Yesterday [for some value of today -- this is Charlie, and I am once again way behind, and it's not Sarah's fault] I (hi guys, this is Sarah) was looking for information on writers of SF/F. Long story short, my novels in science fiction started out having chapter titles from pulp shorts/novels I remembered reading (the trick is they’re sometimes not the English titles, as Portuguese translators changed them.) In the fourth book, now, I’ve run out of easy titles and had a choice of changing the system or finding more titles.
So I was trolling the least savory corners of the net and finding bibliographies. (Well, not the least savory. That would be Dino-on-girl or beastie-on-boy.)
I came across about 20 lists of “the best women writers” and the “best female writers” of science fiction and fantasy. Weirdly, none for men. Geesh, for an oppressed minority, female writers sure get a lot of attention.
I’m not on any of these lists – duh – which brings me to when I was asked to produce a list of “best female writers” of SF and was unable to come up with ten. It’s not that there aren’t ten good female writers, it’s that I don’t READ that way – who does? – and therefore don’t remember my authors that way. And when I asked for help, what I got was “lists of female authors I heard were important because they were the “first” – actually just “the most talked about” or “the first of the right (left) political persuasion” female writer to do/be/whatever.”
Most of the most ballyhooed first or best are demonstrably false, but beyond that this bothered me beneath the skin, as it were, because they weren’t lists of best ANYTHING. They were lists with training wheels.
For instance, my friend Kevin J. Anderson, often jokes by introducing me as “the best Portuguese-born female science fiction writer published originally in America.” (If he just threw in “libertarian” I think he’d have a list of one, if he doesn’t already.) He gets away with this because it’s obviously a joke. I know where I stand. I’m mid-mid to high mid-list. That’s where I belong for now, not in “best” anything. But see, I have plans.
If someone did this seriously it would be the equivalent of telling me “You’re pretty good for a Portuguese chick writing in English as a second language. We don’t think you’ll ever get any further, so we’re pinning a medal on you now.” Do that, in seriousness, and you’ll withdraw a bloody stump. Who are you to patronize me? I might never get any further than I am, but trying is my prerogative. (Oh, and buy my books.)
So I’ve been thinking on this concept of lists and “best” writers, and I discussed it with Charlie. As usual, we are but two minds that fester as a single one. Most of the lists of “bests” go by awards or what someone said was first or important.
That’s, pardon me, the end product of a bovine digestive tract. There’s only one real measure of what is best: “What stays with you.” And there’s only a real measure of what is classic: “What stays with a lot of people.”
So, below is a – non-gender-segregated, because no one gets prizes for having a vagina – list of writers that stayed with me or that I return to time and again. In no particular order, IMHO, YMMV, TANSTAAFL and BBQ also OIMMBLTTA*.
Robert A. Heinlein – Duh. I named my first son after him, not after any other writer. (Beyond the fact that my husband wouldn’t let me name him Clifford, and Ray wasn’t even in the running.) Widely credited as inspiring more scientists than any other science fiction writer. The opinion of which works people like varies, some people (deviationists in the Church of Heinlein, which my fans and I have – ridiculously – been accused of being) excluding the later ones, some the earlier ones. I like them all, but my favorites that get read every year are The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, Starship Troopers, Puppet Masters and The Door Into Summer. When you talk to someone and they say they no longer read science fiction, they inevitably end with “no one writes like Heinlein anymore.” I concur, though some of us try.
Isaac Asimov – is here because he was prolific and popularized science fiction. I remember him and reading a ton of his books when I was little. What I don’t remember is the books. I remember a short story “Liar“, mostly because I was afraid I was on track to be the female character. [Charlie: I liked Asimov although a lot of his stuff hasn't worn well for me. But still, the I, Robot stories, and the Lije Bailey books, like The Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun, are worth the time.]
Ray Bradbury – Yes, I know. Possibly an acquired taste, but if so, I acquired him. Part of it is that he translates magnificently to Portuguese, but the other part is that he’s just a good writer, period. Unorthodox for Science Fiction, but very good.
The first book I read in English for Americans was Dandelion Wine. I was 14, and I still have the book, with all the difficult words with a translation penciled over it in Portuguese. Towards the end of the book, the “explanation” is in English, as I’d graduated to an English-English dictionary. I bought both my sons’ copies at 12, but they say Bradbury is depressing. Don’t care. Fahrenheit 451 remains and will always be a favorite of mine. [Charlie: Ray was pretty much the first person to encourage my own writing. I'd recommend his later novels, like Death is a Lonely Business and Green Shadows, White Whale, and of course his short stories.]
Clifford Simak – In Portugal he is considered one of the “great three” – Asimov is often dropped from the list – and I used to get up really early to snag a copy of his books when they were released in Portuguese. Portuguese books rarely go back to press, so that was my one and only chance. I love particularly Werewolf Principle and They Walked Like Men. They Walked Like Men used to bother me as I thought it was anti-money. Re-reading it, I realized it was anti-fiat-currency. Fine. I’m okay with that. [Charlie: I'm not a Simak fan for no reason I can explain. But I will note that an awful lot of Simak is now available in Kindle collections, being out of copyright.]
Anne McCaffrey – okay, fine, she’s not to everyone’s taste, and when I tried to re-read her recently, I couldn’t. But the reason I couldn’t was that so many things kept kicking me out because they’re tired tropes of fantasy. The thing to remember though was that they weren’t, until she made them so. (And also that she was writing science fiction.) I’m going to recommend all the Dragon books through White Dragon. Though my favorite when I first read them was Moretta.
Ursula LeGuin – Why is she beneath Anne McCaffrey? Don’t I know she was way more “relevant.” Well, yes, I do know that. Pfui. She was relevant because at some point she flipped over into female supremacy. She was also, more or less explicitly more left than other women writing at the time. However, recently, when introducing someone to fantasy I recommended the Tombs of Atuan [Earthsea] trilogy. (What do you mean there are four books? Pfui. I can’t hear you!) I remember that one because for a kid who read all sorts of weird religious stuff, it struck a chord.
Then there’s The Left Hand of Darkness. I tried re-reading it recently and couldn’t because the narrative technique is SO seventies. (And the best thing about getting older is that each decade takes me farther away from the seventies.) BUT for better or worse, this is the book that got me into writing. As a biology-geek (in my spare time) I was offended by the design of her hermaphrodites. As a history-geek I was offended by the society derived from it. So I said to myself, I said, “Sarah, you can write hermaphrodites better than that.” I couldn’t. But now I think I can and it’s on the slate for when the other stuff is done. (Could be twenty years, of course.)
[Charlie: I liked LHoD and The Dispossessed. On the other hand, if someone hands you LeGuin's translation of the Tao Te Ching, drop it quickly and wash your hands. And, look, Ursula, if you wanted to call it "poetry inspired by..." then I'd have no trouble, but passing this off as a translation is a travesty.]
Terry Pratchett – Appears this late only because he’s rather recent. His disk world is a creation of genius, which allows him to do anything he wants to, historical or not.
I have a little crush on Captain Vimes, which is shameful for a libertarian. And I think older son IS Captain Carrot.
If you’re reading Pratchett and you think he’s just “funny, ah ah” you’re missing layers and layers of meaning. Pratchett writes characters that LIVE which considering their background is amazing.
He also falls into the category of artists whose art can go against his own explicit beliefs to touch something eternal about the human condition. Highly recommended. I revisit him regularly. Off the top of my head: Night Watch, Witches Abroad, Thief of Time, Small Gods, Monstrous Regiment.
Diana Wynne Jones – Okay, I’m going to admit right now that the woman could never write a satisfying ending and that her last books were… uh… odd. (She died of brain cancer, so I don’t think we can hold it against her.) However, I recommend the Chrestomanci series and also The Merlin Conspiracy.)
Jerry Pournelle – why is he so far down? No reason except I only discovered him when I came to America. Also, that he is a personal friend, and one always feels a little guilty about recommending a personal friend. Read everything he ever wrote, alone or with Larry Niven. Favorites are Footfall and Lucifer’s Hammer.
Jerry has been a great influence on fans – particularly not-on-the-left fans – about ten years younger than I. As big as Heinlein for me and my generation. He was also one of Mr. Heinlein’s protégés and has some great Heinlein stories, if you can sit down with him.
BTW it has reached my ears that he had a stroke this weekend, and I’m praying, so hard. He’s one of my favorite colleagues.
There are a lot of other writers I enjoy and remember, some of them contemporary and my friends, but if I get into that, I’ll be here all day. Quickly: A. E. Van Vogt; Philip Jose Farmer, Larry Correia, Dave Freer, John Ringo, about a million and a half writers whose names refuse to come to mind right now (including some of my own) and a bunch of indies you can find if you follow my blog, or even check out the announcements here regularly.
So, go forth, happy holidays and happy reading.
*Objects in Mirror might be larger than they appear.
Running away leads right back home – or does it?
Sarvet walks with a grinding limp, and her mountain culture keeps girls close to home. Worse, her mother emphasizes all the things Sarvet can’t do. No matter how gutsy her spirit or bold her defiance, staying put means growing weaker. Yet only boys get wanderyars. Lacking their supplies and training, how can Sarvet escape?
Can dreams – even big dreams – and inner certainty transform impossible barricades into a way out?
The 10th Book in the Worlds Apart series finds the badly damaged Pathfinder Ship Pegasus limping into the Eventide system, hoping to make repairs. Instead, they find an undeveloped, backwater colony with limited technology and scant resources. And worse, Eventide has drawn the attention of the Kariad: Alien busybodies who meddle in human civilizations that fail to meet their standards. Commander Keeler has seen other colonies ruined by their misguided social engineering. He makes a wager with the Kariad; if he can fix the civilization on Eventide, the Kariad must never meddle in human affairs again.
In the second half of the twenty-first century, orbital debris takes its first large-scale human casualties from an orbiting tourist habitat. Haunted by visions of destruction, Charlotte Fisher, a young engineer, determines to win a prize offered by a consortium of satellite and orbitat operators for the first successful de-orbiting of space junk. Her employer backs these efforts until the reentry of a piece of debris kills two people, and she and her team are spun off. With limited resources and the unwanted gift of a lawyer who, regardless of his appeal, she doesn’t need, she faces daunting odds.
Major Rahoul P. Khan returns to the 58th Regiment of Foot. The holiday season calls up memories he’d rather have left in Afghanistan. Can the Cat help him keep Christmas?
This holiday season, I know you’ve been wondering: what can I give the Southern culture lover on my gift list? Well, worry no more, because I, your intrepid Southern culture expert, have decided to swoop in like a Christmas miracle and save the day!
Here’s a list of 34 awesome gift choices that cover just about every area of the culture below the Mason-Dixon line. The best part: nearly everything on this list is eligible for Amazon Prime, for all you procrastinators. Enjoy!
5. Explore The Literary South
One of the greatest traditions in the South is storytelling, and a classic Southern story makes a wonderful gift for the bookworm on your list. Here are just a few recommendations.
