swan_tower: (natural history)

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 . . .

***

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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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.

swan_tower: (natural history)

Are you impatient? I know I am. <g>

In preparation for the book’s release, I’ve spiffed up its page on my site. The opening chapter excerpt is now posted there (if you didn’t read it already on Tor.com), and there’s a page that will collect all the blog posts I make about the book, etc. And, for something entirely fresh, I’ve also posted the soundtrack — though that comes with the usual warning that, while I have done my best to minimize spoilers in the track titles, they do still provide some clues, however tiney, about the novel’s plot. For them as likes that kind of thing, go and see what you can divine? For them as prefers to come at the book entirely unspoiled, you may want to hold off on looking at that page, just in case.

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

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In preparation for Within the Sanctuary of Wings coming out on the 25th, the Kindle edition of A Natural History of Dragons is on sale for 99 cents right now through Amazon UK.

Also, the first of several blog posts has just gone live: “Beyond the Concrete Jungle,” in which I talk about setting my story in a variety of non-generic-temperate environments (and my near-total ignorance of nature). Should be of particular interest to New Worlds readers!

Finally, last call for icons! An ARC of the book could be yours . . .

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

swan_tower: (natural history)

In the never-ending attempt to keep my stock of author copies under control, I’m offering up three copies apiece of Voyage of the Basilisk and In the Labyrinth of Drakes. You’ve got about three days left to enter!

Also, I’m still looking for icons! Renewing the call not because I haven’t been offered a good selection, but because I want to give more people a chance to win the two Advance Reader Copies of Within the Sanctuary of Wings. Get your image manipulating on and maybe get a book!

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

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I realized recently that not only do I not have an icon for Within the Sanctuary of Wings, I don’t have one for In the Labyrinth of Drakes, either.

So! I have two ARCs of Sanctuary to offer in exchange for people making me pretty icons out of the cover art for those books. You can find the full images for Labyrinth here and Sanctuary here. The icons need to be 100×100 pixels and contain the titles of the books; beyond that, arrange ’em however you like. I’ll pick two recips out of everyone who sends me an icon — so if you want the book early, fire up your mouse!

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

swan_tower: (natural history)

It isn’t nice to taunt . . . and you still have nearly five weeks to wait before the novel itself can be in your hands. But if you need your appetite whetted just that little bit more, Tor has posted the first chapter of Within the Sanctuary of Wings.

April 25th. If you think you’re chewing your fingernails off, know that mine went away months ago!

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

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Wanna know how Lady Trent’s story concludes — before the book hits the shelves?

This Wednesday, March 1st, I’ll be giving away an advance reader copy to one newsletter subscriber. If you’re already signed up, you’re set; if you aren’t, you can do that here.

And when I went on Twitter to post about the giveaway, I saw I’m quite close to having two thousand followers. When I hit the magical 2K, I’ll also pick one Twitter follower to receive an ARC. I’m @swan_tower over there, if you’re interested.

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

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The internet tells me that today is Appreciate a Dragon Day. I can think of no finer way to celebrate this than to give away an advance copy of Within the Sanctuary of Wings. To enter into the contest, all you need to do is post a comment or email me describing the type of dragon you would most want to have. Is your dream dragon big enough to ride on, or small enough to keep in the house as a pet? European-style or Asian-style (or some other style)? Scaly or leathery? A fire-breather or otherwise? Do you want a teleporting Pern dragon, a magical D&D dragon, a feral beast of a dragon, Puff the Magic Dragon? Share your dragon dreams for a chance to win the book!

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

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The set of cover images, that is:

Wraparound cover for WITHIN THE SANCTUARY OF WINGS

To complete the set of actual books, you will have to wait a while longer — until April of next year, to be precise. But I’m about to send the manuscript off to be copy-edited, so I promise, I’m working as fast as I can!

My profound thanks to Todd Lockwood for an absolutely stunning artwork. I’ve said it before, but it bears saying again: his art in the Draconomicon was one of the things that inspired this series, and to have his work gracing the covers and pages of this series has been an honor. Tongue only a little bit in cheek, I pity my next cover artist: not only is Todd absolutely fantastic, but he and Irene Gallo (Tor’s art director) have done an absolutely stunning job of putting together the entire look of these covers, with a clean and instantly recognizable design that leaves room for enough variation to keep the volumes from all looking alike. It’s a home run on all fronts, and you can’t expect to get that with every book and every series. I am profoundly grateful to have gotten it even once.

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

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