Safe Haven

May. 25th, 2017 11:55 am
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Over the past few months I worked my way through the five seasons of the TV show Haven. In its core structure, it’s basically Yet Another Procedural: each week there’s a mystery, the heroes investigate, the mystery is solved by the end of the episode. But the premise of this one is speculative — an FBI agent discovers weird things going on in a small Maine town — and spec-fic shows usually pair their procedural-ness with at least some degree of metaplot, which I find myself really craving these days. So I figured I would give it a shot.

And for the most part, the structure is indeed conventional. Weird Thing Happens. Audrey Parker (the FBI agent) and Nathan Wuornos (the local cop) investigate. The problem is inevitably being caused by the Troubles, a set of supernatural afflictions that plague many residents of Haven. Our heroes find the Troubled person responsible —

— and then they help that person.

I mean, every so often they do have to arrest somebody or it even ends in death. But overwhelmingly, the focus is on solving the Troubles, not punishing them. In many cases, the person responsible doesn’t realize they’re the source of that week’s weird thing; when they do know, they’re often terrified and unable to stop their Trouble from hurting people. These supernatural abilities trigger because of emotional stimuli, so week after week, you watch Audrey untangle the threads of someone’s psychology until she figures out that they need to accept the fact that a loved one is gone or reconcile with an estranged friend or admit the secret that’s eating away at them, and when they do, their Trouble lets go.

It is amazingly refreshing, after all the procedural shows I’ve seen that involve people with guns using those guns to solve their problems. (There’s a key moment late in the series when the entire Haven PD gets sent out to manage a big outburst of Troubles, and they literally get a speech from the police chief about how the people causing problems aren’t the enemy and need to be helped, not beaten down.) In fact, it’s so refreshing that I was willing to forgive the show’s other flaws. The scripts are often no better than okay, and for the first four seasons the characters are remarkably incurious about the metaplot: they accept that the Troubles show up every twenty-seven years, Audrey is somehow connected to them, etc, but it takes them forever to get around to asking why, much less making a serious effort to find the answers. (In the fifth season the show dives headfirst into the metaplot, and the results are less than satisfying.) Furthermore, if you’re looking for characters of color, you basically won’t find them here. Haven does a pretty poor job in general with secondary characters, often getting rid of them after one season; I can only think of two people who get added to the cast after the first episode that stick around instead of getting booted out of the plot.

But the character dynamics are pretty engaging, some of the episodes have a pretty clever premise . . . and it’s a show about helping people. About resolving problems through addressing their underlying causes. About how, if somebody has a Trouble but they’ve figured out ways to manage it without hurting anybody, you clap them on the back and move on to someone who’s having more difficulty. There’s a good-hearted quality to the show’s basic concept that kept me interested even when I could have been watching something with better dialogue but less compassion.

More compassion, please. We need it.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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If you’re like me, the phrase “Orpheus myth in space” gets your immediate attention. Here’s Jessica Reisman to tell us about the spark that brought Substrate Phantoms to life!

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cover to SUBSTRATE PHANTOMS by Jessica ReismanSubstrate Phantoms had a long road to publication, so I’ve had to cast my mind back to remember the original writing and when the fire seemed to catch. I already had my far future science fiction universe, the Aggregate, in which I’ve had several stories and my first novel (so long ago now that Substrate gets to be a new debut), and had been playing around with the idea of the Orpheus myth in space, a kind of ‘don’t look back’ when a character is fleeing a space station, trying to save a loved one.

That was all very well, but things weren’t really taking any compelling shape. It was with the haunting of the space station that the first sign of heat flared up. A kind of film reel unfurled in my mind, of powerful images and feelings having to do with the intersection of technology and futurity with superstition and our need for the kind of possibility inherent in the more inward, arcane, and irrational side of our natures. Where these elements—often set in opposition—cross is a deep vein of story for me.

It was a pretty potent unfurling of image and feeling, that film reel. It had what felt like the whole story—and more—within it. My writing process is what we sometimes call “organic.” The initial phase of image, feeling, and story arc is like a seed for me, a tiny, dense ball of potential in which the story exists. To maul the metaphor, note-making, research, background work, and world building are all preparing the ground, planting, and fertilizing; the actual searching march of words onto page is when the growth begins and the story stretches toward its shape.

