Friday, June 29, 2018

Short Book Reviews: Amusement Park Urban Fantasy

Tricks for Free by Seanan McGuire (DAW)

Seanan McGuire’s “InCryptid” series just keeps getting better, her world-building more detailed, and her characters growing and changing as they struggle against inner as well as outer demons. Antimony Price comes from a family of cryptozoologists, dedicated to the study, protection, and sometimes containment of “incryptids,” creatures like Bigfoot, but who live disguised as humans. The last episode, Magic for Nothing, sent Antimony undercover, infiltrating the Covenant of St. George (yes, the  dragonslayer), whose aim is the destruction of all incryptids, no matter how benign. While in disguise and investigating a traveling carnival, she met Sam, a trapeze artist whose natural form resembles a graceful simian. Sparrow Hill Road, a related novel, introduced us to the world of road ghosts, crossroads bargains, and route-witches, many of which play crucial roles in this new novel.

Now, at the beginning of Tricks for Free, Antimony is on the run from the Covenant and hiding from her family. As she says:

I never wanted my life to be a wacky sitcom about a human girl and her inhuman roommates struggling to get by at what many people consider to be the second-happiest place in the world.

She’s taken a job working for Lowryland, a not-quite-second-rate Disneyland. Sharing an employer-provided apartment are her friends Fern (a sylf capable of altering her physical density), who enacts one of the many Fairyland princesses, and Megan, a (Pliny’s) gorgon, who in real life is a medical resident. In between the byzantine company politics, trying to stay off the Covenant’s radar and also to not burn down the theme park with her increasingly erratic ability to set fires, Antimony unearths a secret cabal of witches and sorcerers bent upon harvesting the good luck of the patrons to boost their own power. Things go awry as one terribly unlucky accident leads to another. Then Sam shows up, as well as various ghostly aunts, and the plot races right along.

McGuire writes complex, interconnected series in which every (or almost every) volume stands on its own, fast-paced, absorbing, and satisfying. She weaves in backstory and setting with such a deft touch that the reader is neither baffled nor inundated by chunks of indigestible exposition. Although I had read Magic for Nothing and Sparrow Hill Road fairly recently and enjoyed the references, I think Tricks for Free would work just as well as an introduction. So even if you’re new to the delights of the InCryptid and road ghost worlds, dive right in for a great read.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Sword and Sorceress 33 Table of Contents

This year I've joined Elisabeth Waters in editing the newest volume of Sword and Sorceress (#33, which will be released in November). The anthology, which contains some amazing stories, is now complete and here's your first sneak peek -- the lineup! 



by Pauline J. Alama 


by Margaret L. Carter 


by Lorie Calkins 


by Catherine Mintz 


by M. P. Ericson 


by Deirdre M. Murphy 


by Dave Smeds 


by Jessie D. Eaker 


by Jonathan Shipley 


by Marella Sands 


by T. R. North 


by Deborah J. Ross 


by Jane Lindskold 


by Jennifer Linnea 


by L. S. Patton 


by Evey Brett 


by Alisa Cohen 


by Melissa Mead     

Friday, June 22, 2018

Author Interviews: Juliette Wade

Many of us balance writing, family, day jobs, and taking care of ourselves. Juliette Wade, whose stories have been featured on the covers of magazines like Analog, brings her own inimitable style to the challenge.

Juliette Wade is a rising star in science fiction, writing thoughtful, provocative pieces based in extraordinary insight into culture, language, and personal agency. Of her recent novella, Gardner Dozois wrote:

“The best story in the March Clarkesworld, and one of the best stories published so far this year, is “The Persistence of Blood” by Juliette Wade. … “The Persistence of Blood” is strongly reminiscent of C.J. Cherryh's work, and if you like Cherryh, you're likely to enjoy this story too.”

