Archive for the ‘My Favorite Bit’ Category

My Favorite Bit: Jason Denzel talks about MYSTIC DRAGON

My Favorite BitJason Denzel is joining us today to talk about his novel Mystic Dragon. Here’s the publisher’s description:

Seven years have passed since lowborn Pomella AnDone became an unlikely Mystic’s apprentice.

Though she has achieved much in a short time, as a rare celestial event approaches, Pomella feels the burden of being a Mystic more than ever. The Mystical realm of Fayün is threatening to overtake the mortal world, and as the two worlds slowly blend together, the land is thrown into chaos. People begin to vanish or are killed outright, and Mystics from across the world gather to protect them. Among them is Shevia, a haunted and brilliant prodigy whose mastery of the Myst is unlike anything Pomella has ever seen.

Shevia will challenge Pomella in every possible way, from her mastery of the Myst to her emotional connection with Pomella’s own friends―and as Shevia’s dark intentions become more clear, Pomella fears she may be unstoppable.

What’s Jason’s favorite bit?

Mystic Dragon Cover Image

JASON DENZEL

My Favorite Bit about my new novel, Mystic Dragon, or its publication at least, is that I’m lucky enough to have Mary as the book’s audiobook narrator.

Like she did for my debut novel, Mystic, Mary helped elevate the storytelling found within Mystic Dragon by breathing life to a wide variety of colorful characters. In the first book, Mystic, the main character was a young woman who defies tradition and law by leaving her home to enter the Mystwood, where she seeks to become an apprentice to a reclusive Mystic living in the woods. In the new sequel, seven years have passed and a rare celestial event threatens to throw both the human realm and Fayün, the land of the fay, into chaos.

Mary is, in my view, a world-class narrator and performer. Not only does she bring a level of cool professionalism to the performance, but she also provides a spark of youthful enthusiasm to go along with a profound sense of experienced wisdom. These are the exact traits that I want Pomella, the series protagonist, to have in this second volume. Because I’m aging the characters by several years since the events of the first book, Pomella has shed a lot of her gullible teenage youthfulness. Mary skillfully navigates that, and still provides an arc to the character’s “voice”.

What do I mean by voice arc? To explain, let me talk about Shevia, a complicated new character to the series. My goal with Shevia was to examine the mind of somebody who has been routinely oppressed her entire life and then suddenly given an immense amount of magical power. Shevia learns early in her story that power does not always equal freedom. Her story begins when she’s nine years old, and Mary does a great job of making her sound young and full of energy. As Shevia grows up, Mary naturally matures her voice so that she not only sounds older, but she sounds more powerful. It’s a tricky line to walk with this character because Shevia is trying at times to hide her power and appear docile. I was very impressed with how Mary depicted Shevia as having power, but hiding it from those that would seek to exploit her.

Mary with a very unhappy face, after 9 hours in the booth

Mary, however, wasn’t too thrilled after having to channel Shevia for nine hours in the booth. I’m pretty sure my face often looked like that after writing her chapters.

Another awesome reason why I’m delighted Mary contributed to Mystic Dragon’s audiobook is that I always learn a tremendous amount from working with her. Leading up to the recording, I prepared a Google document with some name pronunciations. I’m not an expert in this field, but I’m making a noble attempt to have my characters’ dialect seem real and consistent, and Mary has always been a big help with that. During our pre-recording phone call she talked a little about the various ways people speak, and I found myself scribbling notes about dialect, pacing, and breathing. We spoke about accents, and how to approach representing characters of different cultures who struggle to speak a native language.

Overall, I’m delighted with how Mystic Dragon turned out, and I’m overjoyed that somebody with Mary’s talent and experience could further uplift the story through her narration expertise.

LINKS:

Mystic Dragon Universal Book Link

Website

Twitter

BIO:

JASON DENZEL is the founder of Dragonmount.com, the leading online community for Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time saga and the Web’s top destination for Wheel of Time-related news, features, and discussion. Dragonmount.com has been featured in USA TodayWired, the Los Angeles Times, and on CNN and ABC. Denzel lives in Northern California with his two young boys, and owns a lot of swords. He is the author of the Mystic Trilogy (MysticMystic Dragon, and Mystic Skies).

My Favorite Bit: Wendy Nikel talks about THE GRANDMOTHER PARADOX

My Favorite BitWendy Nikel is joining us today to talk about her novel The Grandmother Paradox. Here’s the publisher’s description:

When Dr. Wells, the head of the Place in Time Travel Agency, learns that someone’s trying to track down the ancestors of his star employee, there are few people he can turn to without revealing her secrets. But who better to jump down the timeline and rescue Elise from being snuffed out of existence generations before she’s born than the very person whose life she saved a hundred years in the future?

But Juliette Argent isn’t an easy woman to protect. The assistant to a traveling magician, she’s bold, fearless, and has a fascination with time travel, of all things. Can the former secret agent Chandler, with his knowledge of what’s to come, keep her safe from harm and keep his purpose there a secret? Or will his presence there only entangle the timeline more?

What’s Wendy’s favorite bit?

The Grandmother Paradox cover image

WENDY NIKEL

THE GRANDMOTHER PARADOX is the second book in the Place in Time novella series, which is based around a travel agency that specializes in time travel vacations in the past. Although I still love the travel agency itself, which I blogged about for the release of book one, in this book, my favorite part is one of the settings: the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

I first read about the fair in Erik Larson’s 2004 book, The Devil in the White City, and instantly, I was hooked. I tried to get my hands on anything I could read about this fascinating event. As the city recovered from the Great Fire of 1871, Chicago put in its bid for the World’s Fair, right at a time of global change and innovation, which would make this one of the most memorable fairs in history. Electric lights illuminated the fairgrounds. Products such as Quaker Oats, Cracker Jack, and Juicy Fruit gum were first introduced to the public. Countries from around the world and individual states hosted pavilions that showcased their best qualities.

It was an exciting place to be at a pivotal point in United States history, where technological developments were beginning to put the world within the common person’s reach and anything seemed possible. If I had access to a time machine, this would definitely be on my list of places to visit.

I initially used this setting in a now-trunked manuscript. In it, a boy and his family journeyed down to the fair from Wisconsin, and there he met up with a traveling magician who gave him some important advice and a gift. The Midway Plaisance of the fair – which also featured carnival rides such as a balloon drop and the world’s first Ferris Wheel – was filled with performers like this, including one who would become quite well-known for his escape acts: Harry Houdini. So when I decided to set part of this novella at the fair, the idea of traveling magicians came along with it.

In THE GRANDMOTHER PARADOX, the head of the Place in Time Travel Agency, suspects that someone is plotting to kill the great-great-grandmother of his star employee (to prevent the events of the previous book), so he calls upon the man whose life she saved to jump to the year 1893 and protect the young woman, who’s working as a magician’s assistant in a traveling show.

Together, they make their way to the World’s Fair, where he hopes they’ll be able to blend in among the sights and crowds, but he quickly discovers that when you’re being stalked by a man with a time machine, nowhere – and no time – is really safe.

LINKS:

The Grandmother Paradox Universal Book Link

Website

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BIO:

Wendy Nikel is a speculative fiction author with a degree in elementary education, a fondness for road trips, and a terrible habit of forgetting where she’s left her cup of tea. Her short fiction has been published by Fantastic Stories of the ImaginationDaily Science FictionNature: Futures, and elsewhere. Her time travel novella, The Continuum, was published by World Weaver Press in January 2018, with a sequel, The Grandmother Paradox, out now. For more info, visit wendynikel.com

My Favorite Bit: TJ Berry talks about SPACE UNICORN BLUES

My Favorite BitTJ Berry is joining us today with her book Space Unicorn Blues. Here’s the publisher’s description:

A misfit crew race across the galaxy to prevent the genocide of magical creatures, in this unique science fiction debut.

Having magical powers makes you less than human, a resource to be exploited. Half-unicorn Gary Cobalt is sick of slavery, captivity, and his horn being ground down to power faster-than-light travel. When he’s finally free, all he wants is to run away in his ancestors’ stone ship. Instead, Captain Jenny Perata steals the ship out from under him, so she can make an urgent delivery. But Jenny held him captive for a decade, and then Gary murdered her best friend… who was also the wife of her co-pilot, Cowboy Jim. What could possibly go right?

What’s TJ’s favorite bit?

Space Unicorn Blues cover image

TJ BERRY

My favorite bit about Space Unicorn Blues is a single word deep in the book about a quarter of the way from the end. Part-unicorn Gary Cobalt reminisces about his human mother teaching him how to read and write languages from her home planet of Earth:

His mother, on the other hand, had taught him only two human languages: English and Kannada. She showed him how to assemble sticks and balls to make English letters and how to glide his pen through the undulating contortions of the Kannada alphabet.

The single word is the name of an Indian language, Kannada, and it’s my favorite because it was a reminder to me of a wonderful dinner spent with friends discussing their home city.

My zero drafts are sprawling things in which logic, reason, and story arcs don’t exist. Anything from an underwater helicopter chase to a love story between an octopus and an assassin can end up on the page. I write recklessly and rapidly, daring myself to visit every unexpected possibility before settling down to find the heart of the story. It gets the pantsing urge largely out of my system so that I can hew close to my outline in subsequent drafts.

But this fast and furious approach means that I don’t slow down for research during a zero draft. I toss in hundreds of brackets full of placeholder text like [insert saucy jokes here] and [look up the flag of New Zealand]. It also means that some of what I write is flat-out wrong. I originally dashed off the two lines above using Hindi as the language that Gary’s mother would have taught him. It wasn’t until nearly two years later that I discovered my mistake.

