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Magic in The Armor of Light

Jul. 23rd, 2016 | 12:13 pm

The Armor of Light is part of the current HIstorical Fantasy Storybundle, so I thought I'd talk a bit about the history involved, and particularly the history of the magic. Years ago, Delia Sherman gave Lisa and me what is still my favorite blurb ever, for The Armor of Light. I’ve quoted it in full in the Storybundle page, but the relevant portions are “They played around with the history, saving Sidney from his Dutch wound and Marlowe from his tavern in Deptford, and punched up the magic a lot… Cecil would probably have had them silenced.”
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Reprise: Origins of The Great Passenger Derby

Jul. 22nd, 2016 | 10:38 am

Because Steel Blues is featured in the current Historical Fantasy Storybundle, I thought I'd repost a piece from several years ago about how we got the idea for the Great Passenger Derby that features in the novel. Becasue sometimes you just can't make this stuff up...

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Historical Fantasy Storybundle!

Jul. 19th, 2016 | 04:43 pm

As its curator, I'm delighted to announce the launch of the Historical Fantasy Storybundle!

My favorite fantasy novels are the ones that ground the fantastic in the historical — that use pieces of our known past to build their fantasy worlds. Partly, of course, that’s because I was trained as a historian, but even when a novel is based on an unfamiliar period, there’s real satisfaction in the interplay of known detail and new story. Historians and novelists both create a narrative that is supported by discrete points of data, whether that data is something as mundane as the details of a lease that tells you who lived where or as exotic as a new theory that might allow for true faster-than-light travel. The two processes are mirror images: historians string the facts together to support their narrative, writers of SF/F lay out the narrative, and create the apparent “facts” that buttress it. Working on my dissertation felt weirdly like working on my early novels — and in fact my first dissertation topic, abandoned because I needed more languages than I could reasonably acquire in the allotted time, became the Roads of Heaven trilogy. In all of these novels, fact and fiction interlock to create amazing stories, whether the author is placing fantastic events in a known world, or using the known past as the basis for a fantastic setting.

This collection includes an extraordinary group of writers who draw their inspiration from Western history, covering periods from Ancient Egypt through the Second World War. There are nominees for the World Fantasy Award and the Nebula, there are classics newly released as ebooks, and brand-new novels, and all of them are books that I devoured with delight. What the authors have in common, I think, is an unerring sense of detail, of the pitch-perfect thing and act and moment that will not only move the story forward, but will bring it into dazzling focus.

This is the standard Storybundle deal. If you pay the minimum of $5, you’ll receive five novels, Jo Graham’s The Emperor’s Agent, Heather Rose Jones’s Daughter of Mystery, Martha Wells’s The Death of the Necromancer, Geonn Cannon’s The Virtuous Feats of the Indomitable Miss Trafalgar and the Erudite Lady Boone, and David Niall Wilson’s The Orffyreus Wheel — a set that will take you from Napoleon’s France almost to the present day. Pay the bonus price of $15 or more, and you’ll receive six more books, for a total of eleven: Judith Tarr’s Lord of the Two Lands and Pillar of Fire, Geonn Cannon’s Stag and Hound, Jo Graham’s and my Steel Blues, Martha Wells’s short story collection Between Worlds, and my own The Armor of Light. We’ve written about a wide range of periods, and in variety of styles, but what we all have in common is a love for the past as a scaffold for a story. I hope you’ll check out the package!

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Shore Leave!

Jul. 13th, 2016 | 06:04 pm

Once again, I’m going to be an author guest at Shore Leave — anyone else who’s going to be there, I’ll be at the Meet-the-Authors event Friday (with books to sell/sign!) and also on assorted panels.

Apropos of which, I have dyed my hair purple again, and was standing in line at the drugstore when I felt a very disapproving gaze at about knee level. I looked down to see a little girl — maybe 4? I’m no judge of age when they’re that small — frowning at me. Whene caught my eye, she said, quite distinctly, “Hair’s not supposed to be purple!”