William Faulkner is one of the best known and most respected authors in the South or anywhere. I’ve always had a difficult time keeping my concentration reading his novels, but I love his short stories. I highly recommend The Collected Stories of William Faulkner (also available for Kindle) as a sort of greatest hits collection and The Uncollected Stories of William Faulkner for deeper cuts (get it here for Kindle).
Georgia’s own Flannery O’Connor also made a name for herself in literary circles, and her short stories are some of the best in American literature as a whole. Check out The Complete Stories (also on Kindle) to experience her true genius in all its glory, but I also recommend the slim volume A Prayer Journal (also on Kindle) for some of the most beautiful, lyrical Christian prayers I’ve ever read.
Of course, there are plenty of great Southern novels to choose from, but here are some of my favorites. Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God delves into the lives of black people in rural Florida with a lyrical flair. In Ellen Foster, by Kaye Gibbons, a precocious orphan tells her own story. James Dickey’s Deliverance is the same harrowing story as the movie, but with greater depth. And Family Linen by Lee Smith is my all-time favorite novel — a twisty, darkly comic family tale.
You can’t go wrong with any of these choices for literature lovers.
It seems appropriate, this being the week of thanksgiving, to make a list of everything that I – hi, I’m Sarah, and I’m a writer. I’ve tried to give it up, but … oh, heck, not very hard – am thankful for as a writer, living in this, the early decades of the twenty first century.
First, let me pile on to register my disapproval with the lack of moon colonies, spaceships to Marsh and, oh, yeah, flying cars. No, I don’t really care if they’re impractical, I want them because cool.
Turned out, though, the future didn’t look like we expected. It didn’t turn out glitzy and superabundant. Perhaps it never will, since we’re humans and the question is always “abundant with what?”
I mean, very few among us are starving (looks down at waist. We could use a little more starving around here) but very few of us in this economy are exactly well off or unworried, either.
And yet, with all this, the future also did not turn into the rusty and decaying future so beloved of seventies leftist writers and other dystopians. We’re not all sweating in factories, skulking amidst the rusting remains of the past, and living at the mercy of the state. Okay, maybe that last, but even then not the way they expected.
Because you see, on their way to taking over the institutions, the left ran into the obstacle they never saw coming: technology.
I grew up in Europe and I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know the essential industries to take over when communists (or the feared Soviet invasion) took over a country: News, entertainment, communications, education. The military, of course, would have to be co-opted or defeated. But those other industries? Once you had them you could co-opt the military, or give the impression of a “popular revolt.” You could change people’s minds, or if not, you could make everyone who opposed you feel like they were lone nuts and people of no account.
For those who are looking at that and saying “but that’s what happened here!”… Yep. The left has only one playbook, and it involved the long march through those essential industries, the ones that told people what the world was like and allowed them to create an image/ideal of how it should be.
Note technology is not among those fields. Oh, I know that a lot of computer technicians (but not all) are left. Most of all, the firms are left, since being on the left has become a way of signaling class (high class) so executives all make the appropriate noises.
But there are still no-go zones, and those are the ones where technology is created. Engineering, technical work, the harder sciences. Those were left untouched by the long march, because math and physics are immune to both bullsh*t and guilting to “give the other side a chance.” Calculations are either right or they aren’t.
And ignored by the left, the sons of Martha were building structures that replaced the ones that the left had taken over. (Something the left doesn’t seem to realize is that they have the Mierdas touch. Everything they touch turns to offal. They’ve managed to take the magic out of movies, the creativity out of books and the news out of the news business.) With official structures in crisis, the unofficial is superseding them.
I know right here, in the belly of the beast, it doesn’t look like we’re doing much. But look back just ten years, and you’ll see the difference.
So this Thanksgiving I’m thankful for the sons of Martha who created the structure that allows for blogs and communication among peers; for e-tailers; for indie publishing; for online schools.
I’m thankful that we can save ourselves from the wreck being wrought upon us by our so-called elites.
Yes, they still have some sway and some of the technology is not quite there to supersede things like Hollywood. But it will be. It’s a matter of time.
Don’t allow them to have their Brave New World. We know it’s not a how-to. Build under, build parallel. Ignore their corrupt structures and make your way.
We live in the future, and the future belongs to us.
The day John Salmon graduates from college, he thinks his turn has come to go out and conquer the world, but instead the world comes to conquer him. At the campus chapel, he encounters an attractive young woman named Jill. She warns him to walk away from a mysterious stranger who will soon arrive offering adventure and world travel. But why would he listen to her, a complete stranger herself? She exits in a hurry, frightened even, but leaves behind a curious device resembling a wristwatch.
John finds he can’t walk away from Cyrus, the mysterious stranger, and this decision casts him into the dark places of history, racing against that damnable clock.
The clock keeps ticking, counting down, running out…
Juzeva, the princess who sacrificed everything to try to stop a war, and instead found herself caught in a web of evil and deceit…
Sevry, the last king of the war-ravaged land of Savaru, tasked with finding Juzeva’s secret, the secret that can bring Savaru back to life…
Lucie, a sheltered young noblewoman, unaware of her true heritage and the power she has to restore a lost land…
Then a mystery from the past becomes real and sweeps Lucie away to adventure, danger, and a love that will change her life and the lost land of Savaru forever.
Ancient, cold, and perilous.
Its truth forgotten in the mists of time, the old bridge harbors a lethal secret. Neither marble statues awakened for battle nor an ancient roadbed grown hungry, something darker and more primal haunts the stones and the wild river below.
Kimmer knows the stories, but she doesn’t know why the crumbling span feels so fraught with menace. Her way home lies across the ruin. Dare she take it? Or will horror from the lost past rise up to claim her, when she does?
If only Mama were well. If only Papa were . . . not like this.
Clary needs a miracle, but wonders rarely step forth to solve life’s problems. While her mama lies wearily abed and her papa spends the day . . . elsewhere, Clary struggles to look after her younger sister and their baby brother. And longs for more than making do. If only.
Then, one spring morning, Clary and Elspeth visit the old bramble-grown quarry to pick wild cabbage leaves. Hidden within the rock’s cleft, Clary’s miracle awaits. But this miracle sports razor-sharp talons, world-shaking power, ravenous hunger, and a troll-witch to guard its sleep. When it cracks the egg, will Clary survive?
Something wondrous this way comes!
Hi, this is Sarah, and I’m sorry we’re late again, but my eye has been doing weird stuff, so I had to have a pretty thorough exam to make sure I wasn’t going to need surgery.
This week, several people have sent me links to this Ursula Le Guin appearance.
This made me think of something. My paternal grandmother was a wonderful woman, whom I credit both with my being more or less sane, and with my storytelling. Between the ages of one and six, she told me a story every night, usually involving werewolves or magic, stories she made up herself. Until much later than that I was her shadow, following in her footsteps. In a way, I still am.
Imagine my surprise when I went back after getting married, shortly after she turned eighty and the family tried to gently give me a hint something was not right. What was not right was, in point of fact, scary.
You see, grandma grew up in very different times. So, when she passed one of the local (illegal, this is Portugal) dumps, returning from the field where she went to cut grass for the rabbits, she would notice “perfectly good, just need a little mending” baby clothes. She’d taken to rescuing them, bringing them home, washing them a million times, sewing any holes, and stacking them in her built in cabinets in the downstairs hall. The cabinets, which were floor to ceiling were almost full. No one could convince her that she wouldn’t, sooner or later, be besieged by a lot of new mothers with nothing to put on their kids. The idea that onesies and baby socks had become more or less disposable simply wouldn’t enter her head.
While visiting and talking to her, other things emerged – like she was afraid of the “wave of crime” sweeping the country. There really was no wave of crime, but she lived alone and she read the papers and watched TV news too much. Worse, for a woman who’d always been sharp enough to look behind the story she was told, she’d started giving credence to the sort of tabloids that publish stories about women the next county over giving birth to snakes.
Since then, I’ve seen other people go that way. It is a combination, I think, of aging and losing touch with the world, and of being too respected for people to actually have a word with, quietly.
I read and enjoyed the Earth Sea Trilogy. (Fourth book? What fourth book? Let’s be charitable, okay?) and The Left Hand of Darkness was a beautiful if flawed work. I can’t say I’ve liked a lot more that Le Guin has done, but then most science fiction writers didn’t even write four books that I enjoyed.
So what is one to make of such statements as:
Ursula K. Le Guin gave a scorching speech at the National Book Awards on Wednesday, calling out Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and saying of capitalism “its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings.”
Surely a woman praised for her learning knows the difference between a social construct like the divine right of kings and “capitalism” which is simply a name for the barter and trade humans do to survive and which, btw, is not unfettered ANYWHERE in the universe, being hemmed in by governments and regulations everywhere.
And why on Earth she’s calling out Bezos is beyond me. For allowing writers, at long last to make a buck? Who knows?
And what about this:
“We need writers who know the difference between production of a market commodity and production of art,” Le Guin said.
We do, of course. For instance “art” is a subjective term which applies or should apply only to works that enduringly touch the emotions of humanity across the times and changes in society. Shakespeare still touches us, for instance. That’s art.
OTOH, thinking that any government, any entity, any academic can define art is to labor under the same sort of illusion as people who believe tabloids announcing women giving birth to snakes.
Art is proven in enduring. And most art – Shakespeare, Austen – was pretty commercially successful, as well. Art is what you aim for, and hopefully it happens. But there’s no guarantees. Competent and selling is the best you can be sure of.
One could make a comment about her being out of touch and believing too much of what she’s told, but we’re not the side that derides our elders for being old. People as old and older than her have embraced the digital revolution without fear and understand that while capitalism is an awful system, it’s better than any attempts at controlling it.
Instead I choose to believe this is the equivalent of her having cabinets full of baby clothes. I’m sure she still has contributions to make in areas where she doesn’t have blind spots.
For this, OTOH there is no excuse:
The Los Angeles Times thought Le Guin “stole the show” and said she accepted and shared her award with “all the writers who were excluded from literature for so long.”
Perhaps Le Guin doesn’t realize it, but The Los Angeles Times should realize that those excluded people – like say, people whose politics don’t agree with the establishment in publishing – are finding their voice and their audience with indie publishing. You know, people who can at last speak truth to the overwhelmingly leftist power in science fiction? One hesitates to ask if The Los Angeles Times believes that women give birth to snakes over in San Diego County?
Folks, remember to tell all your writer friends to send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org for submission guidelines.
Then, please ask them to follow the guidelines. Grrrr.
Young deceit sprouts timeless trouble.
Motherless Brys Arnsson digs himself into trouble. Bad trouble. Tricked by a troll in J.M. Ney-Grimm’s richly imagined North-lands, Brys must dig himself and his best friend back out of danger. But that requires courage . . . and self-honesty. Traits Brys lacks at depth.
A twist on a classic, The Troll’s Belt builds from humor-threaded conflict to white-knuckle suspense.
North-land spellcasters who wield excessive power transform into trolls – potent, twisted, and hungry for dominance.