So there was the spark of the haunted space station—a usefully compelling elevator pitch, but what now? I think it leapt into full conflagration when I found the opening of the first chapter:

Revelation deck rested currently in station shadow, spangled in reflections off the solar collectors. Long glimmers cut through the high dim space in a slow dance. Revelation deck was a big space with open gridwork, gridwork being the bones of station superstructure hidden on other decks. Tall viewports and a lack of adult traffic made it a favorite haunt of station kids, four of whom sat clustered under a twenty-foot span of the grid arch. Likely there was someplace they were supposed to be, and strict regulations said they shouldn’t be there, but it was a regulation never enforced.

Jhinsei, two-thirds of the way through sitting a shift at the automated shuttle monitors, liked the murmur of voices. He had been such a kid himself, not too many years past, listening to tales on Revelation; besides, they lessened the loneliness of the cavernous deck.

Revelation deck, far future space station, kids telling stories, future and past: it makes friction for me and, voila, sparks!

*

From the cover copy:

The space station Termagenti—hub of commerce, culture, and civilization—may be haunted. Dangerous power surges, inexplicable energy manifestations, and strange accidents plague the station. Even after generations of exploring deep space, humanity has yet to encounter another race, and yet, some believe that what is troubling the station may be an alien life form.

Jhinsei and his operations team crawl throughout the station, one of many close-knit working groups that keep Termagenti operational. After an unexplained and deadly mishap takes his team from him, Jhinsei finds himself—for lack of a better word—haunted by his dead teammates. In fact, they may not be alone in taking up residence in his brain. He may have picked up a ghost—an alien intelligence that is using him to flee its dying ship. As Jhinsei struggles to understand what is happening to his sanity, inquisitive and dangerous members of the station’s managing oligarchy begin to take an increasingly focused interest in him.

Haunted by his past and the increasing urgent presence of another within his mind, Jhinsei flees the station for the nearby planet Ash, where he undertakes an exploration that will redefine friend, foe, self, and other. With Substrate Phantoms, Jessica Reisman offers an evocative and thought-provoking story of first contact, where who we are is questioned as much as who they might be.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indigo | Publisher

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Jessica Reisman’s stories have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies. A three-time Michener Fellow, she has been writing her own brand of literary science fiction and fantasy for many years. Jessica has lived in Philadelphia, parts of Florida, California, and Maine, and been employed as a house painter, blueberry raker, art house film projectionist, glass artist’s assistant, English tutor, teaching assistant, and editor, among other things. She dropped out of high school and now has a master’s degree. She makes her home in Austin, Texas, where well-groomed cats, family, and good friends grace her life with their company. Find out more at her site.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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I’ve been very remiss in linking to my New Worlds posts over on the Book View Cafe blog (brought to you by my lovely Patreon backers). Here’s the full lineup to date:

If that stuff looks good to you, please consider becoming a backer!

And, for a bonus: I’ve been neglecting the Dice Tales community on Imzy, but I put up a new post today ranting about how combat-oriented rules can screw over plot.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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The floor is now open for you to ask me anything! I’ll be answering questions for at least a couple of hours, so get ’em in while you can!

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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Ladies and gentlebeings! Have you ever wanted to ask me a question? About anything?

Your chance is coming!

Tomorrow, May 18th, at 11 a.m. Pacific time (6 p.m. UTC), I’ll be running an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit’s r/books. This is timed to coincide with the end of the Memoirs of Lady Trent, of course, but it being an AMA, we’re hardly limited to that topic; you can ask me questions about Patreon, karate, photography, roleplaying games, fanfiction, music, cats, travel, my favorite fruit, why I always wear my hair in a braid, or anything else that strikes your fancy. So prep your questions, and two days from now, let ’em fly!

Reddit AMA announcement

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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Spark of Life is a chance for authors to talk about a key moment when the story came to life: a character did something unexpected, the world acquired new depth, or the plot took a perfect but unforeseen turn. For more details, go here.