You see, Gary Cobalt is the descendent of aerospace engineers who live and work in Bangalore. They board a generation ship to escape a dying Earth, and decades later their granddaughter Anjali falls in love with a space unicorn. (I know. Just trust me.) It wasn’t until I passed the manuscript to a group of sensitivity readers and expert advisors that my error was pointed out to me. Friends who had offered to fact check the parts of the book influenced by Indian culture asked me, “Why is she teaching him Hindi? We only speak Kannada at home and that’s what we’d teach our children.”

Reader, I am ashamed to admit that even though I consider myself moderately well-versed in the basics of Indian culture—okay, maybe we’ll just call it a semester of grad school Hindi and eating more baingan bharta than I care to admit—I had never encountered Kannada. Luckily, my friends were quite eager to fill me in about their beloved home city over a long and delicious curry dinner.

They patiently and cheerfully answered all of my questions about Bangalorean family life. I learned what spices and seeds would be vital to bring onto a generation ship destined for an unfamiliar planet. They helped me brainstorm names for space stations and ships based on important figures in Indian history. At one point, we got into a deep dive about mango pickle. This is, I have learned, a Very Important Condiment in Indian cuisine. Every family has their own mango pickle recipe, which is always better than any other family’s recipe. The instructions are passed down through the generations with such reverence that I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that Indian families on a deep-space generation ship will someday have a minor civil unrest that begins with a slight to one person’s mango pickle.

Mango Pickle image

A mango pickle, which is clearly far inferior to everyone else’s mango pickle.

They ordered a dish of it and urged me to add it to everything on the table. As a person from a culture where the primary condiment is sugared tomatoes boiled down to a paste, I felt that I might be on familiar ground with a condiment with “mango” in the name, but it was not sweet at all. The pickle I tried was not particularly spicy, but it was astringent—vinegary and tart with hint of licorice whenever I hit a fennel seed. The mango is meant to be green and have an al dente bite. It’s absolutely lovely and I want to eat it with everything, which is precisely the point of a mango pickle.

After all was said and done (and eaten), a dozen plates of food and hours of discussion distilled down to a single word in the actual book. That’s often how research works, but this time I also came away from the table with two dozen pages of notes for a different book about a generation ship full of Bangalorean engineers and the strife caused by a jar of mango pickle.

LINKS:

Space Unicorn Blues Universal Book Link

Twitter

Website

BIO:

TJ Berry grew up living between Repulse Bay, Hong Kong and the New Jersey shore. Her favorite pizza is a plain slice from Three Brothers in Seaside Heights. She can be coaxed into a trap using any type of cheese.

TJ has been a political blogger, bakery owner, and she spent a disastrous two weeks on the assembly line in a razor blade factory. She now writes science fiction, fantasy, and horror from Seattle with considerably fewer on-the-job injuries.

She also co-hosts the weekly Warp Drives Podcast with her husband, in which they explore science fiction, fantasy, and horror via pop culture and literary lenses. Find her on Twitter @TJaneBerry and online at http://tjberrywrites.com.

My Favorite Bit: Theodora Goss talks about EUROPEAN TRAVEL FOR THE MONSTROUS GENTLEWOMAN

My Favorite BitTheodora Goss is joining us today with her novel European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman. Here’s the publisher’s description:

In the sequel to the critically acclaimed The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, Mary Jekyll and the rest of the daughters of literature’s mad scientists embark on a madcap adventure across Europe to rescue another monstrous girl and stop the Alchemical Society’s nefarious plans once and for all.

Mary Jekyll’s life has been peaceful since she helped Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson solve the Whitechapel Murders. Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherine Moreau, Justine Frankenstein, and Mary’s sister Diana Hyde have settled into the Jekyll household in London, and although they sometimes quarrel, the members of the Athena Club get along as well as any five young women with very different personalities. At least they can always rely on Mrs. Poole.

But when Mary receives a telegram that Lucinda Van Helsing has been kidnapped, the Athena Club must travel to the Austro-Hungarian Empire to rescue yet another young woman who has been subjected to horrific experimentation. Where is Lucinda, and what has Professor Van Helsing been doing to his daughter? Can Mary, Diana, Beatrice, and Justine reach her in time?

Racing against the clock to save Lucinda from certain doom, the Athena Club embarks on a madcap journey across Europe. From Paris to Vienna to Budapest, Mary and her friends must make new allies, face old enemies, and finally confront the fearsome, secretive Alchemical Society. It’s time for these monstrous gentlewomen to overcome the past and create their own destinies.

What’s Theodora’s favorite bit?

European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman cover image

THEODORA GOSS

I hope you’re not offended if I assert that Hungarian pastries are the best in the world.

Oh, I know, the French tarte tatin is world-famous, as is the Italian tiramisu. And who can pass up a piece of bakhlavah? Pavlova, dulce de leche, halva, flan, panettone . . . Every culture has wonderful sweets to share. But my favorites are the traditional Hungarian ones, because they are not too sweet, and often combine contrasting flavors in interesting ways: chocolate and apricots, poppy seed and sour cherries. If you want to disagree with me, go right ahead, but not before you travel to Budapest yourself, sit down at one of the traditional old cafés like Gerbeaud or the Centrál Kávéház, and try some of them for yourself. I’ll gladly share a tarte tatin with you, if you’ll take a bite of my Eszterházy torte.

Why am I talking to you about Hungarian pastries? Because one of my favorite moments in European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman happens when Mina Murray, Mary Jekyll’s former governess, welcomes Mary and her friends to Budapest by taking them shopping on Váci utca, and then suggests they stop at Gerbeaud. She buys them a selection of traditional Hungarian pastries, including Eszterházy torte, Dobos torte, krémes, and Rigó Jancsi. My favorite of these is the Eszterházy torte, which is layers of buttercream between layers of a flourless cake made with walnuts, egg whites, and sugar. Lots of layers, like five or six or seven, so you get plenty of buttercream and walnuts. Dobos torte is probably the most famous Hungarian cake for its shining caramel top. Rigó Jancsi, which you seldom find outside Hungary and Austria, is the most romantic: it’s supposedly named after a Romani violinist who fell in love with a Belgian princess. She left her husband for him, they were married, and he created the pastry for her. Krémes is like a Napoleon, only better.

So there they are, Mina and Mary and other members of the Athena Club, sitting in a café in Budapest eating pastries. Why is this one of my favorite bits of the book? When I was writing the first and second Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club, I wanted my characters to have adventures, of course—they would overcome obstacles, fight adversaries, and have revelations of various sorts. All the things characters do in books. After all, Vladimir Nabokov said a writer is someone who puts his characters up a tree and throws stones at them. I’ve thrown all sorts of things—murder and mayhem—at mine. But life is never all adventure. I also wanted my novels to contain moments that are more realistic. Moments when the characters are just sitting round drinking tea, or when they get bored, or have to go to the bathroom. (Even characters have to go to the bathroom sometimes.) There they are in Budapest, trying to fight the dastardly Société des Alchimistes, but they have to eat, right? So for about an hour, they stop and sit down and have cake. Not just any cake, but some of my favorite cakes.

There’s another reason this particular bit matters to me. In this novel, it makes sense for my characters to go to Budapest because the villains they’re dealing with are in Budapest—that’s where they were in the original texts I was drawing on. The plot requires a trip to that part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. However, I was born in Budapest and it’s my favorite city in the world. In this book, I wanted to show you a bit of the city I love, as it would have looked in the late nineteenth century. Sure, I populated it with monsters—that’s what I do. But I also wanted to make sure you knew there were cakes. Really good cakes. The monsters may not be there anymore, but Gerbeaud and the Centrál Kávéház are, and they still have all those pastries, right in the pastry cases, close to the front. You can order them, just as Mina did for Mary and her friends. I guarantee that they will fortify you for whatever obstacles you need to face, whether fighting monsters or just finding your way to the art museum.

LINKS:

European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman Universal Buy Link

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BIO:

Theodora Goss is the World Fantasy and Locus Award-winning author of the short story collection In the Forest of Forgetting (2006); Interfictions (2007), a short story anthology coedited with Delia Sherman; Voices from Fairyland (2008), a poetry anthology with critical essays and a selection of her own poems; The Thorn and the Blossom (2012), a novella in a two-sided accordion format; the poetry collection Songs for Ophelia (2014); debut novel The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter (2017), and sequel European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman(2018). She has been a finalist for the Nebula, Crawford, Seiun, and Mythopoeic Awards, as well as on the Tiptree Award Honor List. Her work has been translated into twelve languages. She teaches literature and writing at Boston University and in the Stonecoast MFA Program. Visit her at theodoragoss.com.

My Favorite Bit: Lauren James talks about THE LONELIEST GIRL IN THE UNIVERSE

My Favorite BitLauren James is joining us today to discuss her novel The Loneliest Girl in the Universe. Here’s the publisher’s description:

The daughter of two astronauts, Romy Silvers is no stranger to life in space. But she never knew how isolating the universe could be until her parents’ tragic deaths left her alone on theInfinity, a spaceship speeding away from Earth.

Romy tries to make the best of her lonely situation, but with only brief messages from her therapist on Earth to keep her company, she can’t help but feel like something is missing. It seems like a dream come true when NASA alerts her that another ship, the Eternity, will be joining the Infinity.