Prince Kellor, cursed by a troll-witch to live as a north-bear, wrestles with the challenges of a beast’s form. He sees his childhood friend Elle as the key to his escape.
But charming Elle will be no easy task. Traversing that delicate passage between adolescence and adulthood, she struggles to balance family loyalty against her passion for music.
In this epic adventure across a stunning landscape, from cool pine forests to an icy pinnacle of basalt so real it leaves you shivering, Elle and Kellor must summon essential wisdom and grit to prevail against a troll-witch’s malice in a lethal battle of wills.
Fighting against a nightmare pales beside fighting for a dream.
Imagine Keith Richards as a life insurance agent! Janis Joplin as a butcher! Mick Jagger as an anti-abortion activist! Jimi Hendrix as a youth pastor!
Karma Putz imagines characters very similar to five rock icons whose lives took a different turn. They end up living in the suburbs, battling crabgrass and watching “Pox News.” One day, they kidnap the world’s most famous pop musician, who bears a striking resemblance to Paul McCartney, and put him on trial for “crimes against humanity.”
Things don’t go as planned
Freed from a curse, Aidan finds himself at a loss in a world that he doesn’t quite recognize. When he starts dreaming of a woman also out of time, he wonders what she has to do with his future. A witch reveals that Aidan being released from his curse might have wide-ranging consequences, including costing the woman of his dreams her life and sanity.
Dawn went into a magic sleep expecting to wake up to a prince. When a fairy bent on mischief warped the spell, she found herself transported to the world of dreams while her kingdom disappeared. She begins to wonder if she’ll ever wake up when a horse gallops through her dreams and gives her hope.
With help from unexpected sources, Aidan takes off on a mission that has killed every other person who’s attempted it. Will he meet the same fate?
Will Aidan be able to find the missing kingdom in time to save the dreaming princess?
Rashali, a widowed Urdai peasant, has vowed to destroy the Sazars who conquered her land. Eruz, heir to the Sazar throne, walks the dangerous edge of treason to do what is right for all the people of Urdaisunia. When Rashali and Eruz meet by chance, the gods take notice, sending peasant and prince on intertwining paths of danger, love, and war as they fight to save the land they both love – Urdaisunia.
This is a guest post by Cedar Sanderson, author of Pixie Noir. Sarah blurbed Pixie Noir thusly: “The unlikely love child of Monster Hunter International and the Princess Bride, this book … is unalloyed fun all the way.” -Sarah A. Hoyt, author of Darkship Thieves
It is an open secret that Cedar is the nice one of Sarah Hoyt’s friends, besides looking like a Heinlein character, red hair and all. But she’s also sensible about things like books.
First, look at the cover. It might look like a child’s rendition, but this doesn’t mean the content is bad. I’ve seen some pretty bad writing under that pretty wrapper. What the cover ought to tell you is a little about what to expect. Not a faithful rendition of a scene, more a feeling for the tale you are about to immerse yourself in. This doesn’t always happen, and it’s something that can be forgiven, like a chocolate bar in a plain brown wrapper.
Next, check out the blurb, reviews, and other details. Are there typos in the blurb? Oh, so not good. Head on to the next option on the shelf/alsobot/list of titles below. Has the book won an award? Then it depends, was it an award given by fans who enjoy good stories? Then feel free to go on to the next step. Was it an award like the Hugo or Nebula, given out for writing approved message fiction? Step away from the book, and maybe do a little squirt of hand sanitizer, just to be sure.
The book has made it past the first steps of scrutiny, now it’s time for the next step. Look at the publisher? Why would you care who published it? Do you read publishers, or authors? No, wait, there is one exception. A certain flaming rocket logo is a good thing to scan for if you’re perusing a bookstore shelf. Online, the Baen cover art is generally a dead giveaway, being reminiscent of a certain scientist’s shirt.
If you’re shopping online, this is the fun part. Scroll down and look at the reviews. Ideally, you’ll see a mix of good and bad, tilted more to the good side. A book with only 5 star reviews should raise an eyebrow. No readers will all love the same book, and the old saying that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure is based in reality, after all. On the other hand, cogently written and on-point negative reviews should raise the other eyebrow, and have you clicking away from this title. Now me, I’m contrary. I have bought books based on negative reviews. Strawman reviews, attacking the author’s politics or perceived ideology are cues that whatever lies between the covers, it’s most likely not dull.
Now, the next step is to crack open the book and look inside. On Amazon, you can do this free and easy with the preview option. In a paper book, you can do what I do, cull a small stack, plop cross-legged on the floor, and start to skim. At home, you can legally do this wearing only a cat. I don’t recommend that in the bookstore.
Generally, Amazon gives you access to the first 20% of an ebook. Speaking as a former slush reader, this is usually plenty of time to get a feel for what’s in there. You want to find a good hook that draws you into the story, not a dull, draggy beginning that makes you feel gloomy. There should be some interesting characters, whom you can connect with. You should be able to immerse yourself in the fictional world and not be thrown out of the story by non-sequiters and egregious research errors. You’ll know when it’s right, because suddenly you’re at the end of the sample and you click the buy button without a second thought.
Now that you’re hooked on a book, what next? Well, read! Enjoy! And when you’re done, remember where you found that one, and come visit us regularly, there are always new titles and authors to discover. Want more? I know, I know, I’m a greedy reader too. Check out blogs to find one that does regular reviews, and the reviews seem to align with your tastes (a good way to do this is to search for a book/author you really liked and find the reviewers who felt the same way).
Speaking of reviews, this is how you tip an author: review their book. It’s not hard to go to Amazon and write a review, it doesn’t need to be long, and it should not be a plot summary (please, for the love of spoilers, no plot summaries!). Or share a link to the book on social media. Or… both. Because you liked that book, and you want to have more, right? Authors need support, and readers need books. It’s a mutual admiration society. Speaking as a reader, I’m always tickled to do something fun to promote a favorite author, whether it’s simply sharing a link, putting the effort into a review, or even further like taking fun pictures of books and posting them to gloat when I have a new release… Ahem. Right. Sometimes I slip into fangirl mode.
So start your book shopping today, with the links below, and remember, escaping the mundane world gives your soul ease and amuses the brain. It’s food for the mind, and doesn’t go straight to your hips.
TARGETS ARE LOCKED!
Five short novels by five masters of military SF capture the excitement, and hell, of fantastic future war—on and off the battlefield. Stories of terrifying monsters, dangerous aliens and staggering cosmic dreadnaughts march alongside far-flung courtroom dramas and cautionary tales involving man and his devices.
Michael A. Stackpole—The Star Tigers are commandeered by a powerful alien overseer on a covert mission to a world long abandoned by an ancient species. There, the ruins of a forgotten war will tip the balance of their war, unless the Star Tigers can prevent it.
(Contains “And Not To Yield”, a novel in the Darkship universe.)
Tiny Sparrowind can’t hunt from the sky, cannot hope to best his siblings in contests of strength, and scrapes by to survive. But in the books stashed in his parents’ hoard of gold and gems he finds a greater treasure: ideals.
Deciding to make his own way in life gives him more hope than he could have if he tried living only by the way of Dragonkind, but can this dreamer of a Dragon find his place in the world?
A delightful tale for all ages, that may be shared by reading out loud – either to a young audience, or those who are young at heart.
When 16-year-old Raina Resnick is expelled from her Manhattan private school, she’s sent to live with her strict aunt, where life becomes a torment. Her sister blames her for her broken engagement, and she’s a social pariah at her new school. In the tight-knit Jewish community, Raina finds she is good at one thing: matchmaking! As the anonymous “MatchMaven,” Raina sets up hopeless singles desperate to find the One – including her alienated sister. A cross between Jane Austen’s Emma, Dear Abby, and Yenta the matchmaker, Raina’s journey is both hilarious and heartbreaking as her life unravels from the effects of firsthand matchmaking.
Tom Ryan, best-selling military novelist, has arranged a ride to familiarize himself with submarines. On August 10, 1991 he arrives at USS Haddock (SSN 621) as it prepares to depart San Diego for Japan. It would be a final deployment before going to the shipyard for nuclear defueling and decommissioning.
The transit is routine with plenty of opportunity for training. It doesn’t stay routine when Haddock is diverted to search for three Soviet submarines that had deployed from their base. Then events in the Soviet Union result in Haddock being given unprecedented orders. As history is made in Moscow events proceed under the ocean.
Join Tom Ryan aboard Haddock and enjoy the ride.
Evil vampires cannot love — can they?
Vampire Gregory Weston loves the tinge of printer’s ink that flavors the blood of those who work with books; printers, publishers, editors and librarians are among his favorite sources of nourishment. Bored and lazy, seeking amusements to fill his endless existence, he has given up his unceasing quest to become human again — until accidentally, he employs Nia, a pregnant librarian. With child? Gregory has never experienced this situation. What a diversion for dispassionate scientific study! That she is beautiful has nothing to do with it.
An age in the past, the world’s two greatest Mages fought a bloody war to a draw that slew them both.
In the time since, the Kingdom of Vishni has known quiet, and the Swarm beyond the mountains has grown in strength and numbers. Now, with the Time of Prophecy at hand, dark forces move to fulfil ancient visions.
Two men, born to poverty but bearing the blood of those ancient Mages, will rise to decide the fate of both Swarm and Kingdom as the fires of this ancient conflict rise anew.
From a haunted old zoo filled with ghosts to a dying starship on its way to a new home – humanity’s final gasp, Quantum Zoo presents a dozen compelling stories featuring a dozen exotic and unusual menageries.
Jack the Ripper arrives for one last murder, while a dinosaur – out of place and out of time – bridges the gap between two poignant lovers in the wonderfully atmospheric England of Hugo- and Nebula-nominated Bridget McKenna.
Quantum Zoo propels you on an enthralling journey through awe and emotion, highs and lows, with tender romance following hair-raising action.
Join some of the hottest independent science-fiction and fantasy authors writing today in the fascinating worlds they create from the zoo!
Can one small good deed offset ultimate destruction?
Mercurio stands watch over the first planet, guiding it through the perils of the void. Part messenger, part prankster, he cocks an eye for danger, but not from afar. Close to home lurks the real risk that his festival for Sol’s 25th anniversary will be a bust.
Failed negotiations with constellations and his fellow guardians send him to the brink of complete frustration…when a beautiful celestial wanderer fetches up at his domicile, seeking refuge.
Her form beguiles. Her mystery intrigues. And Mercurio’s fascination with his visitor poses yet another threat to Sol’s celebration.
Will Mercurio recognize his role as cat’s paw soon enough? Or will a looming menace – more lethal than any of the guardians imagine – threaten the solar system’s very existence?
The higher the peak, the greater the fall.
Twenty years after the Seige of Vindobona, Duchess Elizabeth von Sarmas and her husband Col. Lazlo Destefani stand near the top of their world. But when a Frankonian army refuses to roll over and play dead, it sets off a series of conspiracies within the Imperial court that threated Elizabeth’s marriage, her position, and even her life. Emperor Thomas, young and untried, finds himself matching wits with King Laurence and even Elizabeth may not be canny, or strong, enough to stop Laurence this time.