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Juliet McKenna, The Shadow Histories of the River Kingdoms

This Must Be Kept A Secret

After four series and fifteen novels, I’m familiar with that electrifying moment when a story comes alive, when the interaction of people, places and plot generates an internal momentum to drive the narrative, often in unexpected directions. It can be a wild ride. It’s always exhilarating.

My experience with the stories in The Shadow Histories of the River Kingdom was very different. This new fantasy world started with one short story for an anthology called “Imaginary Friends”. What if a lonely child’s imaginary companion proved to be a threat? not a consolation? What would make this significant? It would be, if that child was important. So I devised the tale of Princess Kemeti discovering that her imaginary friend can step out of the Unreal World. Worse, he threatens to break free of her control. That’s some challenge for a nine year old.

So far, so good, for a single story. Then I realised something about the magical environment I’d just created, where dreams, longing and other emotions can call something or someone into existence in a parallel world. The possibilities were limitless, and if those creations could cross over into day-to- day reality, so was the potential for confusion and for dangerous situations. More stories floated through my own imagination. But that wasn’t the ‘spark of life’ moment.

That came when I realised this magic would have to be kept a secret. Except, how could that possibly be done? If someone’s dreams of a unicorn could send one trotting down a street? Unicorns get noticed. Apparently inexplicable things get noticed by the authorities, religious, political, whoever. Once those in power worked out what was happening, they’d see that same limitless potential for chaos that I had. Then they would go one step further. They’d realise the uses they could make of such magic, as well as the ways their enemies could abuse it. What would this mean for the River Kingdom which I’d sketched into the background of Kemeti’s story?

More than that, something so powerful would have to be kept a secret. But how do you keep something so unpredictable hidden? By watching and waiting and concealing every manifestation as quickly as possible. By assessing anyone and everyone who proves to have this uncanny magical talent. By enlisting those powerful enough to be of use, whatever their character or their background might be. When the stakes are so high, that’s going to be an offer these people would be very unwise to refuse. But that’s okay if we’re the good guys, right? The ends can justify the means…

That’s it. That’s the spark. This tension, this challenge, the inherent instability, which will drive more stories, novellas and novels set in this world.

cover art for THE SHADOW HISTORIES OF THE RIVER KINGDOMS by Juliet McKenna

Juliet E McKenna is a British fantasy author living in the Cotswolds, UK. Loving history, myth and other worlds since she first learned to read, she has written fifteen epic fantasy novels, from The Thief’s Gamble which began The Tales of Einarinn in 1999, to Defiant Peaks concluding The Hadrumal Crisis trilogy. In between novels, she writes diverse shorter fiction, ranging from stories for themed anthologies such as Alien Artifacts and Fight Like A Girl through to forays in dark fantasy and steampunk with Challoner, Murray and Balfour: Monster Hunters at Law.

Currently exploring new opportunities in digital publishing, she’s re-issued her backlist as ebooks in association with Wizard’s Tower Press as well as bringing out original fiction. Most recently, Shadow Histories of the River Kingdom offers readers a wholly new and different fantasy world to explore. Learn more about all of this at www.julietemckenna.com and find her on Twitter @JulietEMcKenna

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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Aliette de Bodard’s latest book, The House of Binding Thorns, is the second book in the Dominion of the Fallen series, which began with The House of Shattered Wings. What’s the point at which the book came to life for her?

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cover for House of Binding Thorns by Aliette de BodardI really dithered about where to start The House of Binding Thorns.

The book is a Gothic dark fantasy set in a decadent Paris set in the wake of a magical war: I knew pretty early on that it was going to be "opium war with dragons" and that it was going to involve politics, backstabbing and magical intrigues around an arranged marriage, but while I hammered out the basics of the plot pretty quickly, I couldn't get the entire thing to gel. It sounded fantastic on paper, but I tried and discarded several beginnings that didn't work.