Romy begins exchanging messages with J, the captain of theEternity, and their friendship breathes new life into her world. But as the Eternity gets closer, Romy learns there’s more to J’s mission than she could have imagined. And suddenly, there are worse things than being alone….

What’s Lauren’s favorite bit?

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe cover image

LAUREN JAMES

When you write realistic science fiction, it takes a lot of research. I always try to make the science in my books as accurate as possible, – the time machine in one of my other books, The Last Beginning, is based on real life research into sub-atomic particles at CERN, like the Large Hadron Collider.

This book is set on a spaceship a few decades into the future, so I did a lot of research into space travel and the theory of space travel behind NASA’s equipment. I read a lot of non-fiction about space travel – NASA does a series of free eBooks explaining their science for beginners, so I had a great time diving into them.

I think there’s a danger of crossing over into Fantasy instead of Science Fiction if you don’t base your technology in solid scientific concepts, and there’s never been as much appeal in writing Fantasy for me. As long as there’s some seed of truth, it’s very easy to make readers believe anything else.

I wanted to write about the fear and confinement and constant stress of being alone on a small spaceship, where you’re completely responsibility for running the ship. I read up on the experiments NASA did where they made people live in a pseudo-spaceship for a year on Earth, to see how that affected them mentally. I read a lot of therapy and mental health books about post-traumatic stress disorder, stress and young carers.

I watched lots of sci-fi films like Moon, Gravity and Interstellar – and that really
helped with capturing the aesthetics and design of the ship.​ I tried to explain it in a series of terrible sketches:

Sketches of spaceship layout

I also had to calculate the time it would take for laser beam messages to travel to and from Earth to my spaceships on every single day of narrative, something which ended up needing an Excel spreadsheet this big:

Excel spreadsheets with a LOT of calculations

The dark side of writing a book set in space: the calculations. Luckily I have a Masters degree in Chemistry and Physics, which helped with this.  And it was all worth it in the end.

LINKS:

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe Universal Book Link

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe Audiobook

Trailer

Chapter 1 sneak peek

Goodreads

Twitter

Website

BIO:

Lauren James’ books have sold over fifty thousand copies in the UK alone. The Loneliest Girl in the Universe was inspired by a Physics calculation she was assigned at university. Lauren is a passionate advocate of STEM further education, and all of her books feature female scientists in prominent roles.

Lauren is published in the UK by Walker Books, in the US by HarperCollins and in translation in five other countries around the world. She lives in the West Midlands and is an Arts Council grant recipient. She has written articles for the Guardian, Buzzfeed and The Toast, and wrote an article for the Children’s Writers and Artist’s Yearbook 2019.

You can find her on Twitter at @Lauren_E_James, Tumblr at @laurenjames or her website http://www.laurenejames.co.uk, where you can subscribe to her newsletter to be kept up to date with her new releases and receive bonus content.

My Favorite Bit: Mary Robinette Kowal talks about THE CALCULATING STARS

My Favorite BitI’m joining you today to talk about my novel The Calculating Stars. Here’s the publisher’s description:

On a cold spring night in 1952, a huge meteorite fell to earth and obliterated much of the east coast of the United States, including Washington D.C. The ensuing climate cataclysm will soon render the earth inhospitable for humanity, as the last such meteorite did for the dinosaurs. This looming threat calls for a radically accelerated effort to colonize space, and requires a much larger share of humanity to take part in the process.

Elma York’s experience as a WASP pilot and mathematician earns her a place in the International Aerospace Coalition’s attempts to put man on the moon, as a calculator. But with so many skilled and experienced women pilots and scientists involved with the program, it doesn’t take long before Elma begins to wonder why they can’t go into space, too.

Elma’s drive to become the first Lady Astronaut is so strong that even the most dearly held conventions of society may not stand a chance against her.

The Calculating Stars cover image

MARY ROBINETTE KOWAL

Given the frequency with which I ask other authors to talk about their favorite parts of their new novels, you might be wondering what my favorite bit of Calculating Stars is. Honestly, it’s the stuff I didn’t write.

See, it goes like this… I looked at all the things that I would need to know in order to write convincingly about orbital mechanics and said, “screw it! I’m hiring an expert.” Several experts, actually. But I’ll use this one as an example.

Stephen Grenade was my main science expert. He’s an ACTUAL rocket scientist. He also, luckily for me, got a degree in chemistry which came in really when Elma and her brother were trying to calculate how hot the meteorite was in order to make the Chesapeake steam. I’d found a website [http://www.chemteam.info/Thermochem/Thermochem-Example-Probs1.html] that had the equations for how to do it but I couldn’t even understand the math. All I had was that the total mass of water was 18 trillion gallons and an average depth of 21 feet.

Stephen wrote back this…

Anyway, for a 10 km wide asteroid, I get around 270 °C.

I made a couple of assumptions. First, that the asteroid is around 10 km wide. Second, that all of the water stays around, instead of a lot of it getting thrown up into the air or turned into steam pretty much immediately. Third, that the asteroid dumps all of its heat energy into the water instead of any going into the air or ground.

For the record, below is how I got that number. If you want to run it past someone else, please feel free. I’m also laying it out so I can double-check it later if needed.

The first thing we need to do is raise the bay’s temperature to 100°C. That’ll take an amount of energy given by (water’s mass)*(change in temperature)*(specific heat of water).

If the Chesapeake bay is 18 trillion gallons, that’s about 6.8E16 grams of water.

During March, the Chesapeake bay is around 7°C. So we need a temperature change of 93 °C.

The specific heat of water is 4.184 J/g/°C.

Multiplying all of those together gives me 3.05E19 Joules of energy.

Now we need to boil that water to make it into steam. That’ll take more energy equal to (water’s mass)*(water’s heat of vaporization)/(water’s molar mass).

From above, the water’s mass is 6.8E16 grams of water.

Water’s heat of vaporization is 40.7 kJ/mol.

Water’s molar mass is 18.0 g/mol.

From the equation, that gives me 1.54E20 J of energy.

Adding the two energies together, I get 1.84E20 J of energy.

To figure out how hot the asteroid would be, I use the equation delta T = (T2 – T1) = (total energy)/(mass of the asteroid)/(specific heat of the asteroid).

For a 10 km asteroid, the mass is around 1.31E15 kg. (Source: http://www.astronomynotes.com/solfluf/s5.htm)

The asteroid’s specific heat is 0.829 J/g/°C. (Source: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/lpsc2011/pdf/1150.pdf)

T1 is 100 °C, assuming the asteroid would dump all of its energy into the water and end up at the same temperature as the water/steam, 100 °C.

So solving for T2 and plugging everything in, I get 100°C + 170°C, for 270 °C.

#

All of this is makes me so geekily happy because I can follow it. I wouldn’t be able to generate any of that, but what I looooooved about working with him is that he wouldn’t just give me the answer, he would give me the thought process behind the answer. That, in turn, was something that I could gift to my characters.

So in the book, Stephen’s email became this…

I picked up the receiver and dialed my brother’s work number.

“United States Weather Bureau, Hershel Wexler speaking.”

“Hey, it’s Elma. Got a minute for a weather question?”

“That is the literal definition of my job. What’s up?” Paper rustled on the other end of the line. “Planning a picnic?”

“Heh. No.” I pulled the equations I’d been working on closer. “I’m helping Nathaniel figure out how big the meteorite was, and composition and . . . The Chesapeake was steaming for three days. I could sort it out on my own, but . . . I thought there might be an existing equation for figuring out what temperature it would take to make a body of water that big steam.”

“Interesting. . . Give me a sec.” Beyond him, I could hear the Teletype bringing in reports from weather stations around the world. “You’ve got the depth and volume of water, I assume?”

“Average depth twenty-one feet. Eighteen trillion gallons.”

“Okay. So . . . during March, the Chesapeake Bay is around forty-four degrees. So we’d need a temperature change of 199.4 . . .” A drawer opened, and the timbre of his voice changed as he pressed the phone to his shoulder.

I could picture him with the phone pressed between cheek and shoulder, brows creased as he worked the slide rule. His crutches would be leaning against the edge of his desk. His glasses would be down at the tip of his nose to help him focus better, and he’d have the corner of his lower lip tucked between his teeth, humming between muttered phrases. “. . . divided by water’s molar mass . . . and that gives me 1.54E20 J of energy . . . hm-hmmm . . . Adding the two energies together . . . hmmm . . . 1.84E20 J of energy. You’d need . . . It would need to be approximately 518 degrees.”

“Thanks.” I swallowed at the number and tried not to betray how much it frightened me. “You could’ve just given me the formula.”

“What? And admit that my kid sister is better at math than I am?” He snorted. “Please. I have an ego.”

#

There’s more stuff like that in the book, which makes it richer than I could possibly have done on my own. Besides Stephen, I also had two astronauts, two fighter pilots — one active duty and the other a Vietnam vet — a flight surgeon, an astronomer, and a ton of other people lending me their science knowledge.

Every time we had an email exchange, I would bounce up and down with giddy glee. It was fun. It was SO. Much. Fun.

Sometimes I would just send them passages that said things like,  “[More pilot jargon here]” and they would turn it into, “Wright Patterson tower this is Cessna four one six fox at one two thousand five hundred direct to the field.” (That one is from Derek “Wizard” Benkoski, by the way)

So there you have it. My favorite bit of Calculating Stars are the things I didn’t write.

LINKS:

The Calculating Stars Universal Book Link

The Calculating Stars Audiobook (read by me)

Twitter

Instagram

Patreon

Drip

 

My Favorite Bit: Jeremy Finley talks about THE DARKEST TIME OF NIGHT

My Favorite BitJeremy Finley is joining us today with his novel The Darkest Time of Night. Here’s the publisher’s description:

“The lights took him.”