They say the Age of Miracles is ended, but Elizabeth needs one more than ever!
Hi, this is Sarah, and I’m a writer. Yes, I have actually tried to give it up, but the longest I lasted was two weeks, and then my sons and husband got together to beg me quite eloquently (which was a miracle as the younger kid was then one and a half) to go back to writing, because what I did instead of writing (obsessive cleaning and minding THEIR business) was driving them nuts.
I’ve been a writer since then, nineteen years woman and… woman.
Which is why there are some things that have the ability to make my blood boil, make me foam at the mouth. This happened when I read my friend, Amanda Green’s post on our shared writers’ group blog, Mad Genius Club this week.
Let’s start with this article from USA Today. I knew from reading the headline that it was probably something that would have my blood pressure rising. After all, how else would I react to “Real books can defeat Amazon and e-books”?
Wait! What? Real books?
Then I started reading and I realize the headline was only the beginning.
And then she quotes the article. Oh, my, does she quote the article.
The book business believes that Amazon is unfair in the way it sells books. It believes, in fact, that Amazon in its sales practices — pressuring the book publishers to lower their prices and profits — is the enemy. Amazon’s ultimate design, publishers believe, is to ruin them or to wholly shift the center of gravity in the business from the creators of books to Amazon, the dominant seller.
You should probably read all of Amanda’s post, but this is about the time that I turned Green and started stomping around the room, screaming “Sarah Smash.”
It might not have been so bad if it weren’t for an experience my friend Cedar had this week. Cedar Sanderson is a young and upcoming writer. I’ve been mentoring her for the best part of – eep – thirteen years, back when all she wanted to do was write some inspirational essays. Well, a couple of years ago she started writing books, and now she has four in two series out and this year she’ll make in the low five figures from them.
She was talking to me about this a few weeks ago and said “I know it’s not much” which is when I told her the first time I made 15000 came when I’d been in the business for ten years, and had written ten books. Oh, sure, I get almost that per advance, but advances aren’t paid outright. They’re paid in three (sometimes four) installments linked to signing, delivery, acceptance and, sometimes, release of the book. It’s amazing how many years that can stretch across.
Oh, and I was in the business four years before I got my first royalty check, after which the book was immediately taken out of print, because in the then-model, the publisher didn’t count on paying royalties. Not to midlisters. (Unless the publisher was Baen. Which is why I’m still with Baen.)
Well, last week, Cedar went to a panel at the university she attends and was talking about career prospects. The doyenne of the assembled group was an elderly woman staunchly against self publishing, who just loves her publisher and all its works (and all its empty promises – oops, sorry, thought I was in church for a moment.)
When it came Cedar’s time to talk, she said something about hoping to be able to make a living from writing. At which point the elderly love-my-publisher writer laughed and said, “Honey, you can’t make a living from this. I’ve been writing for twenty years and I’m not even close to that.”
That is not only factually wrong, (ask Chris Nuttall, Peter Grant, Doug Dandrige and a dozen more I can’t call to mind right now) but it is also morally wrong.
When I was a kid in Portugal, during the revolution, there was a whole lot of screaming about “the land to them who work it.” This was mostly in the South where, since Roman times, the land has been held in a system of Latifundia. And the cry to expropriate the owners and hand out the parcels to the workers was wrong on several heads: first because most of them wished to form collective farms, aka going broke on the installment plan; second because the land in the South of Portugal is so poor that even if you dolled it out into little parcels, each person would starve. By having the huge farm, the owners made it possible for their various hired hands to make a living from farming.
When I read that journalist above talking about the publishers as the “creators” of the book, I thought of the same “The books to them who create them.”
Except the publishers don’t create the books anymore than those hired hands each farmed a parcel of land.
The publishers used to be an essential part of getting the book to market, pre-amazon. They printed large numbers, publicized, acted as an intermediary between the writer and their public.
They were, in that sense, good hired hands.
And then the costs of producing a book and getting them to market, through print on demand (which according to my Berkley editor they were using in 03) dropped. Electronic typesetting dropped it more. Publishers outsourced the search for books to agents (all but Baen, which still has a slush pile.) And then they had the bright idea of making the writers publicize their own books.
This would be like the hired hands taking a break and demanding the owners of the fields use robots to do all the work, but they still expect to be paid. What do you think would happen? Well, it happened.
With the market in a shambles, with publishers using their power to bring to market books they thought were socially relevant and not what the readers wanted to read, Amazon gave writers a chance to go to the public directly.
Which brings me to what a publisher can do for you, which is… Give me a minute… Other than Baen which has a brand that will bring you at least a few thousand readers, like that, with no effort… what the other publishers can do for you is… uh…. Yeah….
Oh, yeah. They can fudge your statements and take your money. There I knew they did something. Fortunately writers who used to work from Harlequin have won the right to class action suits this week, which means more will follow.
And at some point, will stupid journalists realize they’ve been sold a pot of message and that publishers as they exist now are as essential to the book business as a bicycle to the fish?
I doubt it. They’re too busy putting playing cards in the spokes of publishing, because they like the noise so much.
As for the rest of us, we have work to do.
We work for a living. And making a living from our hard work is a beautiful thing.
And as a final musical interlude, to remind you of what mainstream publishers REALLY do, by and large, sang to the tune of “Putting on the Ritz”
Have you seen the well to do?
Walking down Marx avenue
Crying that everything’s unfair
While their butlers do their hair
Condoned with lots of dollars
Spending every dime
Made on other guy’s lines!If you’re blue, and you want dough
Why not lean on someone you know
In the pubbing biz?
Robbing the midlistDifferent types will write a dystop-
ian cliché or bash on the pope
It all fits
When you’re robbing the midlist
Cashing in their six-figure advances
Even if their book has got no chances
Of a profit
Come let’s mix where pampered authors
Politic to get job offers
Hope they’re picked
For robbing the midlist
Tips the scales to favor their own voices
Tries to “Push” to cover their bad choices
Disappoint usNYT Bestsellers topping the list
Make readers stop or numb their wits
Robbing the midlist
Robbing the midlist
Robbing the midlist!
“Mercury retrograde” is the term used in astrology for the times when the planet Mercury appears to be moving backwards against the “fixed stars”. According to astrological lore, during periods when Mercury is retrograde, matters of communication, information, and relationships are impaired. Computers and networks are more likely to fail. Mail may go astray.
Mercury went retrograde on the 4th of October this year. I am a scientific materialist and of course don’t believe in this astrology stuff, but Mercury goes back prograde on the 25th of October. And not a minute too damn soon.
So, if you want to get your book plugged on Book Plug Friday, send an email to email@example.com.
But maybe wait until tomorrow.
In Avalon, where the world runs on magic, the king of Britannia appoints a witchfinder to rescue unfortunates with magical power from lands where magic is a capital crime. Or he did. But after the royal princess was kidnapped from her cradle twenty years ago, all travel to other universes has been forbidden, and the position of witchfinder abolished. Seraphim Ainsling, Duke of Darkwater, son of the last witchfinder, breaks the edict. He can’t simply let people die for lack of rescue. His stubborn compassion will bring him trouble and disgrace, turmoil and danger — and maybe, just maybe, the greatest reward of all.
Nevermore is a dark, historical fantasy filled with romance, southern charm, and all the trappings of a classic historical romance. Walking the line between the occult, the paranormal, and the reality of 1800s life in The Great Dismal Swamp, Nevermore is also chock full of action and adventure. Follow Edgar Allan Poe and Lenore into The Great Dismal Swamp and experience one version of the birth of Poe’s famous poem, “The Raven.”
Satire, politics, geekery, and dogs.
“In Jenna Vincent’s Romantic Suspense novel, Rae Vigil stumbles into an ugly case of domestic violence with a young child caught in the middle. The parents are very powerful and the police are powerless. Torn between saving the child and professional confidentiality, every instinct tells her not to get involved, but sometimes instincts are wrong.”
Jim Reade, a volunteer Texas Ranger, is the sole survivor of an ambush in the contested Nueces Strip. Rescued by Indian scout Toby Shaw, the two pursue a mysterious wagon carrying a cursed treasure. Sworn blood-brothers, Jim and Toby meet with other challenges and mysteries, including a trove of documents sought after by spies of three nations and a den of murderous robbers on the Opelousas Trace. The classic Wild West rides again, in this collection of adventures intended for younger readers by the author of the Adelsverein Trilogy.
The Son Also Rises . . .
On a near future Earth, Good Man does not mean good at all. Instead, the term signifies a member of the ruling class, and what it takes to become a Good Man and to hold onto power is downright evil. Now a conspiracy hundreds of years in the making is about to be brought to light when the imprisoned son of the Good Man of Olympic Seacity escapes from his solitary confinement cell and returns to find his father assassinated.
But when Luce Keeva attempts to take hold of the reins of power, he finds that not all is as it seems, that a plot for his own imminent murder is afoot—and that a worldwide conflagration looms. It is a war of revolution, and a shadowy group known as the Sons of Liberty may prove to be Luce’s only ally in a fight to throw off an evil from the past that has enslaved humanity for generations.
Sequel to Sarah A. Hoyt’s award-winning Darkship Thieves, and Darkship Renegades, this is Book One in the Earth’s Revolution saga.
At the publisher’s request, this title is sold without DRM (DRM Rights Management).
Oscar Wilde’s 1882 journey to America continues to fascinate, and why not?
Everyone loves a fish out of water story, so the true saga of a Victorian dandy roughing it on the wild American frontier, hanging out with (and winning over) rugged coal miners and cowboys is pretty irresistible.
(That Wilde’s garish velvet get-ups clothed a beefy 6’3″ Irishman perfectly capable of beating up bullies no doubt surprised and delighted his new admirers.)
Now a new book revisits Wilde’s visit to the New World, but with a twist.
David M. Friedman’s Wilde in America presents his subject as the proto-Kardashian:
If that seems unfair to the acclaimed playwright, essayist, poet, children’s author (and gay movement mascot), Friedman reminds readers that when Oscar Wilde stepped off the ship onto America’s shores, he was, in fact, none of those things.
10. Daniel Deronda
A multi-part BBC series based on the powerful English classic penned by Zionist George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans), Daniel Deronda tells the story of a young gentleman who discovers, through a series of almost mystical events, that his mother is Jewish. A fantastic examination of Jewish identity in Victorian high society, the novel was cited by the likes of Henrietta Szold and Emma Lazarus as influential on their decision to become Zionists. Wonderfully cast, the BBC version is grossly engaging and well worth a marathon viewing.