One of the main characters, Madeleine, is a drug addict (to the opium analogue in this universe, a drug distilled from the ground bones of Fallen angels). I knew that her first chapter was going to involve her being forcibly weaned off the drug in unpleasant ways (since the magical faction she belongs to, House Hawthorn, is headed by a sadist and completely ruthless). But every attempt I made at opening in media res fell flat.

And then I realised I was having a twofold problem: the first was that opening on a character being tortured felt too over the top for me personally. The second was that opening in media res is a very tricky thing. It's too early for the reader to care about the characters that horrible things are happening to, so the writer needs to both get the reader to care and to keep everything else going at the same time, which is a lot of very hard juggling.

The usual fix to this is to open earlier, get the reader time to get attached to the characters, and then have things go pear-shaped. I realised that I could actually open later, after the weaning from the drug had already happened, and only allude to it in flashbacks. This solved both of my problems in one go. I could make the reader attached to a character recovering from trauma, and I also could leave the description of said trauma mostly to the reader's imagination– which I've always found to be more effective than graphic descriptions of violence.

I sat down, and wrote:

In the House of Hawthorn, all the days blurred and merged into one another, like teardrops sliding down a pane of glass. Madeleine couldn’t tell when she’d last slept, when she’d last eaten—though everything tasted of ashes and grit, as if the debris from the streets had been mixed with the fine food served on porcelain plates—couldn’t tell when she had last woken, tossing and turning and screaming, reaching for a safety that wasn’t there anymore.

And just like that, the character (and the book) came alive for me.

*

cover art to The House of Binding Thorns by Aliette de BodardAliette de Bodard writes speculative fiction: her short stories have garnered her two Nebula Awards, a Locus Award and two British Science Fiction Association Awards. She is the author of the Dominion of the Fallen series, set in a turn-of-the-century Paris devastated by a magical war, which comprises The House of Shattered Wings (2015 British Science Fiction Association Award, Locus Award finalist), and its standalone sequel The House of Binding Thorns (Ace, Gollancz). She lives in Paris. Visit her website or Twitter for more information.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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Last night my temper snapped. I pulled up the website for every single congressional representative from Texas who voted for the atrocity they call a healthcare bill and tweeted at them — I would have emailed, but none of the ones I tried accept emails from non-constituents — telling them that they are unfit to hold public office.

Why Texas? Because I was born and raised there, and still feel ties even though as of last September I’ve lived there less than half my life. It seemed like a good place to start with my rage. I originally meant to keep going, but after tweeting at twenty-four of the two hundred seventeen Republicans who greenlit a bill that might as well be labeled We Don’t Care If You Die, I was too sick at heart to continue.

When I say they are unfit to hold public office, I mean it. They should not be voted out; they should resign before the next election even rolls around. But since I doubt most of them have enough shame left to do the right thing and step down, it’s on the people of this country to make it happen at the next opportunity. Those two hundred seventeen people have completely lost sight of what it is to be an elected official. The ideas of representing their constituents, of serving the public good, of laboring to make our imperfect union a little more perfect? That’s long gone. Some of them have admitted they didn’t even read the bill before they voted in favor of it. The rest apparently read it and were okay with the monstrous cruelty it represents. Because it isn’t about governance anymore; it’s just a great big game of sportsball, and they wanted their side to score some points. They wanted to pass something. Anything. Didn’t even really matter what it was, so long as they could be seen achieving something, marking the world as their own by pissing all over it.

Never let them forget this. Some votes don’t really matter; this one did, even if the bill dies in the Senate as it deserves. This was evil. This is a bill that, if passed, would kill countless Americans, that would make us all sicker and weaker and more vulnerable. And they didn’t care. They cheered it on, because it’s their team, and that’s all that matters anymore.

The list of names is here. I thank the 193 Democrats who voted against it, and the 20 Republicans who appear to still have a conscience or a sense of duty.

The rest of them?

Tie this millstone around their necks, and make them carry it for the rest of their lives. It’s the least they deserve.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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Since Livejournal changed their terms of service and the mass exodus began, I haven’t had a single comment on the LJ versions of these posts. Accordingly, I am going to cancel and remove that blog. If you’re still reading via LJ, I suggest you transfer to one of these options:

* the WordPress original (you can subscribe via the widget in the sidebar or checking a tickybox when commenting on a post, or add it to an RSS reader like Feedly)
* the Dreamwidth mirror

I’ll be shutting down the LJ in a few days, so make your changes now!