When the seven-year-old grandson of U.S. Senator vanishes in the woods behind his home, the only witness is his older brother who whispers, “The lights took him,” and then never speaks again.

As the FBI and National Guard launch a massive search, the boys’ grandmother Lynn Roseworth fears only she knows the truth. But coming forward would ruin her family and her husband’s political career.

In the late 1960s, before she became the quiet wife of a politician, Lynn was a secretary in the astronomy department at the University of Illinois. It was there where she began taking mysterious messages for one of the professors; messages from people desperate to find their missing loved ones who vanished into beams of light.

Determined to find her beloved grandson and expose the truth, she must return to the work she once abandoned to unravel the existence of a place long forgotten by the world. It is there, buried deep beneath the bitter snow and the absent memories of its inhabitants, where her grandson may finally be found.

But there are forces that wish to silence her. And Lynn will find how far they will go to stop her, and how the truth about her own forgotten childhood could reveal the greatest mystery of all time.

The Darkest Time of Night is a fast-paced debut full of suspense and government cover-ups, perfect for thriller and supernatural fans alike.

What’s Jeremy’s favorite bit?

Darkest Time of Night cover image

JEREMY FINLEY

I wrote it, so it shouldn’t give me chills.

I’m severely critical of my own work. Blame it on a career in broadcast journalism where there’s always a critic waiting, ready to pounce in a Facebook comment about the way you pronounced “nuclear” or that your haircut is too short for a guy with your ears.

But I like it, this quote from Chapter 11.

It raises the hair on my arms — not because it’s comprised of two sentences that will one day be debated and analyzed in AP English classes — but rather because it comes from a father writing a letter about his beloved daughter. I am completely wrapped up with my own two girls, and I could watch military fathers surprising their daughters on a loop 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and never grow weary of it.

It’s a quote of a father’s fear.

So here it is:

“I wish I could go back to the beliefs I had before this, where the only purpose of the stars was to bring us light in the dark. Now I cannot look too long into the heavens for fear of what I might see.”      

The quote serves several purposes in my upcoming novel, The Darkest Time of Night. I won’t spoil what it means or what he is referring to. But it is a significant development in the book, one that changes everything for Lynn, the man’s now grown daughter.

It was a tough section to write for a couple of reasons. Not only because of what it means for Lynn, but that it encapsulates her father’s fears that she was never aware of.

Fathers always want to protect their daughters. It’s what we do. We joke about getting shotguns when they turn sixteen. When my youngest, my true daddy’s girl, went to kindergarten, I hid outside the gym so I could make sure she had stopped crying. After a week of this, one of the teachers said it wasn’t helping because my daughter could see me peering around the door.

It’s a feeling that is both joyous and terrible, when you love someone so much that you feel physical pain when they are hurt or sad. My oldest daughter, who bravely lives with a deadly peanut allergy, gets that flicker of fear in her eyes when our food arrives at a restaurant. She overcomes that doubt, only after my wife and I remind her that we’ve checked with the kitchen and all is well. But secretly, I want to sneak into the kitchen and do a full-on inspection for any trace of a peanut.

That is what the quote is truly about. What happened, what prompted this father to write it, was born from fears for his daughter.

I mentioned that the quote was difficult to write for two reasons. The other is that it truly, in two sentences, hints of the plot of the story. Who doesn’t love the night sky, whether it is a brilliant winter evening with your breath lifting into the air, or a steamy summer darkening, with crickets in the grass and preening stars?

The characters in my novel learn, however, that the sky is black for a reason, and there is much hidden there in the dark.

LINKS:

The Darkest Time of Night Universal Book Link

Website

Twitter

Facebook

BIO:

JEREMY FINLEY is the chief investigative reporter for WSMV-TV, the NBC-affiliated station in Nashville. Jeremy Finley’s investigative reporting has resulted in some of the highest honors in journalism, including more than a dozen Emmys, Edward R. Murrow awards and a national certificate from Investigative Reporters and Editors. He lives with his wife and daughters in Nashville, TN. The Darkest Time of Night is his first novel.

My Favorite Bit: Laura Anne Gilman talks about RED WATERS RISING

Favorite Bit iconLaura Anne Gilman is joining us today with her novel Red Waters Rising. Here’s the publisher’s description:

In the last novel of The Devil’s West trilogy, Isobel, the Devil’s Left Hand, and Gabriel ride through the magical land of the Territory to root out evil by the way of mad magicians, ghosts, and twisted animal spirits.

As Isobel and Gabriel travel to the southern edge of the Territory, they arrive in the free city of Red Stick. Tensions are running high as the homesteading population grows, crowding the native lands, and suspicions rise across the river from an American fort.

But there is a sickness running through Red Stick and Isobel begins to find her authority challenged. She’ll be abandoned, betrayed, and forced to stand her ground as the Devil’s left hand in this thrilling conclusion to The Devil’s West Trilogy.

What’s Laura Anne’s favorite bit?

Red Waters Rising

LAURA ANNE GILMAN

Last time I picked a “favorite bit,” it was a scene in THE COLD EYE, one that reminded me why – and how – I get satisfaction from writing.   

Now, as we’re closing out the Devil’s West trilogy with RED WATERS RISING, I can look back over the three books and say, without hesitation, that my favorite bit isn’t a scene, but a relationship.

Isobel née Lacoyo Távora and Gabriel Kasun.  One of them is only just coming into her own, her entire life ahead of her, while the other’s already seen maybe too much of the world, and the people in it.

It was inevitable that they’d bond – but it wasn’t until RED WATERS RISING that I realized what that bond had become.

When Isobel first encounters Gabriel, she’s not much impressed.

She had his measure now: likely a professional gambling man, or maybe a law’s advocate, someone who held things close. A sharp man, either way. The charm was on the surface; she couldn’t tell yet what was underneath.(from SILVER ON THE ROAD)

At this point, Isobel herself is barely more than a child, for all that she’s being asked to take up adult responsibilities.  She’s a mix of arrogance and ignorance, her innocence barely tempered by growing up in the devil’s household.

But when her boss – the devil of the series title – tasks Gabriel with teaching Isobel what she needs to know, to survive out in the Territory – they are thrown together in a relationship that’s about as unglamorously intimate as possible: riding the dust roads together, just them, their horses, and a pack mule.   She’s stubborn, but teachable.  He’s broken and pragmatic, but resigned to the deal he’s unexpectedly made.

So there’s the set-up: a young girl, full of ambition and power, and a grown man, dragging a life’s worth of mistakes and regret, spending a year riding through the Territory together.

Over the course of three books, they face dangers both mortal and magical.  They also see things of wonder and beauty, share a lot of “oh my god what just happened?” moments, and not a few incredibly awkward ones (because what’s a character for but to torture a little?).   

As they travel, Isobel begins to see beyond that façade Gabriel puts up.  And Gabriel, who at first saw only a young girl with handsome looks and a sharp wit, learns firsthand why the devil chose her to be his Left Hand, the voice of brutal justice in the Territory.  

Readers following their adventures have seen how they interact, the trust, respect, and friendship that grows.  But when I was re-reading all three books (preparing to write the novella that follows), the full arc of their relationship – how it grew and what it became – took my breath away.

They are no longer teacher and student, but neither are they peers: Gabriel is aware of the fact that Isobel holds far more power than he, and he does not envy her it.  And they are not romantic – if there was ever a moment they thought of each other like that, it came and went.

That’s incredibly important – that it’s not romantic – because what they have is love.  Pragmatic love, asking and expecting nothing of the other save that they be themselves.  They’ve seen what the other is capable of, good and ill, and accepted it entirely.

And my god, do I find myself envying them.

And that’s why it’s my favorite bit.

LINKS:

Red Waters Rising Universal Book Link

Red Waters Rising signed copies

Publisher’s website

Laura Anne Gilman’s website

Twitter

Patreon

BIO:

Laura Anne Gilman is the Nebula- and Endeavor-award nominated author of The Devil’s West, the Locus-bestselling weird western series (SILVER ON THE ROAD, THE COLD EYE, and RED WATERS RISING), as well as the short story collection DARKLY HUMAN, the long-running Cosa Nostradamus urban fantasy series, and the “Vineart War”  trilogy.   Her short fiction has recently appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Lightspeed, and THE UNDERWATER BALLROOM SOCIETY.  Her work has been hailed as “a true American myth being found.” by NPR, and praised for her “deft plotting and first-class characters” by Publisher Weekly, among others.

A former New Yorker, she currently lives outside of Seattle with two cats and many deadlines.  More information and updates can be found at www.lauraannegilman.net.

My Favorite Bit: C. L. Polk talks about WITCHMARK

My Favorite BitC.L. Polk is joining us today to talk about her novel Witchmark. Here is the publisher’s description:

C. L. Polk arrives on the scene with Witchmark, a stunning, addictive fantasy that combines intrigue, magic, betrayal, and romance.

One of Publishers Weekly‘s Most Anticipated Books of Spring 2018!

In an original world reminiscent of Edwardian England in the shadow of a World War, cabals of noble families use their unique magical gifts to control the fates of nations, while one young man seeks only to live a life of his own.