Deborah J. Ross: When did you know you wanted to be a writer? 
Juliette Wade: This actually took me a long time. I wrote a lot in elementary and junior high, but then got into nonfiction (i.e. class assignments) and didn't try writing fiction again until I was married and studying for my Ph.D. Maybe it was the fact that I'd been musing on the idea for a secondary world for quite a lot of years by then, but when I started writing, I couldn't stop. The desire to write was so strong and so clear that I knew immediately this was what I was meant to do. It was frightening and wonderful.

DJR: What is your writing process? When do you write? 
JW: Writing for me is about moments stolen in between running life for myself and my family. The impact of this on my process is that a lot of my work gets done in the form of thinking while I'm doing other things. Then whenever I get a chance, I sit down at the computer and write everything down. It's easier now than it was when my children were first born, but still, a constant challenge. My favorite time to write is when I'm by myself in the house, and that doesn't happen as often as I'd like.

DJR: How would you characterize your fiction? Are you writing to/for a particular audience or audiences? 
JW: My fiction is as realistic as I can make it - from the perspective of psychology, sociology, linguistics, and anthropology. I am aiming for a wide audience, but hoping particularly to appeal to people who are looking for diversity, intersectionality, and respect of other cultures.

DJR: What writers have been major influences in your work and why? 
JW: The writer who most influenced me when I was first beginning to write was Ursula K. LeGuin. The language she uses is graceful, and she brings a cultural sensibility to her work that always impressed me. I could see the evidence of her deep thinking about societies and cultures as well as individuals, and try to emulate her in those ways as best I can. In more recent times, I have found inspiration in the works of N.K. Jemisin and Ann Leckie. It's hard for me to pinpoint any one thing about these authors that I admire, because I admire so much about what they do. One thing they are both good at, though, is making sure to keep an intimate emotional connection to characters at the same time that they bring cosmic significance to events and stakes in their stories.

DJR: What is your most current project?
JW: My most current project is a novella that just came out in the March 2018 issue of Clarkesworld Magazine. "The Persistence of Blood" takes place in my Varin world, where people live in a complex caste society in underground cities. Lady Selemei is a noblewoman who nearly died giving birth to her fifth child, who takes the revolutionary step of refusing to bear any more children, despite the fact that the noble caste is in decline and expects every woman to have as many children as possible in order to sustain the Race. Her husband is supportive, and together they attempt to change the law to protect more mothers from death in childbirth, but when things go terribly wrong, she's forced to stand on her own and become a unique political voice in her own society.

DJR: What was the inspiration for the project? 
JW: I had a conversation with Ann Leckie a couple of years ago, and she encouraged me to try writing a novella in the Varin world. I chose to focus on Lady Selemei because it's important to me that Varin stories reflect the kinds of social issues we are dealing with right now in our own world. Selemei is a very grounded person, and a mom, and has to step out beyond what she has known in order to protect herself and her family from government policies that put her life in danger. It should come as no surprise that she ends up having to fight in the political arena, and that this fight turns out to be very difficult.

DJR: What lies ahead for you as a writer?
JW: I'm currently working on a sequel to "The Persistence of Blood," which will feature a character from the Imbati servant caste and take on a very different set of social issues. I'm also working with my agent's help to publish a novel of Varin.

DJR: What advice do you have for new and aspiring writers? 
JW: I guess my advice would be something Lady Selemei believes in, which is to believe in your own gifts and keep persisting, learning as much as you can along the way. 

DJR: What do you do when you’re not writing?
JW: When I'm not writing, I do lots of different things. I like to work in my garden, and to take long walks and hikes, all of which help me to think. I like to go top-rope climbing in the gym, and to do yoga, because both of these activities help to relax my over-active mind. I work as an English and French teacher, and I work with my family on things like school homework and life in general!

Juliette Wade combined a trip to the Gouffre de Padirac with her academic background in linguistics and anthropology to create the world of Varin, a grand experiment in speculative ethnography. She lives the Bay Area of California with her husband and two children, who support and inspire her. Her fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, Analog, and Fantasy & Science Fiction. She runs the Dive into Worldbuilding video series and workshop at

Monday, June 18, 2018

Great Authors Meet Darkover at the Crossroads

Contributors to Crossroads of Darkover share how they first encountered the world of the Bloody Sun.