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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Spark of Life is a chance for authors to talk about a key moment when the story came to life: a character did something unexpected, the world acquired new depth, or the plot took a perfect but unforeseen turn. For more details, go here.

***

Alma Alexander, The Were Chronicles

It’s very easy to just follow comfortably in the ruts of a well-trodden road when it comes to telling a story – but every now and then something WILL happen to jolt you out of that and then all of a sudden it’s a bumpier ride but you’re out of the ruts and the view is spectacular out there. That’s largely what happened with the Were Chronicles, because two things collided here – the well trodden road of Were-creatures and their archetypes, and the never-quite-before-explored edge of just how the Were-creatures existed, what made them not-quite-human. And I turned back to my long-ago roots – I hold a MSc degree in Molecular Biology and Microbiology, and all of a sudden I had all this relevant knowledge I could draw on. And the story exploded on me. I suddenly had immensely alive characters who couldn’t wait to tell their stories, in their very distinctive voices, characters who lived and breathed and who were genetically Were-creatures but who were so achingly, vulnerably, totally *human* that they made me wince when bad things had to happen to them. For me, these three books – Random, Wolf and Shifter – are amongst the most vivid, most involving, and by far the most important books I may ever write.

a triptych of the three WERE CHRONICLES covers, by Alma Alexander

Alma Alexander’s life so far has prepared her very well for her chosen career. She was born in a country which no longer exists on the maps, has lived and worked in seven countries on four continents (and in cyberspace!), has climbed mountains, dived in coral reefs, flown small planes, swum with dolphins, touched two-thousand-year-old tiles in a gate out of Babylon. She is a novelist, anthologist and short story writer who currently shares her life between the Pacific Northwest of the USA (where she lives with her husband and two cats) and the wonderful fantasy worlds of her own imagination. You can find out more about Alma on her website, her Facebook page, on Twitter, or join her on her Patreon page.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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Those of you who were at Borderlands on Saturday already heard this; now I reveal it to the rest of the world.

Many people have pleaded for the Memoirs of Lady Trent to continue. I have always responded by saying the series was planned to be five books from the start, that I had a set arc in mind that I wanted to tell, and that having brought that to a close, I am done.

That’s still true.

. . . but it doesn’t preclude other stories in that world.

I don’t have a good working title for this yet, but my next novel will be the story of Isabella’s granddaughter, rapacious private art collectors, black market antiquities smugglers, and the translation of a lost epic from the Draconean civilization. The book will be structured like a mosaic novel, interspersing segments of the epic with the lives of the people translating it, as recorded in diary entries, letters, newspaper articles, and more. So it will once again have the intellectual rigor of Lady Trent’s memoirs (this time aimed in a predominantly linguistic direction), the pulpy adventure of its time period (the antiquities market is a lot more colorful than you might think), and the meta-textual setup that lets the heroine’s voice come through so clearly. Plus, the epic will let me put on my folklorist hat with full panoply of ribbons and bells and run cackling down the streets make good use of my folklore background: my research right now consists of reading or re-reading the Mahabharata, Epic of Gilgamesh, Popol Vuh, and more.

This idea is literally less than two months old. At the Tucson Festival of Books in early March, someone asked me a question about other books set in the world of the Memoirs, and inspiration mugged me out of nowhere. Over the next couple of days it morphed around a bit until it arrived in this form, at which point I pitched it to my editor, saying, “I really think this is what I ought to be doing next.” She agreed, so here we are: setting a personal record for shortest time elapsed from “huh, there’s an idea” to “okay, let’s do this!”

So now you know. And now I need to go read the world’s collection of epics to gather material. 😀

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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I have a back-burner project about a group of people involved in a really big movement. The project needs a lot more development, but I know their three tenets:

  1. You can’t do it all by yourself. We have to do it together.
  2. You can’t do it all at once. We have to do it bit by bit.
  3. Just because something is small, doesn’t make it not worth doing.