Let’s get one thing clear: this is not your grandmammy’s Iliad. You’ve probably snored through a few excruciating lectures about “the subtle mastery of Homer’s poetic scansion.” Please. This is not some prissy love sonnet. This is a poem in which 12-foot-tall he-men use rusty bronze spears, devastating serrated blades, and boulders the size of tractors to rip each other to shreds over a stolen girlfriend in the most brutal and gratuitous cage match known to history. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be reclaiming the Iliad in the name of awesome, with a series of posts designed to brush the dust off of Homer’s epic proto-action-movie. First up: the 10 most stomach-turning kills in the war between Troy and Greece, from least to most disgusting. All the translations are my own. All the bloodshed is Homer’s.
1. Twelve Sleeping Trojans: Gutted by Night
The fact that this is the least gory item on this list should tell you something about the upcoming mayhem. When the Greeks lose their star fighter, Achilles, they’re playing at a serious handicap. In desperation, they send two undercover operatives, Diomedes and Odysseus, to slaughter the Trojans in their sleep. It’s a low blow, but it gets the job done: while the Trojans are cuddled up all snug, the two Greeks eviscerate twelve of them, spilling their guts on the ground. “Unholy shrieking rose from them as they died,” Homer says, “and the ground ran red with their blood.”
We’ve talked about a lot of things together, here. What to read, how not to date jerks, why the internet loves to hate Lana Del Rey, that time I dodged bears in West Virginia, and much more. I’ve really enjoyed the heck out of sharing these episodes with you, and I look forward to continuing to do so. If you’ve enjoyed the heck out of following my adventures, it’s time to join me in my latest big one: the launch of my second novel, Bulfinch.
Bulfinch is a whimsical tale about a history student whose imagination is so powerful that the knight from the book she’s reading pops out of her head and into real life. But he’s no fairytale visitor — he’s a very medieval fellow indeed, and our heroine Rosie is forced out of her reclusive bubble as she sets out into Baltimore to track him down and put him back into history where he belongs. Bulfinch is appropriate for readers aged 14+, and entertaining for all. By turns funny and tender, it’s a book you won’t be able to put down.
Bulfinch was released last Friday, to my delight! Don’t miss another day in ordering your copy, in paperback or Kindle formats. Buy it here.
(Hi, this is Sarah.) When I was a young writer, knee high to a trilogy print out, I subscribed to every possible market listing in the world. [“What is a market listing?” “That’s what people used to have, back when they needed gate keepers to publish them. Back in prehistory. Publishing was expensive, on account of having to dispose of the chips you carved out of the rock with your chisel.”] Partly this was, of course, because there was no internet. [“Seriously, no internet? Now you’re just making stuff up.” “Okay, you’re right. There was internet. It’s just the t-rexes kept snapping the cable with their toe claws.”] You couldn’t just search for “markets for science fiction” and then spend three hours reading about Amazon’s dispute with Hatchette and dino porn. [“I don’t read dino porn.” “Of course not, the Amazon/Hatchette thing makes you feel dirty enough.”]
Anyway, so I subscribed to all of these in the certain hope that eventually I’d find the one that said, “You, Sarah A. Hoyt, sitting there, with your manuscript of dino porn inchoate pseudo literature, you’re the person we want to publish.”
Alas, this never happened. But I used to come across this listing that baffled me. After the pro markets to which I sent for fastest rejections, and the semi-pro markets which were buying me, and the penny markets, where I sent stuff that had been rejected everywhere else, there was a “for the love” column.
Look, I yield to no one in my love for writing. [“Liar, you just say that to get it into bed.” “Only because the pterodactyl isn’t willing.”] And I’m one of those people who think if something is not making you rich, and you don’t love it, then you’d be better off doing something else. [“Unless of course writing is the only thing you can do. Not that this has ever happened at low points in our personal finances.” “Er… right, never.”] Writing, in particular, while easier than digging ditches, is still a lot to do day after day if you don’t enjoy it. But… “for the love?”
I mean, if no one is ever going to pay you, are you going to give this story away just so someone will read it? [“Yeah, like someone who wrote fanfic so that it would actually get read, when nothing else was selling.” “That was different. How many people make money rewriting Jane Austen with dragons? Don’t answer that.”]
Then I broke in, started selling to those pro markets, and then started getting paid more so the pro-markets attracted me, and I never gave this another thought.
Until today when I was thinking about writing for readers and writing for prestige. For most of my traditional career, I argued with my agents/editors/publishers that I wanted to write popular and accessible fiction, while they tried to push me into writing convoluted, difficult “literary” fiction.
My fault in a way, because I broke in with a series that was a re-imagining of Shakespeare’s biography, this time with elves. But at least I realized that though I loved that series, it had a limited audience. The average person on the street doesn’t want to relax after a hard day with Shakespearean word-play. Also, the idea of writing nothing but literary fantasy forever made me want to slit my wrists.
I wanted to write mystery, and science fiction, and funny things, and serious things, and romantic things. And while some of them would come out in a way that could be described as “literary” that was not what I was aiming for. I mostly wanted to write to be read and to make a living.
I knew for a fact that “literary” works sold very little.
So why were publishers and agents so interested in them? Because their interests aren’t the same as writers’. Writers want to make a living, and to get the sincerest form of appreciation in foldable form. Publishers, or at least editors, working for multinational corporations where their salary is assured, don’t want that – they want to be hailed at the next cocktail party as the person who discovered the literary wonder of the century. And agents, too, want the prestige of being known to have exquisite taste. They won’t object to a lot of money, but mostly they need the prestige.
Eric S. Raymond said that what is destroying mainstream science fiction… (and more so mystery. I’m going through my shelves to get rid of excess paper books, and if I had a dime for each “high prestige” mystery I got because it was up for some award or other and which is now worth less than one cent, I’d have a lot of dimes.) … is not so much politics, as this entire idea of “worth” that’s predicated on an academic culture which ignores readers and the ludic aspects of reading. [“Ludic. My, aren’t we posh?” “Ludic means fun. Like, you know, dinosaur porn. At least I presume people have fun with it. Never having read any, I wouldn’t know.” “Yes, but growing up in the Jurassic would give you a different perspective.]
He is right at that. But I don’t think it’s something that can be wrung out of the publishing establishment. If the shrinking of the bottom line didn’t convince them, neither will our telling them what they’re doing wrong.
Fortunately, though, we don’t have to. It’s entirely possible that, after the shocks and aftershocks, traditional publishing will settle into a prestige and validation role for academic writers, bringing out little gems of books (possibly leather bound) for a small clientele for whom they’re objets d’art and not a way to while away a couple of hours of a rainy evenings.
I’m fine with that. They can do whatever they want.
Those who want to read and write for fun can always go Indie.
Set some time after Lost Years: The Quest for Avalon and before The Grail War, Blood and Dreams continues the story of Parsival, who in middle age finds himself more the jaded cynic than the wide-eyed fool of his youth. Waylaid as he journeys home from his latest “bloody bit of work for Arthur,” Parsival must escape his captors, save his kidnapped family, and prevent the forces of Clinschor, the mad sorcerer bent on world domination, from finding and exploiting the Holy Grail, all while enduring the disdain of his teenaged son, Lohengrin.
(Charlie here: Richard has been one of my favorite writers for longer than either of us would care to think. This is free for the rest of today, and worth the $4.99 any time.)
When The God’s Wolfling opens Linnea Vulkane has grown up since the summer of Vulcan’s Kittens. Sanctuary, the refuge of immortals on an Hawaiian island, is boring. When the opportunity for an adventure arises, she jumps right into it, only realizing too late the water may be over her head. Literally, as she is embroiled in the affairs of the sea god Manannan Mac’Lir. Merrick Swift has a secret he’s ashamed of. Then when he meets Linnea and her best friend, he doesn’t like her. She’s bossy, stuck up… and oddly accepting of his wolf heritage. Like her or not, he must do his duty and keep her alive. The children of the myths are being plunged into the whirlpool of immortal politics, intrigue, goblin wars, and they might be the only ones who can save a world.
Entertaining pulp crime stories written in 1979 and 1980. Paul F. Gleeson was a lawyer, but he ached to be a writer, of tales of murder and intrigue and dark forces and witty twist endings. He submitted manuscripts to the pulp mags, and actually got two stories published, but the rejection letters kept piling up, and he finally stopped writing. After he died in 2012, his sons and daughter found the manuscripts in a cardboard box. They collectively decided that these stories would finally be published for the world to enjoy, the way their dad always wanted.
“Paul F. Gleeson’s hardboiled fiction paints characters who live in swirling cesspools of corrupt human nature in a rich, distinct voice that’s not to be missed.” — David Cranmer, editor of BEAT to a PULP
LB Johnson knew how to get things done. The former jet commander was singularly driven, capable and highly educated, immersed in a world of complex puzzles, tangled story lines and the intricacies of the law. So how hard would it be for one redheaded federal agent to raise a black Labrador retriever puppy?
Mayhem on four legs was named Barkley and he led his owner down a path of joyful self discovery, loving frustration and self sacrifice, changing the way she viewed the world, and those that shared it with her. Her home and her heart were never the same.
Free from August 1-5
A short story of a woman who looks to the stars as she tries to protect her children and offer them a future. In a world with no escape for those who cannot undergo a genescan, a fugitive mother has vanishingly few options left to her. Ultimately, only her sacrifice can change the world… but what becomes of the children?
Two millennia ago, a demon named Suwraith thundered into the skies and cast down the First World. In a single horrific night, a glorious age of enlightenment was ended, leaving the world in fearful darkness. Humanity survives by a thread, only surviving in cities protected by an Oasis, mysterious places impervious to Suwraith’s power. Throughout the rest of the world Humanity is an endangered species, fodder for Suwraith’s deadly Chimeras. Into this world is born Rukh Shektan, a peerless young warrior from a Caste of warriors. He is well-versed in the keen language of swords and the sacred law of the seven Castes: for each Caste is a role and a Talent given, and none may seek that to which they were not born. It is the iron-clad decree by which all cities maintain their fragile existence and to defy this law means exile and death. But all his knowledge and devotion may not save him because soon he must join the Trials, the holy burden by which by which the cities of Humanity maintain their slender connection with one another. In the Wildness, Rukh will struggle to survive as he engages in the never-ending war with the Chimeras, but he will also discover a challenge to all he has held to be true and risk losing all he holds dear. And it will come in the guise of one of Humanity’s greatest enemies – perhaps its greatest allies. Worse, he will learn of Suwraith’s plans. The Sorrow Bringer has dread intentions for his home. The city of Ashoka is to be razed and her people slaughtered.
Free on 8/1 and 8/2
Alex Sanderson doesn’t like much of anything, but of all the things he hates, getting locked up in an alien prison on trumped-up charges tops the list. All he wants is a fair hearing and he’s sure he can get out. His cellmate on the other hand, she has different plans for Alex….
Note: This story contains profanity, some violence, and sexual situations, although not especially graphic, they may be offensive to some readers.
This story is a Novellette, about 14,500 words long.
Despite my largely public education, I still learned a few things by accident. My favorite subjects were Social Studies and English, which figures for a kid who grew up to be a political writer.
Over the years, I was exposed to a number of fiction stories which I resisted at first but grew to love. It’s something I recall whenever trying to convince my finicky five year old to try new things.