“Mine is,” I said.

She was not convinced, though her mother was mortified.

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July Update

Jul. 9th, 2016 | 05:41 pm

It’s high summer here, and I’ve been busy! The Astreiant Patreon is up and running — in fact, I just posted the second sketch, a bit from Philip and Nico’s early days, in the period between Point of Knives and Point of Dreams. Thanks very much to everyone who has subscribed! I’m thoroughly enjoying playing with these bits as I ramp up toward the concentrated push on Point of Sighs.

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And, in random news, today’s newspaper informs me that it is possible to rent a herd of goats to clear brush on your otherwise inaccessible or environmentally sensitive property. For a brief moment, I almost missed having a yard.

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Orlando

Jun. 14th, 2016 | 10:31 am

I am old enough that the Orlando murders feel entirely, sadly familiar: death and murder, violence and threat, have always been a part of being queer, the shadow that makes the fabulous burn brighter. I came out in 1979, the year Harvey Milk was murdered. I stumbled through the AIDS years, through goodbye phone calls where neither one of us wanted to admit that was what we were saying, through funerals and disappearances and slow, hard declines, to see some few come out the other side with the fragile miracle of longterm survival. I’ve run from guys in a pickup truck who threw bottles at me and my partner, I’ve bluffed my way out of one threat, lied my way out of more, made myself invisible in others, passing to live. I tell those stories among my queer friends, and everyone nods in recognition. Not all of us escaped unharmed. Some of us are dead. Pride itself, the celebration, was born from violence: we celebrate in June because of the Stonewall Riots, when drag queens led the charge against police harassment. “Fierce” is a virtue and a compliment for good reason.

When I came out, “married” was an insult, a name people called the too-closely-coupled, not an attainable legal status. Adolescence was something to survive until you could escape to the big city; the idea of being out and still part of your birth family was something for science fiction, except SF/F wouldn’t touch it, either. You launched yourself into the community, through the bars, through a lover, through any number of ways, and hoped that what you gained was worth risking everything you already had. In a very real sense, you had to face the question “is queer worth dying for?”

It was to me, for a lot of reasons: I loved the community and the community welcomed me; I found my voice as a writer in my own queer truth; and, most of all, there were lovers, Lisa first, then others, people whose importance I would not deny. There were my brothers-in-all-but-blood, my chosen family, my comrades and companions and even the people I couldn’t stand but who I would protect and who would protect me because that was the way the community worked. These were my people, my kind and my chosen kin.

Things have changed in the last few years, gotten better with extraordinary, breath-taking speed. Laws have changed — marriage is possible, legal marriage — and social acceptance has never been higher. It is no longer a given that coming out means losing your family; it’s not ordinary for your relatives to try to have you committed for saying you’re queer. Not to say it doesn’t happen, because of course it does, but it’s not inevitable. It’s possible to imagine that, in the not-too-distant future, maybe it won’t happen at all. Maybe death will not be the shadow, the choice not whether queer is worth dying for, but how it’s worth living for.

And now Orlando, another murderer with an AR-15, trying to blow us away, to turn back the clock, to make it as though we never existed. (And, looking at those selfies on the news sites, posing in one uniform/costume/persona after another, it’s hard not to think that he saw something of himself in our own flamboyant, mutable, self-chosen identities and feared us all the more.) It’s too late for that, and has been for a generation now. You may kill us, but you cannot undo the change: queer is worth living for.

Say it loud. Queer is to live for.

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Patreon!

May. 29th, 2016 | 03:53 pm

My Patreon is live!