Welcome to this month’s tikkun olam open thread. Share with us all the things you’ve done to repair the world. If you’ve helped out with a cause or an individual person, if you’ve donated money or goods, if you’ve improved your own life in a way that will rebound on others, or if you’re planning on doing those things in the upcoming weeks, please tell us about it.

And remember tenet #3 above. Even small deeds are worth doing, and worth sharing.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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If you’re in the Bay Area, don’t forget: I’m reading at Borderlands Books tomorrow, at 3 p.m.! (On Independent Bookstore Day, no less.) And I will have some very special news to announce . . .

***

I think one of the things I’ve enjoyed most about writing the Memoirs of Lady Trent is the way it gave me a reason to shore up some of the gaps in my knowledge.

Take African history for example. If all you had to go on was my high school education, you’d think that it consisted of human evolution, Egypt, and the slave trade, with nothing in between. (Nothing after, either, but that wasn’t a regional bias; my history classes bogged down on the Civil War and Reconstruction, so that the twentieth century is as the void to me.) I had the vague osmotic sense that there had been a place called Songhay, and that was it.

I could have fixed that at any time. But I’m much more likely to pursue reading about a topic when I have an immediate use for it — something beyond “man, I really ought to know more about X.” It’s pretty well-documented that we learn things better in context, rather than in isolation, and a writing project gives me context. A globe-trotting protagonist was therefore ideal, because she dragged my thoughts in all kinds of new directions, laying the foundation for future exploration. (Solaike in the upcoming Lightning in the Blood draws a lot of its social structure from Dahomey; that probably wouldn’t have happened without The Tropic of Serpents first.)

Islam is another good example. In college I took classes on early Christianity (which also means you wind up learning a decent bit about Judaism) and Hinduism, and some of my Japanese history classes touched on Buddhism and to a lesser extent Shinto, but Islam? Terra incognita for me. Sending my characters to Akhia was the kick in the pants that I needed to read up on it, to make myself conversant with at least the basics. I could have read a Wikipedia article to learn the difference between Sunni and Shiite, but it was easier to retain details when I had a reason to devote dedicated work time to the question. I wouldn’t call myself deeply well-informed on Islam now, but at least I’m not flat ignorant anymore.

Thanks to this series, I know more about Polynesia and how you can locate a flyspeck of land in a thousand miles of empty sea. I know some of the dynamics behind and resulting from Tibetan polyandry. And as I said on the Tor/Forge blog, I’ve learned piles about different kinds of climates and how people live in them.

This is one of my favorite aspects of my job. It’s constantly giving me reasons to learn new things, and I feel richer as a result.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

swan_tower: (natural history)

I’ve got a post up at Tor.com about what it feels like to say goodbye to Isabella, and there’s an interview with me at Goldilox. Continuing on from yesterday’s post (and this time basically sans spoilers), there’s someone else I’d like to talk about . . .

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Tom Wilker is the best accidental character I’ve had in a while. Maybe ever.

What do I mean by “accidental”? I mean that I did not, at the outset, plan for him at all. I don’t think he was even in the first thirty thousand words I wrote, before I set the book aside for a few years; I think I added him in when I came back to the story, because I realized Lord Hilford would of course have some kind of assistant or protégé along for the Vystrani expedition. Jacob was too new of an acquaintance to occupy that role; therefore I invented Mr. Thomas Wilker.

Read the rest of this entry  )

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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More than six years ago, in January of 2011, I sent my agent the pitch for the Memoirs of Lady Trent. It consisted of thirty thousand words from the first book and a document approximately three thousand words long describing the setting and the plots of the various novels. Because I am crap at outlining, while those latter synopses bear some resemblance to the final story, it’s very obvious in hindsight that I was just waving my hands in an attempt to make it look like I knew where was going . . . and nowhere is that clearer than in the figure of “Lord Trent,” i.e. Isabella’s husband.