Magic marked Miles Singer for suffering the day he was born, doomed either to be enslaved to his family’s interest or to be committed to a witches’ asylum. He went to war to escape his destiny and came home a different man, but he couldn’t leave his past behind. The war between Aeland and Laneer leaves men changed, strangers to their friends and family, but even after faking his own death and reinventing himself as a doctor at a cash-strapped veterans’ hospital, Miles can’t hide what he truly is.

When a fatally poisoned patient exposes Miles’ healing gift and his witchmark, he must put his anonymity and freedom at risk to investigate his patient’s murder. To find the truth he’ll need to rely on the family he despises, and on the kindness of the most gorgeous man he’s ever seen.

What’s C.L.’s favorite bit?

Witchmark cover image

C. L. POLK

Stories change a lot between revisions. You’d never recognize the story I first wrote for Witchmark. I added thirty thousand words, cut two subplots, and discovered Grace Hensley, Miles Singer’s younger sister.

Grace was the favorite child. Gifted with a strong talent for Storm-Singing, Grace grew up as her father’s daughter, trained to take his place as the leader of the secret circle of mages who hold back the storms that would ruin Aeland’s agricultural prosperity. And she’s a failure, because her brother successfully escaped his fate as a lackey and magical battery. The subsequent loss of reputation has put the Hensley name in freefall, and she’ll do anything to claw her way back to the top.

I sense the enlightened nods. Ah. An antagonist.

Except it’s not quite so clear. Grace refuses to force her brother into the subservient position that would repair the damage to the family name. Faced with a choice between power and love, Grace promises the one thing she absolutely shouldn’t–she swears a blood oath not to bind her brother’s magical power without his consent:

She had a blade out of her pocket in a heartbeat. I shut the door but kept my hand on the lever. She drew the white-handled blade across her skin. “I bind my power to this promise: I will not bind your power to mine without your consent.”

Blood welled up in her palm, and she drew a stylized G that carried the suggestion of a bolt of lightning. “By my oath, my mark, and my blood, this is true.”

She used the strictest of vows. A tripled oath was impossible to break. It was old magic, older than Link Circles, older than storm-singing, and she’d done it without hesitation.

She held her hand out. The blood seeped back into her skin, the spell a part of her forever.

With this vow, she wins enough trust to start interfering in Miles’ life…and she’s every bit as abrasive as an opinionated sister can get. Love for her brother or not, Grace Hensley is still a bit of a snob, and is scandalized to discover where her brother lives:

“Birdland? You live in a single room in a boarding house in Birdland?”

She was as I remembered her, making an awful face at a supper she didn’t like or a notion she wouldn’t abide. The years melted away as I winked at her. “You’re sounding better. Cold cleared up?”

“After I nearly burned to death with your cure. I’m perfectly well.” She glanced around at the kitchen. I was glad Mrs. Bass’s enameled iron pots were free of stains and she’d never let a speck of dust settle anywhere. But Grace looked as if this kitchen were a pathetic hovel. “How much are they paying you?”

“Enough.” The meat had surrendered to hours on the simmer. “I could afford a flat, if I could find one.”

“Leave it to me. Birdland. Indeed.”

And where he works:

“So you donated a hill of money to the hospital.”

“I should have offered more. You really don’t have a lift?”

“We really don’t.”

“The least I could do for them. A parting gift.”

I put my spoon down. “A what?”

“I know what to do.” Grace leaned over her bowl, elbows firmly on the desk. “Your own practice.”

“No.”

“Hear me out. You can have privileges at every hospital in the city—”

“I wouldn’t need privileges unless I was doing surgery—”

“You can,” she said. “You’d never have to worry about being discovered.”

Oh, of course. I leaned back. “Because my patients would be from the Hundred Families. An exclusive clientele, getting their maladies treated with magic.”

“Exactly.”

“No, Grace.”

And the company Miles keeps:

I settled back into my place between my sister and Tristan, who regarded each other with narrow- eyed dislike. “Miles, who is this?”

I winced. “Grace, this is my . . . friend, Mr. Tristan Hunter.”

Her hand tightened on the crook of my elbow and I blundered on. “Mr. Hunter, this is Dame Grace Hensley, Her Majesty’s Royal Knight.”

Tristan swept off his hat and bowed. “How do you do?” The gesture was perfectly correct, but it was no courtesy.

Grace stood with her feet and shoulders squared up to face him. She bristled with hostility. What on Earth— ?

Of course. She could see Tristan’s veiling magic.

“Grace,” I said, gently. “Mr. Hunter is my friend.”

She continued staring at him. “Indeed.”

Protective, loyal, and ambitious, or judgy, controlling, and arrogant? People don’t seem to stay neutral in their opinions on Miles’ sister. But I can’t help but speculate that Grace probably would be considered driven, responsible, passionate, and in a difficult position if her name was Gary. I love Grace because she defies the narrow strip of ground fictional women are allowed to occupy. She’s not nice enough. She doesn’t do emotional support. She’s opinionated, openly ambitious, sure of her own abilities and talents. She has flaws and weaknesses that make me facepalm, but her love for her brother shines through, creating all kinds of obstacles in what ought to be a clear path to her destiny as the leader of Aeland’s magicians.

Grace is a difficult woman, and I cheer for her.

LINKS:

Witchmark Universal Book Link

Excerpt

Website

Twitter

BIO:

C.L. Polk writes fiction and spots butterflies in Southern Alberta. She has an unreasonable fondness for knitting, single estate coffee, and the history of fashion. Her debut series beginning with the novel Witchmark is available from Tor.com.

MY FAVORITE BIT: J.S. Fields talks about ARDULUM: THIRD DON

My Favorite BitJ.S. Fields is here today with the final book in the Ardulum series, Ardulum: Third Don. Here’s the publisher’s description:

The planet wakes.

Atalant is torn between two worlds. In uncharted space, head of a sentient planet, the new eld of Ardulum now leads the religion she once rejected. Emn is by her side but the Mmnnuggl war brewing in the Charted Systems, threatening her homeworld of Neek, cannot be ignored. Atalant must return to the planet that exiled her in order to lead the resistance. She must return home a god, a hypocrite, a liar in gold robes, and decide whether to thrust her unwilling people into the truth of Ardulum, or play the role she has been handed and never see her family, or her world, again.

What’s J.S. favorite bit?

Ardulum Third Don cover image

J.S. FIELDS

I’m a scientist.

And I’m back.

Although I spend a lot of time in real life, and in the ARDULUM series, talking about wood science (or the science of cellulose, specifically), I never really get a chance to talk about the other side of my job, which is…

Wait for it…

Fungi.

Not the kind that grow on your bread, or in your shower, or the black kind that everyone gets super bent out of shape about for no good reason (can someone please make one of those friendly spider memes for mold? Please?). I work with wood-decaying fungi which, as you might imagine, is sort of perfect since all the tech in ARDULUM is cellulose-based. So what better plot device, what better mass-panic-inducing organism, than a fungus that can literally eat the galaxy?

Fungi have always been a part of the Charted Systems and the Alliance, if somewhat subtly. The menagerie of genders presented in the series are each modeled after a species of fungus. Conveniently fungi present practically limitless options for gender and sexual reproduction, and aliens should be at least as diverse as fungi (our closest evolutionary friends, in terms of kingdom). But I didn’t just want to model gender in THIRD DON, I actually wanted to imagine what fungi, as sentient beings (that can communicate with us. I’m not saying current fungi aren’t sentient. Don’t come after me, mycophiles!) would look like, how they might move, and how they might communicate.

Unfortunately there wasn’t a lot of space to get into the minutiae of sentient fungal mechanics, but I’m really pleased with the parts I did get to play with. How do fungi emote? If we give them more ‘understandable’ traits, a big one would be a large spore expulsion. Although not all fungi release spores in such a manner on Earth, it seems like a reasonable evolutionary trait to be able to aggressively shoot spores (especially foul smelling ones) at someone who is bothering you. The spores could be sticky, smelly, or rapidly come to life and continue attacking. What fun! And what a mess to clean up. One can imagine if extended negotiations were needed with sentient fungi, one would try to make sure tempers stayed cool.

Another big issue would be communication. Fungi communicate chemically, as do most living things, and also, in theory, through their extensive hyphal networks. For THIRD DON I tried to combine the two methods, by indicating that the sentient fungi used chemical signals, but in order to communicate in ‘Common’ with Atalant, rubbed their hyphae together to mimic speaking sounds. I assume the chitin content of fungal hyphae would need to be drastically increased to make the kind of noises needed to ‘talk,’ but hey, this is science fiction. You can take some things on spec, surely.

Finally, movement. Fungi capable of running a planet and interacting with bipeds need a way to locomote. And since this is an entire kingdom we’re talking about here, not just a species (like, say, Homo sapien), there needed to be some variation. So I selected across a broad group of fruiting forms, from the very recognizable stinkhorn fungi (specifically the ‘veiled lady,’ Phallus indusiatus), to the ascomycetes cup fungus elf’s cup (Chlorociboria spp.), to a fungus that has no known fruiting body nor common name: Scytalidium cuboideum.

Dragging seemed the easiest way to get around, and most fungi make hyphae, so across the board the fungi pull themselves along with braided hyphae. But to denote species differences, I got into the mechanics of each type. The veiled lady can detach their ‘veil’ and wave it around (or smack other beings with it) in anger, using hyphal ‘hands.’ Scytalidium cuboideum moves both through its mycelium, and through expulsion of pigment from its hyphae (in real life, the fungus makes a beautiful red pigment which is used in textile dyeing). The final fungus, elf’s cup, doesn’t do much unique with their movement, but since this fungus has been used for hundreds of years in Western Europe for dyeing wood intarsia and marquetry pieces, I wanted to make sure there was a nod to its expansive pigment production. Hence, every time the fungus is on something woody in THIRD DON (which is basically all the time), it injects a blue-green color into the wood, as well as leaves a trail of blue-green pigment in its wake. Like a car leaking oil, but prettier.