After a bunch more talking and tweaking, I’ve decided to concentrate on Astreiant for now. I’m doing a simple monthly appeal: if enough people sign up to bring in $100 a month, I’ll post a sketch from Astreiant. It can be anything — a bit of drama, a character’s background, daily life, one of Old Steen’s sea-stories as Rathe remembers is — but it will be at least 500 words. These are bits and pieces that are unlikely to make it a novel, or will do so only in a severely edited form. They’re like the seven studies of folded hands that you see in an artist’s sketchbook: one of them may end up in the completed portrait, but it won’t be the same as the sketch. If the page reaches $250 a month, I’ll post a second sketch, also of at least 500 words. If the page reaches $500 a month, I’ll add an almanac entry — at least 250 words from my notes, almanacs, and imaginary reference books. I might include horoscopes and maps here, too.

I’ve set the minimum pledge at $1 a month, and for that, you get access to all the Patron posts. At $2 a month, I’ll send you an Astreiant-themed thank-you card — nothing fancy, but drawn from the dozens of stamps and images I’ve collected that remind me of this world. At $5 a month, you’ll get all of the above plus the chance to offer a prompt for a sketch. If you want to pledge $10 a month, I’ll throw in a signed copy of any of the Points books that you might be missing, and if you want to pledge $100 a month (this would be extraordinarily generous, to say the least!) I’ll make sure you get a complete set of the books currently out, and I’ll send you each new novel as it comes out for as long as you stay subscribed. Since you’ll be subscribing by the month rather than by the story, you’ll never risk paying more per month than you intended.

Why do this? For the simplest of reasons: money buys writing time. Income that can be calculated in advance, like the royalties from those newer publishers who pay by the month rather than every six months, buys slightly more writing time precisely because it can be relied on. The more I can raise here, the more time I’ll have to spend on my writing, and the sooner Point of Sighs can go to Lethe.

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Wencit of Torenth, the Deryni, and Me

May. 25th, 2016 | 05:49 pm

I’ve been following Judith Tarr’s re-read of the Deryni books over on Tor.com, and it sent me searching for a photograph that seems to have disappeared in my most recent move. It showed me and Lisa, sometime in the 1980s, indulging in cosplay from the Deryni books. I had made us both lovely medieval gowns (roughly twelfth century, though the original Deryni trilogy felt later to me), mine to just below knee-length to show off my tall boots, Lisa’s to mid-calf, heavy russet satin trimmed with gold braid, with belt and dagger to match. My gown was midnight blue, trimmed in silver, and I had (still have) a beautiful plain dagger in a silver-trimmed black sheath to go with it. I even recreated my character’s facial scar. We received many compliments, and had a wonderful time. The catch? As some of you may have guessed, we were cosplaying the villains of the series, Wencit of Torenth and Rhydon of Eastmarch.

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Under the Hog

May. 22nd, 2016 | 03:57 pm

I’m currently re-reading one of the formative books from my teenage years, which has just become available in ebook, Patrick Carleton’s Under the Hog. (If you’re not already interested in the novel’s subject, the English king Richard III, you are saying “what a bizarre title.” If you are, you’ve probably already read the book.)* I hadn’t read it in more than a decade, mostly because the copy that I had acquired from a library book sale was falling apart, and it’s been interesting to look at it after such a long gap.

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*It’s taken from a libel published in 1484 against Richard and three of his closest advisors, Sir William Catesby, Sir Richard Ratcliffe, and Francis, Viscount Lovell: “The cat, the rat, and Lovell our dog, Ruleth all England under the hog.” Lovell’s badge was a white dog, Richard’s a white boar.

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An interview!

Apr. 23rd, 2016 | 11:49 am

A very quick post to say that i've been interviewed over at Let's Get Beyond Tolerance! Only a few questions, but they were good ones.

Also in brief, Dreaming Metal is now available in ebook from Amazon and Smashwords. Five years after the Manfred riots, the question of machine intelligence is still a dangerous one on Persephone, and the coolie rights organization Realpeace is not prepared to let it go. For conjurer Celinde Fortune and her musician cousin Fanning Jones, the conflict is a distant one — until the murder of a popular musician raises the stakes even for the most determinedly uninvolved. This is a sequel of sorts to Dreamships, but you don't have to read it first...

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