Here are ten books, films, and plays which grew on me after being forced down my throat. They’re presented in ascending order of my personal enjoyment, not necessarily their critical or literary gravitas.
10. My Fair Lady
Yeah, yeah, go ahead with the jokes. I like The Sound of Music too. It’s a brave new post-modern, genderless world, or something. Get over it.
Despite its feminine trappings, the story at the heart of My Fair Lady emerges from unbridled masculinity. What else would you call a gentlemen’s bet that an unrefined flower girl could be transformed into a convincing lady of high society through an act of male will? It’s a theme so reliable that it’s become a cliché used in romantic comedies to this day.
This was also my introduction to Audrey Hepburn, who ain’t too bad to look at.
My friend Les Johnson, my colleague at Baen, is both a real writer and a real scientist, one of those renaissance men we all aspired to be at some time. Most of us never made it, but Les did.
Recently Les co-authored the book Rescue Mode with Science Fiction legend Ben Bova, and he was kindly enough to allow us to interview him about space, about working with Ben Bova, and about our chances to get off the rock and go out to space.
Sarah: What is holding us back on the rock, in your opinion, from the practical viewpoint?
Les: First of all, I need to say that the opinions expressed here are my own, and do not represent NASA.
There is no technological reason keeping us from going back to the Moon to visit or to set up a base there. What we’re lacking are the systems to go. By systems, I mean the actual hardware to launch the people and the hardware needed to keep them alive while they are on their way to the Moon or living on the surface. NASA and several private companies have the technologies to develop the hardware we need — all they are lacking are the money and the will to make it happen. By the way, the same can be said of sending humans to Mars. We can go if we want to.
An aside about money. I contend that going to the Moon, Mars or an asteroid with people is not that expensive – in relative terms. For reference, look at the 2015 NASA budget of $17 billion. For you and me, that’s a lot of money. For most countries and certainly most private businesses it is a lot of money. But for the US Government it is a relatively small amount when you consider that our total budget is over $3.9 trillion (or $3,900 billion). $3900 – $17 = $3883, which is, in practical terms, not much different from the $3900. In other words, NASA’s budget is a rounding error on the total federal budget. Sending humans beyond Earth, which would cost less than $17 billion and be spread out over 5 years or so, is a very small cost in the grand scheme of things. It just isn’t a priority. People spend more money on Coca Cola than they do on space exploration! ($46 billion global revenue for Coca Cola versus $17 billion for NASA.)
To make the money available from a government or from the private sector, we need a vision and an explanation why space exploration and development is important – one that people can hear and understand. We haven’t adequately done either.
What are hopeful developments in space exploration?
I am optimistic about the future of space exploration. Our military and our economy now depend upon space satellites. (You don’t believe me? Ask any major retailer if they can manage inventory, shipping, and other logistics without GPS and satellite communications.) We will eventually run out of easily accessible resources and be forced to go to the asteroids to keep our civilization going. It is just a matter of when this will happen. It could be in 30 years or 300 years. The Earth has finite accessible resources and we will one day stress the system to the point where costs make space resources look attractive. Environmental concerns may make this happen sooner rather than later. My personal vision of how we can use space to solve our resource, environment and energy problems is described in my book, Harvesting Space for a Greener Earth (Springer 2014).
Space tourism will make space accessible to more people and that is great. The increased flight rate will also drive down launch costs, making science and exploration missions less expensive to fly – enabling more to be flown. NASA’s new heavy lift rocket will enable us more easily send people beyond the Earth-Moon system to asteroids or to Mars. Our robotic probes will continue informing us of our place in the universe and help us to understand the local neighborhood that is the solar system. I am hopeful.
If you had your dream funding and dream project, what would you be doing?
My dream project has to be Interstellar Probe. Imagine a square solar sail 1/3 of a kilometer on a side, carrying a small spacecraft out of the solar system at speeds greater than 50 kilometers per second, racing into nearby interstellar space. Solar sails use sunlight for propulsion, requiring no fuel. And when they are deployed close to the Sun, they get a much larger push than a comparable sail deployed at the Earth-to-Sun distance. Solar sails are real. The Japanese are flying one called IKAROS and NASA is building one called Sunjammer. The neat thing about sails is their scalability; today’s solar sails can be made ever larger to go ever faster to even greater distances. I believe a very large solar sail will one day take a spacecraft to another star and Interstellar Probe will have been the first step.
What was it like to work with Ben Bova?
Working with Ben on Rescue Mode was just… awesome. Ben is an icon and the inheritor of the Asimov/Heinlein/Clarke legacy. His writings have inspired me since I was in high school (many years ago) and working with him on a book was an opportunity of a lifetime. He provided guidance throughout the project and seemingly effortlessly guided me out of many literary corners and potholes as the book was evolving. The nuts and bolts of the collaboration occurred by email, though we did talk on the phone a few times to bounce ideas off each other. Mars exploration is his passion and I think our story complements his other ideas about how this might actually happen. Though hopefully without some of the near-death experiences we put our characters through!
Tell us a little about your book.
Rescue Mode, published last week by Baen Books, is about the first international human mission to Mars. The mission is launched after a robotic mission finds signs of life there. Worldwide interest in learning more finally causes a few nations to come together to make it happen. But, in the spirit of the classic “man versus nature” theme, something goes horribly wrong during the journey which places our characters in a struggle to survive. In the process of surviving, they come up with a novel approach to assure that Mars exploration continues beyond their one mission. I better not say much more — I want you to read the book!
Remember, tell all your writer friends to send the AUTHOR, TITLE, a SHORT BLURB, and an AMAZON LINK AMAZON LINK AMAZON LINK to firstname.lastname@example.org to be plugged here on PJ Media.
It really helps if you don’t bother with HTML magic at all, because we just have to parse it apart to put it into the template. The ideal submission is like
TITLE My Book AUTHOR My name as it's on the book cover. AMAZON LINK http://www.amazon.com/My-Book-By-Me/dp/B00ABCDEFG/ BLURB no more than about 100 words.
“Just a little consulting work,” Joschka said. “Nothing dangerous,” Joschka said.
After all, just how much trouble can Rada get into serving as the “strange things” adviser to a minor military group on a small, backwater world? Wandering interstellar anthropologists, an increased Trader bounty on her head, and a musician who’s just a little too good all make Rada Ni Drako’s easy new part-time job a lot more interesting than planned. Interesting enough to make serving a Lord Defender of Drakon IV look like a quiet vacation.
Laredo’s defenders were ground down and its people ruthlessly slaughtered when the Bactrians invaded the planet. Overwhelmed, its Army switched to guerrilla warfare and went underground. For three years they’ve fought like demons to resist the occupiers. They’ve bled the enemy, but at fearful cost. The survivors are running out of weapons, supplies, and places to hide.
Then a young officer, Dave Carson, uncovers news that may change everything. An opportunity is coming to smash the foe harder than they’ve ever done before, both on and off the planet. Success may bring the interplanetary community to their aid – but it’ll take everything they’ve got. Win or lose, many of them will die. Failure will mean that Bactria will at last rule unopposed.
That risk won’t stop them. When you’re fighting a war to the knife, in the end you bet on the blade.
Tammy Kirsch has had her shot at fame. She came to Hollywood with stars in her eyes and lint in her pockets and looks that would open any door in town just to try to get her onto the casting couch. After several guest roles in TV shows, one starring role in a movie that nobody saw, inadvertently dodging the mid-70s porno chic moment and keeping her dignity and reputation intact, her career sputtered to a halt.
Then she lost her daughter in a custody case, and what was left of her world came crashing down around her ears. When the crazy homeless man tried to talk to her incoherently as she was leaving the court building, that only seemed to be the cherry on top of the layered dessert of her misery. In fact, it was just the first step on her path, a path that would end with her defending the entire world from an invasion of other-dimensional eldritch horrors.
She was drawn to the dark stranger; she could not help it. He was everything her broken heart needed, and everything her body desired. She was shy and sweet and he would never let her go.
She married him that night and he took her virginity. He seared her mind and body with the remembrance of erotic bliss and tormented every waking moment even as she tried to forget…
She fled her husband’s loving embrace but searched for him in her dreams. That is when he comes to her…and claims her as his.
But Lucy cannot forget, even as she tries to pick up the pieces of her shattered life and finds another..
He will always be her husband. For he is the one who seduced her in a night of drunken passion and the only man she craves…
So, Amazon. We’re now supposed to have a mini hate in or something, right.
What I – Sarah, by the way, nice to meet you – would like to know is why? Why has hating Amazon become the cool or chic thing to do? Why is Amazon the villain?
Oh, never mind me, I understand it from the other side – that is the side of the traditional publishers, the distributors, the people who were used to controlling who got to see what on the shelves, the people who before Amazon’s ascendance, could make or break a book, sight unseen, and make sure that either no one ever found it, or it was a mega success (at least on paper).
I understand why they’re upset at Amazon. Why they’re screaming that everyone must now destroy the monster. But why?
I am not implying Amazon is perfect. As I cued my stuff for various promotions today I was reminded again of Amazon’s extremely stupid requirement that you give them exclusive rights in order to do a give away or sale.
Stupid, you say? But it’s the stuff of evil geniuses! They get exclusivity on the book!
Stupid I said, and stupid I meant. See, yeah, they get exclusivity on the book – but none of the big names are availing themselves of this – so the exclusivity they get is at best with us, midlisters. Look, guys, I have a head as big as the next writer, but I think the only people who REMEMBER my book for three months are people who sleep with me. And there’s only one of those. I don’t mean I write unmemorable books, I mean that with the spoiling for choice we get, the only people who remember I had a book release, three months later, are people who really, really, really like me.
So, let’s see how Amazon’s exclusive-to-promote policy shoots itself in the foot. Let’s say I’m a compulsive reader (I am) and download Pretty Darn Good Writer’s book when it’s free. I download it, and get around to read it in a month or so, when it’s no longer free. To my shock, it rocks my world. So I go to my Reader Friend (I have a few!) and say “you must, must, must read this.” Reader Friend says, “Oh, okay. But I have a nook.” She goes and searches it on B & N and the book isn’t there – of course, since it’s still in the three month exclusivity period.
By the time the book comes out of that and goes on B & N Reader friend has forgotten all about it. Which means that Barnes and Noble lost a sale, you say, and no skin off Amazon’s nose?
This is as stupid a line of thought as the old traditional publishers’ idea that people choose books by publisher, instead of by author, plot or title.
See, Reader friend has twenty other friends to whom she would have recommended the book. But she can’t do it because she never read it. And I guarantee 18 of those friends would be on kindle.
So, in the long run the exclusivity policy – I don’t think even with my moderate name anyone is going to change reading platforms for me – hurts Amazon, as well as being an unholy annoyance.
The same with pricing. I don’t actually object to having a $2.99 floor for novels. All my indie friends whom I yelled at and said “you can sell it for $2 more and you’ll be fine, know I think the natural price is more like $4.99. But to put that floor (via pricing incentives) under short stories is not the best thing in the world in the current economy.