The sentient fungi of THIRD DON are mostly limited to one chapter, and play a very small role in the overall plot, but in many ways they were the most fun to write. A biped is a biped, especially in sci-fi, and especially if we want people to be able to relate to the character, but fungi…ah, we have such creative freedom with fungi! Genders and digestion and habitat and communication…really it’s a wonder there aren’t more sci-fi stories dedicated to their biology.

And maybe if there were, people wouldn’t be so terrified of the mold in their shower.

LINKS:

Ardulum:Third Don Universal Book Link

Website

Goodreads

Twitter

BIO:

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

My Favorite Bit: Marie Brennan talks about BORN TO THE BLADE Season 1

My Favorite BitMarie Brennan is joining us today with the serial fiction Born to the Blade, written with Michael R. Underwood, Malka Older, and Cassandra Khaw. Here is the description:

Youth. Ambition. Power. Oda no Michiko and Kris Denn have much of the first two, and crave the last. To get it, all they must do is survive.

For centuries, the Warder’s Circle on the neutral islands of Twaa-Fei has given the nations of the sky a way to avoid war, as their chosen warders settle disputes through magical duels of blade and sigil. But that peace is on the edge of crumbling, crushed between the aggression of the Mertikan Empire and the determination of the still-free nations to not be consumed. Twaa-Fei may be neutral, but it is also home to a million intrigues, schemes, and deadly intentions.

Michiko and Kris arrive in this treacherous world together, bladecrafters eager to serve their countries — Michiko as a junior warder for Katuke, a vassal of the empire, Kris as an upstart challenging to win a seat for his home, Rumika, in the Circle. But before the young bladecrafters have even settled in, a power struggle erupts, a man’s head is parted from his shoulders, and every good thing Michiko thinks she knows about the empire comes into question. A storm is coming, and Kris and Michiko stand at its eye. Will it bind the nations of the sky together… or tear it apart?

Born to the Blade season 1 cover image

MARIE BRENNAN

This is going to sound weird . . . but my favorite bit in Born to the Blade, the collaborative novel I wrote with Michael R. Underwood, Malka Older, and Cassandra Khaw, might just be Bellona.

Bellona? The arrogant, high-handed character everybody loves to hate? How can I name her, when I could choose from Michiko, Kris, Ojo, Adechike (officially nicknamed “Beautiful Cinnamon Roll” by the writing team)?

I don’t like Bellona. It’s no accident that she’s named after the Roman goddess of war: she spreads strife wherever she goes, sometimes on purpose, sometimes just by being who she is. She’s utterly invested in the ideology of the Mertikan Empire, which is best described as “rabid meritocracy.” It’s a land where every person is . . . not encouraged, that’s too gentle; more like required . . . to pursue excellence in whatever it is they do, whether that’s being a bladecrafter representing the Empire on the neutral islands of Twaa-Fei, or a street sweeper in the capital city.

In Mertika, if you can prove you’re good at a thing, then the job is yours. Other islands in the sky use formal confrontations with swords to settle political treaties or points of dispute, but in Mertika, you can challenge for any position, attempting to prove your worth through a suitable kind of duel. Want to become a cook? Think Iron Chef. Barber? Time to see who can produce the fastest, cleanest shave. Anybody can become Emperor or Empress . . . if they can defeat the current ruler in a test of combined swordplay and magic.

Of course, there are consequences if you challenge and fail. Then you tumble all the way to the bottom of the hierarchy, not only in this lifetime but the next.

Because that’s the other thing: Mertikans remember their previous lives.

Every island in the sky bestows a magical birthright on people born there (regardless of their ancestry). For Mertikans, it’s past-life recall. Combine that with their ideology, and you have a recipe for the “tiger mom” stereotype on steroids: a constant drumbeat telling them to achieve, achieve, achieve, and the awareness of whether they’re surpassing their previous incarnation or failing to live up to it.

I don’t like Bellona, but I love the window she gives us into the Mertikan Empire. She did great things when she was Aelia Tullius, and now she’s ambitious to do more. She has to be excellent at everything she sets her hand to, whether that’s dueling, lying (an excellence she’s never really possessed), or throwing a baby shower for a pregnant Warder. When her superior, Lavinia, tells her she should recognize the limits of her reach, Bellona rejects that outright:

Only an idiot concluded that, because the peach was high in the tree, she would never be able to pluck it. Someone, sometime in the distant past, had faced the same problem . . . and invented the ladder.

Bellona will invent whatever ladders she has to in order to achieve her goals. Even when I detest those goals, even when I want to smack her upside the head with proof that just because Mertika pursues excellence doesn’t mean it’s good, I find her mindset compelling. So while I love many of the characters in our story — nerdy Takeshi, long-suffering Yochno, noble Penelope, flamboyant Shun — Bellona might just be my favorite, because she’s so determined to be the best.

If what she winds up being best at is making readers loathe her, then we’ve done our job.

LINKS:

Born to the Blade

How Serial Box works

Marie Brennan Twitter

BIO:

Marie Brennan is a former anthropologist and folklorist who shamelessly pillages her academic fields for material. She most recently misapplied her professors’ hard work to the Hugo Award-nominated Victorian adventure series The Memoirs of Lady Trent; the first book of that series, A Natural History of Dragons, was a finalist for the World Fantasy Award and won the Prix Imaginales for Best Translated Novel. Her collaborative novel Born to the Blade, written with Michael R. Underwood, Malka Older, and Cassandra Khaw, is out this spring from Serial Box. She is also the author of the Doppelganger duology of Warrior and Witch, the urban fantasies Lies and Prophecy and Chains and Memory, the Onyx Court historical fantasy series, the Varekai novellas, and more than fifty short stories. For more information, visit www.swantower.com.

My Favorite Bit: Warren Hammond talks about DENVER MOON: THE MINDS OF MARS

Favorite Bit iconWarren Hammond is joining us today with his novella Denver Moon:The Minds of Mars, co-authored with Joshua Viola. Here’s the description:

Once considered humanity’s future home, Mars hasn’t worked out like anybody hoped. Plagued by crime and a terraforming project that’s centuries from completion, Mars is a red hell.

Denver Moon, P.I., works the dark underbelly of Mars City. While investigating a series of violent crimes linked to red fever—a Martian disorder that turns its victims into bloodthirsty killers—Denver discovers a cryptic message left by Tatsuo Moon, Mars City co-founder and Denver’s grandfather. The same grandfather who died two decades ago.

Twenty-year-old revelations force Denver on a quest for truth, but Tatsuo’s former friend, Cole Hennessy, leader of the Church of Mars, has other plans and will stop at nothing to keep Denver from disclosing Tatsuo’s secrets to the world.

Hell-bent on reclaiming her grandfather’s legacy, Denver—along with her AI implant, Smith, companion android, Nigel, and shuttle pilot, Navya—set out on a quest to find the answers they hope will shed light on the church’s true agenda, the origin of red fever, and the mysteries surrounding Tatsuo’s tragic death.

What’s Warren’s favorite bit?

Denver Moon

WARREN HAMMOND

My favorite bit of Denver Moon: The Minds of Mars wasn’t my idea. It was my co-author, Joshua Viola, who came up with the idea of using a gun as Denver Moon’s sidekick. “The gun has been installed with an AI,” he said. “And Denver talks to it when she does her PI work.”

The thought of a talking gun made me smile. From the very beginning, Josh and I wanted to have fun with this project, and making a gun into a primary character sounded like…well, fun. I suggested we name our AI-in-a-gun sidekick Smith, because the gun is a Smith and Wesson. That elicited a grin, and we were off to the races, running with a good idea like all writers do.

That’s the exciting part of a collaborative project. Josh and I both bring good ideas, but those ideas become so much more special when we bounce them off each other, and they morph, and shift, and inspire unexpected turns that far exceed our original thoughts.

The next idea was this: the AI-in-a-gun sidekick carries the memories of Denver’s dead grandfather, the founder of Mars colony. Thanks to this addition, Smith began to grow a personality. Unable to keep himself separate from the memories he carries, he now had his own thoughts and feelings. He was no longer a smoother-talking version of an Amazon Echo or Apple Siri. He was now a fully-realized character who, we decided, would often have an agenda all his own.

And what if Denver gets annoyed when Smith acts too much like her grandfather? What if, among her grandfather’s memories, Smith finds a message implying Denver’s grandfather might not be dead?

Ideas work like that sometimes. One leads to the next, which leads to the next, until they seem to take on a life all their own. Adding layer after layer to Denver and Smith’s world, we built the foundation for Denver Moon: The Minds of Mars as well as a three-issue comic book series named Denver Moon: Metamorphosis. We debuted the comics recently at the Denver Independent Comic & Arts Expo, where we received an unexpected gift.

It was during a quiet period at the Hex Publisher’s booth that a young man picked up the first issue of the comic book series. Silently, he read a few pages as both Josh and I—tired from a long day— sat quietly behind the table. But then the young man started to chuckle. Speaking to himself, he said, “She’s talking to her gun.”

Hearing those words, I smiled, too, just like the first time I heard it.

