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Chicago's Last Stargate Con

Oct. 14th, 2016 | 02:48 pm

This post is terribly overdue, thanks to a bout of con crud that had a colleague sticking her head into my office as I hacked and coughed to say with great sympathy, “Hairball?” But enough cool things happened that it seemed that ‘better late than never’ definitely applied.

Susannah Sinard and I were at the Fandemonium table for the weekend, signing books and talking to fans — and if you haven’t picked up her SG-1 novel, The Hall of the Two Truths, I highly recommend it. The wonderful dealers at Wrinkle in Time brought a ton of books for sale, so we were kept busy — though Susannah and I both managed to sneak off to hear a few talks.

And then there was… this.

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The Rule of Five!

Sep. 12th, 2016 | 12:46 pm

It’s time to reveal the Secret Project I’ve been working on for the last year or so!

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A Further Thought on Last Calls

Aug. 10th, 2016 | 07:21 am

When I lived in New Hampshire, there was a restaurant up the coast in Ogunquit called the Hurricane. It was open only in the summer, on the waterfront, in the little harbor area, with a section that might once have been a deck jutting out over the tide line, but had long ago been enclosed. The food was marvelous — local, simple, impeccably prepared — and their dessert menu was limited but choice. However, I preferred to end my meal with their take on Irish coffee: the Last Call. It was coffee with shots of B&B, Grand Marnier, and Kahlua, topped, of course, with whipped cream, and if that wasn’t enough, the Hurricane’s bartender made amazingly good coffee and whipped the cream himself. I don’t particularly like whipped cream, but I’d actually say yes when he asked, “a little extra?” Sipping that at the end of a superb meal, with the tide coming in and the moon rising over the Atlantic… I’ve still never had a better coffee drink.

I’d like to think, as we hit our own last call for the Historical Fantasy Storybundle, that we have a few things in common with the Hurricane’s Last Call, at least metaphorically. Not only do we have a fine mix of periods and stories — the liqueurs — but we have good solid writing — the fine coffee — and expert scholarship worn lightly to top it off as neatly as whipped cream.

And the basic bundle still costs less than the drink.

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Last Call for Storybundle!

Aug. 9th, 2016 | 07:22 am

The Historical Fantasy Storybundle is coming to an end! Our last day will be August 10, so if you’re on the fence about this one — maybe you already have my books, and don’t know if you’d like the others — let me offer some comparisons.

If you like the way I wrote Elizabethan England in The Armor of Light, you’ll like Judith Tarr’s Lord of the Two Lands and Pillar of Fire, and Jo Graham’s The Emperor’s Agent. All three books are deeply grounded in their periods — the campaigns of Alexander the Great, the rule of Akhenaten, and Napoleon’s France — and all three use magic as it was believed to exist in its time to add depth to their stories. These are wonderful novels that let you immerse yourself in an entirely other yet believable world.

If you like the way I used the history of early modern Europe to create the city of Astreiant, you’ll like Martha Wells’ The Death of the Necromancer and the short story collection Between Worlds, and Heather Rose Jones’ Daughter of Mystery. They both use somewhat later periods than the Points, but both create entirely imaginary worlds — countries and cities — that owe an obvious debt to the history of our own world. Ile-Rien exists in its own space, while Alpennia lives in the same dimension as Ruritania, but they are fabulous creations populated by fascinating people.

If you like the fast-paced adventure and secret history of the Order of the Air, you’ll like Geonn Cannon’s Trafalgar and Boone and Stag and Hound, and David Niall Wilson’s The Offyreus Wheel. Trafalgar and Boone is grand adventure in an Edwardian world not quite our own — I’ve seen it described as “Indiana Jones, only with extra bonus lesbians,” which is  pretty accurate. I also love the rivalry between the title characters, which never quite resolves the way one expects. Stag and Hound places werewolves in the French Resistance, and the tension never lets up until the very end. The Offyreus Wheel switches between past and present — one of my favorite tropes — as the protagonists unravel the secrets of the eponymous device.

You can get the first 5 books in the bundle for a minimum payment of $5, and for $15, you get 6 more novels; through your purchase, Storybundle will make a donation to Girls Write Now and Mighty Writers, two groups offering classes, mentoring, and support to young writers in underserved communities.

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Last Week for Storybundle!!

Aug. 3rd, 2016 | 06:33 pm

The Historical Fantasy Storybundle has entered its last week, so I thought I’d take the chance to share a couple of comments from two of our authors.  When I put the bundle together, I asked people what had motivated them to write these novels — why historical fantasy, what they loved about the stories, what got them started, and I’m delighted to share answers from Heather Rose Jones and Martha Wells.

Heather first:

Daughter of Mystery is my debut novel—not the first novel I wrote, as often happens, but the first one I shared with the world. I never would have predicted that my first published book would be set in the early 19th century; I’ve always been much more of a medievalist and earlier. I have a trunk novel set in 1st century Britain (that I will one day overhaul), and starts and stabs in the 10th, 13th, and 15th centuries. The ancient timeless heroic age of the Welsh Mabinogi is another setting I’ve used (check out my story “Hoywverch” at Podcastle). But for some reason, when I was looking for a fiction project to jump-start me again after I finished my PhD, a scene flashed into my mind that stepped straight out of a Georgette Heyer novel…or out of Dumas’ Count of Monte Cristo…or, well some odd blend of that era. It’s a period I’ve loved reading about, but it had never been a focus of research before. I think that helped free my imagination up to let the story flow. I knew enough to set up the stage and characters, but not so much that I felt I was drowning in details. (The research all came later.) I wrote without having any idea of where those characters would take me and shared the adventure as they experienced it. Now, of course, the history of Alpennia and the fate of my characters is a bit more firmly established in my imagination. But that was exactly what I needed at the time: the freedom to start every page asking, “What comes next?”

And Martha:

I wrote The Death of the Necromancer because it was what I wanted to read.  It's a fantasy mystery, set in a secondary world based on La Belle Epoque Paris, with magic and ghosts.  The main characters are Nicholas Valiarde, a Moriarty-like figure and leader of a criminal organization, Madeliene Denare, a popular actress who uses her skills in Nicholas' organization, and Reynard Morane, a disgraced army officer.  They are all out for revenge, but solving the mystery of a sorcerer who may be a serial killer and saving lives becomes more important.  That combination of dark fantasy, a gaslight secondary world, ghosts, and a clever criminal organization like a Victorian version of Ocean's 11 was just not something I had found anywhere else.  It was fun to write, even though it was a ton of research and work.  And I was thrilled when it made the Nebula ballot after it was first published by Avon Eos in 1998.  If you get our bundle, I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

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Storybundle - In Case You Missed It

Jul. 30th, 2016 | 10:05 am

If you’re looking for background on the books in the Historical Fantasy Storybundle, our authors have been posting! Here’s a quick round-up of what they’ve said so far…

Jo Graham on the real woman behind The Emperor’s Agent.

Heather Rose Jones on queerness and history, in our bundle and out.

Me on the origins of the air race in Steel Blues.

Geonn Cannon on Trafalgar and Boone.

Martha Wells on nearly losing one of my favorite characters in The Death of the Necromancer.

Me again, this time on the magic in The Armor of Light.

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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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