And this is why Amazon needs competition, you say.
Yes, yes, they do. And I have been working (in my copious spare time) on a four part series on how to compete with Amazon – at least on ebooks, which isn’t even the core of Amazon’s business.
You see, I work across five ebook platforms and what I’m here to tell you is that none of them are serious competition. I only get about 10% of the income I get from Amazon from any of these places. And that’s on a good month.
But the thing is I know why. I also know why, with the best will in the world, I end up putting only 1/10th of my books in other platforms. And it’s not Amazon’s fault. It’s the other houses’.
A forceful breakup of Amazon will do nothing to help these houses, because they are too stupid to help themselves. I will expand on this in the articles, I promise, and if I weren’t up to my neck in work (as are my friends – and my husband) who can program I’d give it a crack myself. BUT for now, I’ll give some areas in which the other ebook sellers drive me nuts:
1- Stop treating me like an amateur. I have almost 20 years experience as a published author. If you send me congratulations whenever I sell a copy of a book on your site and talk about the wonderful occasion and how it will change my life, I’ll get testy. It’s not that we can’t be friends anymore, but I get a feeling you think I’m less than five. Treat me like a professional, please.
2- While you’re treating me like a professional, realize my time (particularly for us hybrid authors) is limited. STOP telling me that I got error 342 and I should check your manual to see what I’m doing wrong. Either have a clickable explanation or – here’s an idea – have your site so that when I upload an ebook format that works everywhere else, it doesn’t gag on imaginary code. I really don’t have the whole day to spend uploading a short story into your site. And uploading novels is a tortuous process that I gave up on after the first.
3- Make sure your platform is intuitive and self explanatory. This breaks my heart with the site that comes second to Amazon in making me money. Their platform for uploading books is SO visually oriented, it takes me an hour and help from younger son to find out where to upload. Make it obvious and easy to return to.
4- One more thing – make sure your reports of sales and payment makes sense. Do not change the report six months later, and pay me for some sale I didn’t know about. I need to know things like how my promotions did.
So, that’s for attracting writers. What about readers?
5- Give up on exclusivity. Yes, I know. You want me to read from you only. Tough. I’m not giving up my kindle library. Make it possible for me to beam a kindle-format book to my kindle, and you got me.
6- If you want to have your proprietary reader, same thing applies. Make sure I can read my Amazon books on your system. I refuse to keep two separate libraries, and I’m not alone.
There is more, and a lot more detail. As I said, I’m working on it in my copious spare time. But this should be enough to get started.
Amazon is not evil. (My friend Cedar Sanderson explains the thing with Hatchette here. And my friend Dave Freer explains it here.) BUT it needs competition. The thing is to compete with Amazon the competitor must give up on being the “anti-amazon.” That gets you anti-sales. You should instead steal what works and improve on what doesn’t. And then maybe you’ll have a fighting chance.
(Special Note: Sarah’s books, and Cedar’s book, this time are on special. Which is why it’s a special note. Isn’t that special?)
From Elizabethan England to the Far Future, discover who really was Shakespeare and why Marlowe was called The Muses Darling. Discover the horrifying secret that Leonardo DaVinci found beneath a cave in his home village. In the far future, find a new way to keep Traveling, Traveling. Use cold sleep to find your love again, and join the (high tech) Magical Legion.
Seventeen short stories from Prometheus Award Winning Author, Sarah A. Hoyt. This edition features an Introduction by Dave Freer and a Bonus Short Story “With Unconfined Wings.”
When a priceless magical jewel is stolen, Ausenda, who has no magical power, has to track it down before the thief uses the jewel for some unspeakable crime.
On Sale for the month of June!
Earth sits at the center of a galactic power struggle humanity knows nothing about. Then an alien delegation suffers a fatal accident and hidden plans unravel around the wreckage in the Alaskan wilderness. Infectious disease expert Gabrielle McGregor discovers the hidden machinations and what they’ll mean for her and her family.
A humorous peek inside one girl’s dream to guide her team to the winner’s podium, Finishing Kick takes an inspirational look into girls cross country. Callie finds herself holding the keys to the nuthouse when she agrees to be team captain of the cross country squad. She cares so much and tries so hard, you can’t help but cheer her on as Callie and her team challenges powerhouse Fairchild Academy.
A fast-paced space opera about first contact – with a difference. When Art Stoddard, civilian information officer of the generation ship Mayflower II, is kidnapped by a secret military organization determined to overthrow the power of Captain and crew, he becomes embroiled in a conflict that tests everything he thought he knew. Now, he is forced to choose between preserving social order and restoring the people’s right to know. But what if knowledge is the most dangerous thing of all?
Sindri Modulf has been tested many times throughout his long life, but for every feat he has faced, he has artfully dodged countless more with easy humour and a deadly axe. Those well-honed abilities will prove useless when he is faced with one of the greatest challenges of his life; he must bring back a grief-stricken Seer from the edge of catatonia. Unwilling to let the mind of the most powerful woman in 1000 years be ravaged by Empaths and Telepaths, Sindri does something he hasn’t done for centuries: bare his soul.
It’s easy to write a passable hero. No, not an interesting hero or a complex one, but if all you need is someone to stand shining in the radiance of his righteousness with a sword in his hand, a journeyman writer can whip one of those out with her eyes closed. A great story doesn’t always need a great hero, or even an especially memorable one. It needs a fantastic villain.
A fantastic villain — a villain you love to hate, a villain that you almost, just a little bit, want to root for, a villain whose very name makes your skin crawl — is incredibly difficult to write, which is why fantastic villains are very rare. It’s often the villain who makes an adventure especially delicious and suspenseful; it’s the villain who elevates an interpersonal drama into an epic. A great villain makes a great story — and a great story makes great summer reading. Follow the villains to your summer reading list — and start with these if you want to know what a good villain looks like.
5) Hatsumomo, Memoirs of a Geisha
I’m only about halfway through this one, but already Hatsumomo has made the book for me. A vicious beauty, Hatsumomo is the working geisha at the okiya where Chiyo, the narrator, works as a maid and trains to become a geisha herself. From the instant Hatsumomo sets eyes on a nine-year-old Chiyo, she smells a potential rival and sets out to destroy Chiyo’s life. Hatsumomo’s main competitor, Mameha, takes Chiyo under her tutelage when she learns how much Hatsumomo hates her, and the young girl becomes a pawn in the established geishas’ social war.
There are no depths Hatsumomo won’t sink to to try to prevent Chiyo’s rise to prominence, or damage Mameha’s reputation. Planting stolen goods, spreading disgusting rumors, and driving up the debt Chiyo must repay before she can become a free and independent woman — Hatsumomo practically crackles with insane energy every time she enters a scene, and I find myself turning the pages not just to cheer Chiyo on, but in a sick fascination to find out what Hatsumomo will do to her next.
Imagine a new country suddenly emerging somewhere in the world, a country based on America’s old Constitution and nothing more. This new country has no taxes, a strong military, a free and open press, and a limited government.
Would you pack your bags? Let’s head out for the Atlantis of Atlas Shrugged, or Sarah Hoyt’s Eden colony in Darkship Thieves, or Heinlein’s lunar base in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. We’d miss our old home and feel sorrow over leaving our old country, but to be free of the increasing weight of totalitarian government? Color me gone, and my family too. We did it once, generations ago, when we got on a boat and headed to America. We could do it again.
This is why Mexico is a failed state. Rebels who object to a government unwilling to preserve individual liberty and protect private property have an Atlantis shimmering and beckoning on the horizon. They’ve packed their bags and moved here, some legally and some illegally. Some have died in the deserts of the American Southwest, murdered by coyotes or succumbing to thirst, willing to die to gain freedom.
Left behind are the people who either engage in corruption themselves or have no energy to fight it. Consider Michoacan, Mexico. Almost half the state’s population lives in the United States. Those left behind endure passively as corrupt government officials make deals with drug cartels and refuse to protect people’s safety or private property. Their rebel for liberty, their Patrick Henry or Thomas Jefferson or Ben Franklin, isn’t around. He’s moved to America.
Cinco de Mayo celebrates the victory in 1862 of a small, ill-equipped Mexican force over the powerful French army at the Battle of Puebla, southeast of Mexico City. It took another five years before Mexico gained independence, but the 5th of May is celebrated as the symbol of Mexican freedom. Today’s rebels should fight to free Mexico and turn her back into a vibrant and wonderful country, but I can understand how the lure of freedom in their neighbor to the North is too much.
Because if you had a free country to emigrate to, would you stick around here and fight it out, or would you pack your bags?
Lately I’ve been going through books I’ve been lugging around for 30 years and putting some of them up for sale. Part of this is because we plan to move as soon as possible to a place that’s easier for me to manage and clean while running a fully-time job in writing (and indie publishing.)
Part of it is that I’m allergic to household dust, and paper books are paper magnets.
Notwithstanding which, you couldn’t have pried my books out of my hands save for the Kindle paperwhite, which makes it easy and fun to read books in a format other than paper.
Anyway, I’m digging through a 30 year accumulation of books, some of which I’ve read multiple times, and some I might have read once, twenty three years ago, while on bed-rest with my first pregnancy – a time when I got so desperate for entertainment I sent my husband to the local library/remaindered sales with the largest suitcases we owned and told him ”Just fill it to the top.”
Then there are books I don’t remember having bought at any time and no one in the house admits to having bought. No, not that kind of book. Though one of the sets is a complete series of engineering manuals, and it had a similar effect on my younger son as those other books you were thinking of. He has absconded with them into his bedroom and I expect we’ll see him again when he’s digested the contents and not a minute before.
And then there are other books which, presumably, I bought, but have completely forgotten.
One of these: The Shores of Kansas by Robert Chilson made me stop. The cover shows a man battling two dinosaurs and it says “the mind-boggling epic adventure of a time-traveler torn between two nightmare worlds.”
I have no memory of having read – or bought – this book. And perhaps it is really bad. Don’t care. It’s going to be my bedtime read tonight.
Spring is coming, and after a long, hard winter, I think that qualifies for a celebratory Spring Reading List. You know what summer reads are — beach books, thrillers, all the genre books you love to relax into. And winter reads are the kinds of books you curl up with, under a blanket next to a fire — deeper, darker books that take you away on the cold howling wind. So what’s a spring read? A book about awakening, a delicate but powerful book, a book full of the magic of transformation, tinged with slight sadness. Here are my four spring reads for this year:
4) A Room with a View by E. M. Forster
A moving romance and wry social commentary, A Room with a View takes place in the spring and summer, in Edwardian-era Italy and England. This book begs to be read by an open window.
A year or more ago I heard about this project called Liberty Island, supposed to give those of us whose politics make us pariahs with most of traditional publishing — though not Baen Books — a haven where we could meet our fans. I keep meaning to contribute to them, but of course, the last year I spent more time sick than well, and consequently I’m so far behind on books and contracts, I can practically see myself around the corner.