LINKS:

Denver Moon: The Minds of Mars Universal Book Link

Denver Moon Website

Hex Publishers

BIOS:

Warren Hammond grew up in the Hudson River Valley of New York State. Upon obtaining his teaching degree from the University at Albany, he moved to Colorado, and settled in Denver where he can often be found typing away at one of the local coffee shops. He is known for his gritty, futuristic KOP series from TOR Books. By taking the best of classic detective noir, and reinventing it on a destitute colony world, Warren has created these uniquely dark tales of murder, corruption and redemption. KOP Killer won the 2012 Colorado Book Award for best mystery. Always eager to see new places, Warren has traveled extensively. Whether it’s wildlife viewing in exotic locales like Botswana and the Galapagos Islands, or trekking in the Himalayas, he’s always up for a new adventure.

Joshua Viola is an author, artist, and former video game developer (Pirates of the Caribbean, Smurfs, TARGET: Terror). In addition to creating a transmedia franchise around The Bane of Yoto, honored with more than a dozen awards, he is the author of Blackstar, a tie-in novel based on the discography of Celldweller. His debut horror anthology, Nightmares Unhinged, was a Denver Post and Amazon bestseller and named one of the Best Books of 2016 by Kirkus Reviews. His second anthology, Cyber World (co-edited by Jason Heller), was an Independent Publisher Book Awards winner and Colorado Book Award finalist and named one of the Best Books of 2016 by Barnes & Noble. His short fiction has appeared in The Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Found anthology (RMFW Press), D.O.A. III – Extreme Horror Collection (Blood Bound Books), and The Literary Hatchet (PearTree Press). He lives in Denver, Colorado, where he is chief editor and owner of Hex Publishers.

My Favorite Bit: Cat Rambo talks about HEARTS OF TABAT

My Favorite BitCat Rambo is joining us today to talk about her novel Hearts of Tabat. Here’s the publisher’s description:

Fireworks, riots, and rousing speeches all mark the vast societal upheavals taking place in the city of Tabat. But personal upheavals reflect the chaos. Adelina Nettlepurse, noted historian and secret owner of Spinner Press, watches the politics and intrigue with interest, only to find herself drawn into its heart by a dangerous text and a wholly unsuitable love affair with a man well below her station.

The match offered by Merchant Mage Sebastiano Silvercloth would be much more acceptable, but Sebastiano is hampered by his own troubles at the College of Mages, where the dwindling of magical resources threatens Tabat itself. And worse, his father demands he marry as soon as possible.

When Adelina’s best friend, glamorous and charming gladiator Bella Kanto, is convicted of sorcery and exiled, the city of Tabat undergoes increasing turmoil as even the weather changes to reflect the confusion and loss of one of its most beloved heroes.

Meanwhile the Beasts of Tabat — magical creatures such as dryads, minotaurs, and centaurs — are experiencing a revolution of their own, questioning a social order that holds them at its lowest level. But who is helping the Beasts in their subversive uprising?

In the second book of the Tabat Quartet, award-winning author Cat Rambo expands the breathtaking story from Beasts of Tabat with new points of view as Adelina, Sebastiano, and others add their voices. Tabat is a world, a society, and a cast of characters unlike any you have read before.

What’s Cat’s favorite bit?

Hearts of Tabat Cover Image

CAT RAMBO

One of my favorite pieces of the most recent fantasy novel, Hearts of Tabat, didn’t actually get into the final version, which was a set of chapter headers defining which Trade God each chapter belonged to. The Trade Gods of the city of Tabat embody various economic forces of one size or another, ranging from the large Anbo and Enba (Supply & Demand) to the more particular, like Zampri, who oversees Advertising, or Uhkephelmi, God of Small Mistakes.

I ended up removing these headers because I was afraid readers might take them to be more meaningful than they are, but they were great fun to figure out and many still made their way into the book itself or other Tabat works, such as the novelette I just finished, “God of the Balanced Ledger,” which talks at great lengths about some of the practices of merchants of Tabat.

I love complicated mythologies, and I’ve tried to create one in the Trade Gods, though I’ve also tried to make their names make sense by making a list of the more important morphemes as well as creating suffixes that identify gender: female, male, neuter, multi, and other. I know that if a god’s name starts out with “Dom,” for instance, they have something to do with communication, such as Dompkepko, God of Negotiation, or their sibling Domkepthka, God of Persuasion. “Aril” on the other hand usually signals some sort of tie or alliance.

In creating the mythology, I’ve tried to show how the merchants living within it see the world, as something that is made up of economic forces, with a sense of a mythology that is as much a textbook of basic economic theory as it is a scripture, but still captures the flavor of a lively, energetic pantheon. Some of them got quite complicated, such as Rilriliworhaomu, Trade God of Hypothetical Marital Alliances.

The sequel, Exiles of Tabat, is dedicated to another specific trade god, Uhcoemo, Trade God of Exiles. Where this book has explored some of the events of the first from different points of view, the third returns to Bella Kanto and Teo, this time far away from Tabat, struggling with the immense changes that have happened in their lives.

Some folks have said nice things about the worldbuilding in both Hearts of Tabat as well as its predecessor, Beasts, and I think it’s pieces like this, which provide both underlying structure and new directions for stories to go in, that help create an immersive, interesting world, along with all the fantastic talking gryphons, magic fountains, and other details of the seaport of Tabat. By now I’ve written not just two and a half novels in its world, but over two dozen stories, and I know I’ll keep coming back and finding new details, perhaps overseen in that endeavour by Marbu, Trade God of Chance and Domkepdepru, Trade God of Books.

Here’s some of those other Gods for your amusement:

Abkerdomma, Trade God of Full Disclosure

Abvioti, Trade God of First Impressions

Angrajekna, Trade God of Beasts

Angrato, Trade God of Cargo

Arilkepgioti, Trade God of Apprenticeship

Arilkepyaotu, Trade God of Mentorship

Arilworyaomi, Trade God of Future Marital Alliances

Chalwoarma, Trade God of Lustful Influence

Chayanyata, Trade God of Medicines

Diahmo, God of the Balanced Ledger

Domkepku, Trade God of Publishing

Ehworhaoti, Trade God of Negotiating Marital Alliances

Enbi, Trade God of Need

Erilgioma, Trade God of Influence Through Childhood Friendship

Fayapprima, Goddess of Prevented Losses

Giobi, Trade God of Friendship

Hazba, Trade God of Mortality

Ihobvioki, Trade God of Public Display

Keppro, Trade God of Work

Kepterto, Trade God of Tailors

Kepverma, Trade God of Tanners

Mompru, Trade God of Food

Plarworki, Trade God of Political Connection

Rupru, Trade God of Ritual

Uhfawyanbi, Trade God of Danger, Loss, and Gambles

Uhkephelmi, Trade God of Small Mistakes

Uhmarko, Trade God of Unlucky Finds and Unfortunate Meetings

Uhyanyapri, Trade God of Rot

Uhviodommu, God of Bad Reputation and Taint

Vioyaovi, the God of Filial Display

Woryaoto, Trade God of Filial Ties

Yalunkwanko, Lady of Nighttime Doings

Zamhruku, Trade God of Entertainments

Zampri, Trade God of Advertising

Zimjekma, Trade God of Magical Knowledge

LINKS:

Hearts of Tabat Universal Book Link

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BIO:

Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches atop a hill in the Pacific Northwest. Her 200+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov’s, Clarkesworld Magazine, and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. She is an Endeavour, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award nominee. Her 2018 works include Hearts of Tabat (novel, WordFire Press) and the updated 3rd edition of Creating an Online Presence for Writers. For more about her, as well as links to her fiction and her popular online school, The Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers, see http://www.kittywumpus.net. She is the current President of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. (SFWA.org)

My Favorite Bit: Brenda W. Clough talks about A MOST DANGEROUS WOMAN

Favorite Bit iconBrenda W. Clough is joining us today to talk about her serial fiction A Most Dangerous Woman, a standalone sequel to Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White. Here’s the description:

Marian Halcombe never believed she’d fall in love, let alone marry. That is, until she meets Theo Camlet. But when Theo’s first wife, who everyone believed to be dead, reappears, Marian’s happy-ever-after might just slip away. Marian and her brother in law, Walter, must delve into the darkest and most dangerous corners of London to save Theo from accusations of bigamy and murder, as well as the hangman’s noose.

What’s Brenda’s favorite bit?

A Most Dangerous Woman cover image

BRENDA W. CLOUGH

Content Warning: description of genital mutilation as outdated medical procedure

A MOST DANGROUS WOMAN is solidly set in the mid-Victorian period, an era full of research nuggets. It was before antibiotics, before the germ theory, but in a period where everyone wrote everything down. So you have masses of thrilling and blood-curdling medical disaster stories. I am trying to wedge as many of the most wince-worthy ones into these novels! But some of the ones that didn’t make it into the current book include:

The period pharmacopoeia. The favorite Victorian drug was an opiate; opium or its more powerful derivatives were added to everything. Tonics. Baby supplements. Cough syrups. Malaria medicines. It’s a wonder anyone got anything done, they all must have been higher than Timothy Leary. Another beloved chemical enhancement was arsenic. It was like corn sugar for us, a useful additive to anything you can imagine. Lotions, foodstuffs, hair products – everything went down a little better with arsenic. There were no food purity regulations, no drug laws that precluded you from buying half a pound of the stuff at the local store so that you could add arsenic, or opiates, to the food you were selling or cooking for the hubby and kids.