Here there be spoilers. (Up through In the Labyrinth of Drakes, though I’d say the only really bad spoiler is for A Natural History of Dragons. If you haven’t yet read Within the Sanctuary of Wings, you’re in the clear.)

Read the rest of this entry  )

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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medium-sized version of the cover for WITHIN THE SANCTUARY OF WINGS

At long last, the series is complete.

This story has been living in my head for . . . about a decade, I think. I know I wrote the first third of A Natural History of Dragons in 2007 or thereabouts, before stalling out on the plot and setting it aside. I came back to it in late 2010, sold it in 2011, the first book came out in 2013, and now, my friends, the end of the story is in your hands. (Or will be, as soon as you run out and buy it.)

I’m going to be launching a new blog series, along the lines of John Scalzi’s THE BIG IDEA or Mary Robinette Kowal’s MY FAVORITE BIT, called SPARK OF LIFE: a place for authors to talk about those moments where the story seems to take on a life of its own, with a character doing something unexpected or the world unfolding a bit of depth you didn’t plan for. For me that mostly tends to happen in the depths of the tale, when I’ve built up enough momentum and detail for such things to spring forth. But in the case of this series, it happened less than a page in, because the spark of life?

That was Isabella.

Countless reviews have talked about how the narrator is one of the strongest features of the story. I’m here to tell you that, like Athena from the head of Zeus, she sprang out more or less fully-formed. The foreword got added a bit later, so it was in those opening paragraphs of Chapter One, where Isabella talks about finding a sparkling in the garden and it falling to dust in her hands, that she came to instant and vivid life. Part of the reason that initial crack stalled out in 2007 — or rather, the reason it got so far before stalling — was because I was having so much fun just following along in her wake, exploring her world and listening to her talk. The narrative voice has consistently been one of the greatest joys of writing this series. I have an upcoming article where I talk about how sad it is for me to be done with the story, because it feels like a good friend has moved away and I won’t get to see her regularly anymore. That’s how much she’s lived in my head, these past years.

Stay tuned on future Tuesdays for a glimpse at how other authors’ stories came to life. And stay tuned in upcoming days for some more behind-the-scenes stuff about my own characters!

***

In the meanwhile, the book is out, and so are the reviews. Here’s a spoiler-free one from BiblioSanctum, and two reviews on one page at Fantasy Literature; here is a SPOILER-TASTIC one at Tor.com. (Do NOT click unless you’ve read the book or are fine with having the big discovery of the entire series laid out in full. I’m serious.) (And while I’m at it, the same goes for that Gizmodo article that shows all the interior art for the book, because spoilers can come in visual form, too. Love ya, Gizmodo, but oof. Tor.com warned; you didn’t.)

Back in the land of no spoilers, you can read about my absolute favorite bit of Within the Sanctuary of Wings on Mary Robinette Kowal’s blog. It’s . . . a wee bit topical, these days. And I’m on the Functional Nerds podcast, talking about all kinds of things that aren’t this book, because they like to give authors a chance to branch out and natter on about roleplaying games and things like that.

And finally, I’m currently running a giveaway on Twitter. Name your favorite female scientist in any field (there, or in comments here), and get a chance to win a signed book of your choice from my stash of author copies. It’s already a stiff competition; we’ve had dozens of women named. (If you were wondering why my Twitter stream has turned into a sea of retweeted names, that’s why.) You have until tomorrow!

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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Tomorrow, y’all. Tomorrow, Within the Sanctuary of Wings will be available from all reputable vendors of books! If you’ve been waiting for the series to be complete before you pick it up, now is your chance to start! If you know someone who has been waiting for the series to be complete before they pick it up, now is your chance to tell them to start!

My upcoming tour schedule is here, with a new item added: a May 11th signing at University Bookstore in Seattle, where I will be joined by the inestimable Todd Lockwood.

Also, don’t forget that the illustrated edition of Lies and Prophecy is currently 30% off at Kobo. Just enter “APR30” as a coupon code at checkout to get the discount. The sale ends today!

Finally, I’ve contributed a number of items to this year’s Con or Bust auction. There are three lots:

Bidding is open now, and will continue until May 7th. It’s a great organization and a great cause, so go forth and bid!

