters: The Magic, which emerged from long discussions in bars, at cons, waiting in airports, etc, about writing together (several possible stories, such as a contemporary thriller, a monster movie, even a romantic comedy, have been shelved, but perhaps only temporarily). Trying kids’ books seemed a bit of a no-brainer in the end, since we both love reading them and we’ve both written many of our own. It was just a matter of agreeing on what these particular ones would be about, and then writing them. Continue reading ›

Introducing a new feature: My Favorite Bit

One of my favorite things when I’m talking to authors and artists is listening to them geek out about their favorite bit of their own work. It’s usually something small that they put in to amuse themselves, or that they worked really hard on but don’t expect anyone to notice. You can hear the sheer glee in their voices when they talk about it.

I love that peek behind the curtain.

So, I’ve started a new feature on my website where I invite authors, artists, and other creators to talk about their favorite bit of their newest work. This can be a scene, a sentence, a character, or a bit of world-building. It can even be a piece of research that never made it on the page. The key is that it’s something that they love LOVE sooooo much.

These posts are a chance for you to peek backstage and see what makes an author go to their happy place. In a lot of ways, the things that my guests will be talking about are why we write to begin with.

And now… without further ado, hop on over to My Favorite Bit.

For those authors, artists, puppeteers, or other creators interested in participating, I have an FAQ for you about My Favorite Bit.