Things to do to sick people. When Emily Bronte (author of WUTHERING HEIGHTS) was bitten by her dog, she staved off rabies by cauterizing the wound with a poker heated red-hot. She did this with her own hands, not even allowing Charlotte and Anne to help. Thank God, there were no cell phone cameras so the incident is not viewable on YouTube. The things to feed to sick people will make you feel ill just reading the recipes. The idea was that sick people were not strong enough to digest anything. So they got dishes like bread jelly (put the bread in a bowl, pour boiling water on, and after it cools take the bread out. Spoon the water left in the bowl into the invalid’s mouth). Or gruel, the bane of Oliver Twist. You could have sago gruel, oatmeal gruel or rice gruel. All of these to be served quite plain, and any leftovers could be used to glue wallpaper to the walls. If you read JANE EYRE it is clear that Bertha, the crazy wife hidden in the attic, is fed on nothing but gruel. After a year or two on this diet you would go berserk and burn the hose down too!

Creative treatment trends. There was a fashion for hydropathy, which means taking baths. Cold baths, hot baths, water poured in a steady stream onto the top of your head – all these things were supposed to help cure a variety of ailments. Charles Darwin spent years treating his digestive issues with sitz baths, sitting in a shallow basin of water. You can still view the bowl at his house in Sussex – he kept it hanging behind his office door, handy for use. Another horrific notion, mainly pushed by a single nutty doctor, was clitoridectomy. Yes, using a scissors on a woman’s most personal organ would cure her of nearly anything from toothache to infertility. That doctor got disbarred, but another, whose idea that all your health problems were caused by your teeth, was not. He prescribed extractions for everything from colds to heart trouble to gout, and did a good business. Then he got sick himself, and had all his own teeth pulled out. He was horrified when it didn’t help, and you will not be surprised to hear that after that he went into a decline.

And finally, the one medical issue that you find very little written about: STDs. Sexually transmitted illnesses were rampant, in an era when London teemed with prostitutes and there were no cures or cheap protections. There was of course no birth control, and even condoms had to be expensively and painstakingly hand-made (from lamb intestine, tied on with ribbon). Every man who strayed sooner or later picked up some horrible disease, and if they were unlucky they were infected with the most feared germ of all: syphilis, the Great Pox. It was highly infectious, and incurable. The treatments (mercury) were at best partially effective and at worst killed you outright. But you couldn’t talk about it. Because if you had an STD you, by definition, had been sleeping around. Doctors would diagnose and treat men, but carefully not tell their wives even if the lady became infected. Because it was the mister who paid the bill, and the knowledge would only upset the poor little woman, right? In any case there was no cure until the advent of penicillin, and if you were really unfortunate the disease would pop back out after years of making you ill, and drive you insane. A vast field of literary analysis is out there, exploring how the fear of VD haunts fiction and poetry of the period. As syphilis warped men’s sexuality, infected women (Isak Dinesen caught syphilis from her husband) people wrote about it in coded or veiled terms that we are only just starting to perceive.

Although I had not intended this, you can look up from the world of A MOST DANGEROUS WOMAN and be really, really glad that you live in an era with modern medicine!

LINKS:

A Most Dangerous Woman

How Serial Box Works

Brenda W. Clough Website

BIO:
Brenda W. Clough spent much of her childhood overseas, courtesy of the U.S. government. She writes novels and short stories. Her first fantasy, The Crystal Crown, was published by DAW in 1984. She has also written The Dragon of Mishbil (1985), The Realm Beneath (1986), and The Name of the Sun (1988). Her children’s novel, An Impossumble Summer (1992), is set in her own house in Virginia, cottage at the edge of a forest.

Her novel How Like a God was published by Tor Books in 1997, and a sequel, Doors of Death and Life, was published in May 2000. Her latest novels from Book View Cafe include Revise the World (2009) and Speak to Our Desires.

She has been a finalist for both the Hugo and the Nebula awards.

My Favorite Bit: Chris Cutler talks about UNSPUN

My Favorite BitChris Cutler is joining us today to talk about his anthology Unspun. Here’s the publisher’s description:

Whatever happened to “happily ever after”?

Heroes search for happiness, villains plot revenge, and nothing is as easy as it once seemed. Gretel suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, an orphan girl questions Rumpelstiltskin’s legacy, a monster cat searches for a child to eat, and the pied piper realizes stealing a hundred and thirty children may not have been his smartest idea.

Fairy tales have endured for centuries even though—or perhaps because—their conclusions are often more unsettling than satisfying. In Unspun, eleven storytellers come together to challenge and explore a few of those classic tales. Unexpected twists are sure to provoke both thought and laughter.

What’s Chris’ favorite bit?

Unspun Cover Image

CHRIS CUTLER

Fairy tales are wonderfully flawed, and we love them for it. They are morality tales whose morals have changed. They are cautionary tales repurposed as entertainment. They are improbable tales built out of incongruities and logic holes. They are escapist tales in which love at first sight relationships and rags-to-riches success fade to “Happily Ever After” before the heroine has time to confront the lasting consequences of her adventure. And I am convinced that we love fairy tales precisely because of these flaws, because each dissonant quality compels us to tell the story over again in a new way. Without those rough edges to catch our imagination, they couldn’t have embedded themselves so deeply into our social consciousness.

If you can’t tell, I happen to really love fairy tale adaptations. Several of my all-time favorite books fall into that category, as do many of the bedtime stories I tell my children. There is something inescapably fun about unpacking motivations to make the characters feel genuine. There is something incredibly satisfying about rearranging background events and people to justify the narrative thread of a story. And, at heart, there is something simply wonderful about telling a familiar story in a new and exciting way. I was thrilled by the experience of participating in this anthology because it not only allowed me to join some great authors in doing exactly this sort of unpacking, rearranging, and retelling, but it also let each of us explore the wonderful realm of “What happens next?”

For example, I absolutely adore Jeanna Stay’s story “Breadcrumbs,” which follows Gretel after she escapes the horrors of the gingerbread house. How do you return to your family after betrayal and abandonment? How do you escape the nightmares that remind you of what you had to do to survive? Gretel’s struggle to find hope and direction after the trauma of her fairy tale is intensely personal and beautifully told.

Another personal favorite from the anthology is Katherine Cowley’s novella “Tatterhood and the Prince’s Hand.” In the original fairy tale, Tatterhood is an ugly princess who rides a goat and wields a magic spoon. After rescuing her sister from trolls, she finds herself happily-ever-aftered to a foreign prince. In Cowley’s continuation of the story, Tatterhood is happy with herself and her abilities, but she is not entirely confident in the affection of her new husband (or in her affection for him). When he is captured by a magical creature, Tatterhood has to decide how much she wants him back. Underneath the action scenes and the search for clues, the story is an insightful and touching exploration of loyalty and confidence and acceptance.

When I approached writing “Heart of a Thief,” my continuation of Jack and the Beanstalk, the flaw that captured my attention was the cow. Recall that Jack’s whole adventure starts off when he sells the family cow to an old man in exchange for a handful of magic beans. If someone has genuine magic beans, why on earth would they trade them for a cow that can no longer help Jack and his mother subsist?

As it happens, there are a whole slew of possible ulterior motives. Here is a glimpse into my brainstorming session:

  • The man is Jack’s estranged father in disguise, coming back to make amends by giving Jack something valuable.
  • It’s the giant’s wife in disguise, hoping to get rid of her good-for-nothing husband. That explains why she keeps hiding Jack in the house on repeated visits despite Jack’s habit of running off with their valuables.
  • No disguise, he’s just a con man. Buying the cow is step one of a heist. It’s easier to rob a farmhouse than a giant’s stronghold, and he’s planning to steal the treasure from Jack.
  • He is a pickpocket who stole the beans from a passing wizard, not knowing their value. Now he’s being pursued and needs to offload them quick.
  • Maybe it’s a fair trade, even knowing all the treasure that Jack stands to gain, because the cow is magic, too! When fed the right diet, this cow’s milk is like the fountain of youth!
  • No wait, the cow is his true love, a princess enchanted years ago by an evil witch. (This might be the most plausible yet. Princesses, witches, and true love are hardly in short supply in these stories.)

Settling on a reason for the trade (none of the above, actually) was crucial in establishing the old man’s character, but once I had done so I mistakenly assumed that the cow’s part in this was over. After all, the story is about the bean-seller, not the the cow he bought. To my surprise, the cow continued to impact the story from start to finish. Her presence altered the direction of the plot, constrained the choices available to the protagonist, and illuminated the motivations of those around her. When the old man sits on a hill watching villagers steal from the giant’s corpse, the cow is grazing in the background. When he leaves the village, his interaction with the cow is a primary lens into his personality. When he seeks a path to the giant’s house, he finds himself severely limited by the need to bring the cow with him. And in the climax when he discovers more obstacles in his way, the cow gets to play a role yet again.

I set out to tell the story of the bean-seller, a background character from the original fairy tale. I found that in order to do his story justice I needed to include another background story, the story of the cow he bought. Letting the two of them interact ended up driving the creative process of almost every scene, and I love that a loose end I almost overlooked in the original fairy tale turned out to have such an immense impact. She doesn’t get to play much of a role in Jack’s story, but she forced herself onto the stage for the sequel. That’s why she’s my favorite bit.

LINKS:

Unspun Universal Book Link

Goodreads

Website

BIO:

Chris is an immunologist who, instead of songs, often gets words stuck in his head. He loves stories of all types, especially speculative fiction. He enjoys writing both poetry and prose, but despite living a mere thirty minutes from Walden Pond, Chris has yet to embrace a solitary life in the woods. (He does like to go there on walks with his two kids.)