. . . see you all tomorrow!

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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Since you still have four days to wait until Within the Sanctuary of Wings is released, now is a splendid time to try out the Wilders series, if you haven’t already. The illustrated edition of the first book, Lies and Prophecy, is currently 30% off at Kobo; enter the promo code APR30 at checkout to get the discount. That ends April 24th, so get it while the getting is good!

And speaking of things available only for a limited time, I’ve put up a gallery for the photos currently being exhibited at Borderlands Cafe in San Francisco. If any of them look like something you’d want on your own wall, drop me a line!

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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I meant to post this yesterday but didn’t have the time, so now it’s six days to the release of Within the Sanctuary of Wings instead of a whole week!

As in past years, I will be doing several bookstore events and conventions to promote the release of the book. If you’re in the vicinity of any of these places, I hope to see you there!

Saturday, April 29, Borderlands Books, San Franscisco, CA

  • 3 p.m. — reading, Q&A, and signing

Monday, May 8, Poisoned Pen, Phoenix, AZ

  • 7 p.m. — reading, Q&A, and signing

Tuesday, May 9, Mysterious Galaxy, San Diego, CA

  • 7:30 p.m. — reading, Q&A, and signing

Friday, May 26 – Monday, May 29, BayCon, San Mateo, CA

  • details TBD

Friday, June 30 – Sunday, July 2, Denver Comic Con, Denver, CO

  • details TBD

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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Background, for those who don’t follow the SF/F convention scene:

A few years back, Jim Frenkel was banned from Wiscon and lost his job at Tor following complaints of persistent harassment against a number of women. More recently, Odyssey Con decided to install him as their Guest Liaison. When their Guest of Honor, Monica Valentinelli, told them that Frenkel had harassed her in the past and she felt neither comfortable nor safe interacting with him, they blew off her complaint; when she withdrew from the convention, they posted her private emails on their Facebook page without her permission, characterized her behavior as trying to “dictate” who could and could not attend the convention, assured everybody that Frenkel and another named problem are great guys, and swore that they’re totally a safe space and will handle these problems appropriately if and when they arise.

They’ve since taken down the emails and their initial statement, so Damage Control Mode is a go. But it’s too little, too late: it is already abundantly clear that they are not dedicated to dealing with harassment in a professional manner. They don’t understand privacy, safety, or basic common decency.

But there are plenty of other people dissecting the daisy-chain of failures here. I want to talk about something slightly different.

I have, in a non-convention context, dealt with a problem like this. I am on the board of an organization that received complaints of harassing behavior and assault by a member — someone I have known for years. I was not part of the group tasked to investigate the complaints, but I was one of the people who had to decide what to do after we received that group’s findings. I’m the one who wrote the email announcing our decision to the membership at large, hand-carving every word in an attempt to minimize the risk of misunderstanding or unintended implication.

It’s hard. No matter what you do, you’re going to upset somebody — and that includes doing nothing. You have to wade into the muck of information you’d rather not hear, examine your reaction to each and every piece of that information, weigh potential responses and their repercussions, and then figure out how to translate all of that into statements and actions. Then, once you’ve done that, you get to deal with the fallout. From start to finish, the whole process sucks.

Too bad. Put on your grown-up pants and do it anyway.

And if you can’t — if your reaction to a complaint is going to be to assume it’s no big deal, to let your gut guide you instead of looking at the evidence, to stick your fingers in your ears and go “la la la” in the hopes that the problem will go away and trouble you no more — then don’t put yourself in a position where you’re going to have to deal with these things. Because the days when you could just skate along and know the woman (it’s almost always a woman) will slink quietly back into her corner? Those are over. These days, if you do this bad a job of handling a known problem, you can and will be pilloried for it. And you will deserve that pillorying, because resources and guidelines for how to do better are readily available, and it was your decision not to pay attention to them.

Creating a “fun, safe, welcoming, event where fans of all kinds can come together and enjoy themselves” takes work. So do the work. Words alone are not enough.

Originally published at Swan Tower. You can comment here or there.

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