Well, they are up now (and have a story by Frank J. Fleming). And I’ve secured an interview with Adam Bellow, Liberty Island’s publisher and CEO. Bellow is a longtime nonfiction editor, currently running Broadside, the conservative nonfiction imprint of HarperCollins. He is also the author of In Praise of Nepotism, a lively contrarian take on an eternally divisive topic.
And, yep, sure, as soon as I get a weekend to pound it out, I’ll do a novella for Liberty Island.
Sarah Hoyt: I heard of Liberty Island back when it was in the planning stages. I understand it is an online magazine-cum-community center for writers and readers on the right side of the spectrum. Is this true? What do you want to tell us about Liberty Island?
Adam Bellow: We started Liberty Island to help the new wave of conservative storytellers connect with their natural audience. Even before launching the site we’ve discovered dozens of new voices on the right that you won’t find anywhere else. These are talented and creative people who have previously been excluded from mainstream culture because they hold the wrong views and didn’t go to the right schools or attend the approved writing programs. This just confirms our hunch that something like Liberty Island is desperately needed.
SH: Who is the audience for Liberty Island? What is “conservative fiction”? Shouldn’t good stories just stand on their own?
AB: Great literature stands on its own, but the productions of popular culture often carry a hidden freight of ideology that reflects its authors’ biases. Sometimes not so hidden — the evil conservative businessman is essentially the default villain in Hollywood these days. But think about what happens when great stories are told from a conservative perspective: you get Tom Clancy, or Brad Thor, or James Patterson, or Vince Flynn. Mega-bestselling authors with a huge following. Our audience is anyone who loves great pulp writers like those guys. At Liberty Island you will find dozens of stories like these, in genres ranging from humor to thriller to SciFi. These writers aren’t heavy handed in the least – their conservative outlook is sometimes explicit but just as often merely implied or completely submerged. Besides, a case can be made that traditional pulp genres are inherently conservative.
SH: In what way do you intend to distinguish yourself from other online magazines?
AB: Liberty Island combines a magazine, a free range self-publishing platform, and a community of readers and writers who share a commitment to the values of freedom, individualism, and American exceptionalism. It also has a unique mission: to serve as the platform and gathering-place for the new right-of-center counterculture.
SH: What made you think of the project – and commit to it and work so hard for it?
AB: Two things: first, an impulse to carry the culture war into the field of popular culture. And second, the writers themselves. In 25 years as an editor of nonfiction books I’ve watched the conservative intellectual project thrive and flourish. But like others on the right I’ve been dismayed by the slowness of conservatives to challenge the liberal dominance of popular culture. It’s not enough to carp and criticize the frequently substandard and offensive crap that liberals produce. As Andrew Breitbart used to say, we have to make our own—and it has to be good. But recently we began to notice an exciting development: hundreds, indeed thousands of conservative and libertarian writers were seizing the opportunity afforded by new digital technologies to produce and publish original works of fiction. Others were making music, video, graphics, and other forms of entertainment right on their laptops at home. These were ordinary men and women all over the country, working in isolation, doing their best to hone their art and find an audience. Yet no one seemed to know that they existed. So we started talking about what we could do to help them. Liberty Island grew out of those discussions.
Pretty much every nerd and misfit, sometime during adolescence, wishes he could travel to a time and place where he’d fit in. Maybe it was an entirely separate fantasy world, like Narnia; maybe it was a secret world-within-our-world, like Hogwarts; or maybe it was a fantastic, steampunk version of the past.
I lived in those fantasies as a teen so much so that I remember stretches of my high school years more for the stories my friends and I concocted than for anything else that happened in the real world. That yearning came to life in Bulfinch, my second novel (due to be released this summer), in which a medieval knight and his monk chronicler travel through time into the attic study of a modern-day scholar.
But as my roommate and I spent this week’s snow day watching Pride and Prejudice (1995), I realized I might finally have grown out of my wish to live in the past — at least, the realistic past. All I seemed to notice were the things I wouldn’t have been able to stand about Lizzie’s world. Here are the top five reasons I’m thoroughly, solidly glad to be living right now:
The first poet I fell in love with was E. E. Cummings. In elementary school we read his poems about springtime and childhood. It wasn’t until years later that I discovered his poems about love and sex, mortality, war, and much more. There aren’t many recent poets who have captured my imagination like E. E. Cummings does. Part of the problem is the difficulty of finding good contemporary poetry — fewer and fewer magazines carry it, and only a few specialty publishers collect it into books. I haven’t tried very hard to look for it, though, because my new favorite poets are working somewhere else entirely — the stage of a local music venue.
My new favorite poet is Andrew Bird. I’ve been following him for five years now. If you’ve heard of him, it’s probably been as a violinist and alternative musician.
Bird’s lyrics roam from ancient civilizations to a whimsical post-apocalyptic paradise. Some of his songs hint at a story that ended just before he started singing; others sound just like Bird is enjoying playing with words, the way an abstract artist explores form and color. Like the poems of E. E. Cummings, Bird’s lyrics spring to life when the listener learns to focus less on meaning and more on atmosphere.
Andrew Bird is one of those rare artists who doesn’t just write music — he creates worlds. But despite his lyric-writing ability, I have wonder if calling him a poet fully sums him up. If I only read his lyrics, I might have been reminded of E. E. Cummings but I wouldn’t have been swept away in quite the same way. The music is part of the poetry. He builds delicate castles with piccolo and rhyme — the sum is greater than the parts. I can’t call him a poet because he’s more than that.
So, my hunt for great contemporary poetry is still frustrated. But I can’t say Andrew Bird has let me down.
Play It Yourself: Tabs and Lyrics
Fatherhood has been undergoing a dramatic redefinition in recent years, amply covered by journalists, scientists, and sitcoms. That’s why the Tweet I saw today (“Do fathers make good writers? Do writers make good fathers?“) was clickbait I eagerly lapped up.
The article I wound up reading, “The Pram in the Hall,” revealed more about its author, Shane Jones, than it did about writing or parenthood. Jones is admittedly image-obsessed, and that’s evident when he spends most of this article talking not about the unique challenges parenthood poses to writing, but about the challenges it poses to his carefully cultivated personal and professional image.
He writes, “In our culture, fatherhood means baggy khakis and cars with side-impact airbags—it’s something of a joke.”
I don’t see how that’s something of a joke — I just see a comfortable man in a safe car. And people in the book world aren’t known for their glamorous good looks and fashion sense, either, so I’m not sure how any of that is a threat to his career. Have you been to a publishing trade show lately? Clint and Stacey would have a heart attack.
A supplemental series to Selling Your Writing in 13 weeks. Post 1.
I’ve been meaning to do a post on covers, as a supplemental to my 13 weeks posts on selling your writing, but I couldn’t seem to do it, until I realized that I was in fact trying to cram several posts worth into a single post. Whenever I do that, I get highly bizarre comments, from people who read their own stuff into what I elided.
Part of this is a problem that I don’t remember what lay people know and don’t know anymore.
By lay people in this case, I mean people outside of publishing. Even avid readers might never have noticed consciously that covers are meant to signal genre, nor all the other subtle signals they give.
Before I start, I took the cover workshop with WMG publishing, and that made me aware of things even I hadn’t noticed, and I’ve been a professional in the field for several years. For anyone doing indie publishing, if you can afford the workshop take it. We’re right now scraping up the money to put older son through it. A I don’t use the same tools they do (I judged it was easier for me to use less professional tools than to spend a lot of time – more important than money – learning InDesign. So I use tools that I’m used to, the highly outdated but very familiar to me JASC paintshop. The newer versions, by Corel, which I own, aren’t nearly as good, but the last JASC version I can make sit up and sing, because I’ve been using it for ten years. And what it can’t do GIMP can. Both programs I’m familiar with and therefore find preferable to a program that I found oddly counterintuitive and would have to learn to use.) But even so, what I learned transferred. I won’t say it made me an awesome cover designer. That is an actual profession and you need years of practice and usually specialize in one genre. But it has made me a decent cover designer.
The other thing I should say is that every time I make one of these posts, I get people offering to design my covers. Most of these people have a background in art and design and usually some experience in tiny presses (or advertising layout.) All of the offers I’ve had, when I look at their samples, they’re very pretty… and all of them signal “literary and little” which is inappropriate for my books which are, unabashedly genre. Looking over the covers, I see myself at a con, passing the tables with books for tiny presses with names like Necrophiliac Duck Press. This is not the image I want to project, since my books were once published by big publishers, and I want the same feel for the re-issue. Also, I’m still publishing with one major publisher, and don’t want people to think everything I bring indie is “too precious for words.”
Some of it will be, but when it is, I shall so signal.
Fortunately for me, the big houses don’t usually give midlisters like me experienced cover designers. (I’m not talking of Baen here. They’re always an exception.) They usually hand the job to the first under-designer just hired from community college. And that level I can imitate.
However, to know where we are and what we’re doing, let’s start with a look at some bestseller covers in some distinct genres. And pointing out how they signal genre/subgenre.
This is something you should always do before you start designing covers. Go look at what other people are doing. Look at the bestsellers under paper (because that’s usually the professional books, that got lavish attention) and their covers, and figure out what to do for yours.
A PJM colleague, who can out herself is she so chooses, posted on Facebook about how Call the Midwife is doing well while Downton Abbey‘s ratings are going down and how this was possibly due to the fact that Call the Midwife doesn’t have plots centered on sex.
I’m the last person to write about TV shows. I rarely watch TV (or movies); when I do, it’s usually because I’m exercising and it’s something that’s available for free on Amazon Prime. I know my husband watched the first two seasons of Downton Abbey and enjoyed it, but I figured the historical aspect of it would drive me batty, particularly as I’m right now researching that era with a view to writing a mystery series set then.
My colleague made some comment about how we seemed to be increasing the sex in our entertainment exponentially (or perhaps I just read that into her posting), and we had an exchange over what was causing the more and more sex-driven plotting in all our entertainment from TV to books.
Again, I don’t know anything about the internal process of TV and movie plotting. What I see as similarities to the fiction writing field might be completely spurious, and the result of my projection. I do see the same creep in movies and TV, though, as well as a certain amount of repetitiveness and lack of originality.
To make it clear, I don’t have anything against a sex-driven plot in its place — which is mostly, I would assume, in erotica. (Yes, there can be sex-driven literary works — Romeo and Juliet comes to mind — but usually the whole point is not getting it on. There is a deeper exploration of the human condition.) And I don’t have anything against sex in books. Some books need a sex scene or two to advance the plot.
I do have an objection to sex-drive plots, when that seems to be the only thing the writer finds interesting about his characters. And I’ve been seeing more and more of that in my fiction and — by report — in TV and movies. I noticed this creep myself in sitcoms, back when I watched a lot of them right after 9/11. (I went through about a year; that’s all I was good for.) Compared to the last time I’d watched a lot of sitcoms (mid ’80s), all of a sudden every joke/situation/motive was about sex or implied sex.
So what do I think is driving this creep?