Robin Wayne Bailey: 
The first Darkover tale I ever read was Darkover Landfall, and I came across it perhaps in an unusual way. At the time, I was working in a bookstore part-time to earn college money, but I was also already a fairly dedicated book collector. Among the books I collected were DAW's yellow-spined paperbacks, which DAW was kind enough to number. I searched these out in new bookstores and used bookstores, determined to own them all, and this is how I came across Darkover Landfall. I'm not sure if I had previously read any of Marion Zimmer Bradley's earlier work, but this book captivated me. I was a sucker for a good "lost colony" story, and this proved one of the best. I remember the day we unpacked that latest DAW shipment and removing this book with its shiny cover and artwork by, I think, Jack Gaughan. It excited me then, and although I drifted away from the series after a time, it continues to excite me.

Evey Brett:
Back in 2002 when I was just out of college, I got a job working retail at a now-extinct Foley's department store in a mall. There was a Waldenbooks right across from the store, so I'd often go get a book and settle down in a comfy chair somewhere in the mall to eat my lunch and read. One day I was looking for a new book and picked up The Fall of Neskaya, and I was hooked. Fortunately for me (and the bookstore) they had several other Darkover novels as well.

I'm a sucker for stories with telepaths and damaged characters. I'd gone through a number of Mercedes Lackey's books, so finding Darkover gave me a whole new world with a sizeable canon to explore. Having just read the back of The Fall of Neskaya, I'd still pick it up to read because it's got everything I want--telepaths, power, gifts, a tormented character with a secret he can't reveal.

Rebecca Fox:
As a moody teenage girl with SFnal leanings in the early/mid-1990s, I really had three main reading choices: Pern, Valdemar, or Darkover. Pern I’d found on my own, in a sixth grade language arts reader of all places. My discovery of Valdemar and Darkover (simultaneously) at the age of 14 or 15 and the subsequent loss of at least a week’s worth of sleep while I devoured several books as fast as I could possibly read them I owe to a camp roommate.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Monday, June 11, 2018

A Thousand Ways to Story: Lace and Blade 4 Authors Talk About Writing Process

 Judith Tarr: 
[How do I write?] Horribly slowly now, but it still works, after a fashion. I get ideas and prompts from all kinds of places. I keep a file of them, multiple files in fact, and when one really needs to have a story, I pull it out and make notes and brainstorm and throw things together and see what comes of it. I do outline, but it's an ongoing, circular, organic process, which grows and changes as the characters wake up and start talking (or often yelling), and the settings make themselves visible, and the gears of story--the friction, the "what does this character want?" and "what are the stakes here?" questions that move it all forward--start to turn. Sometimes in totally unexpected directions.

With this story, I had a visual first, a scene viewed from above. Then I became aware of the viewpoint, and the character started telling me the story. I knew what had to happen in the end, but not how to get there, until I started telling the story. The resolution didn't come clear until I wrote the scene. What I thought was going to happen was not what actually happened at all.

Carol Berg: 
I’m an organic story developer, that is I start with a character in a situation and enough thinking about the world, cultures, and characters to put down the first scene. The act of writing that scene gives me ideas for moving forward in plot, characters, and world development, so that by the time I’m halfway in, I’ve got lots of notes about what needs to happen next. Every day, I read what I wrote the previous day, getting it right enough I can charge forward toward a climax that, so far, has made itself apparent by the time I get there. Revision is my friend and delight!

Marie Brennan:
I am such a night owl. Such a night owl. As I type these words, it's almost 11:30 at night, and this is the warm-up work I'm doing before settling in to put more words on the current story. I'll probably go to bed between 2 and 3 a.m. This has been my habit since college, and I've been lucky that, barring a few summer jobs with very early start times, I've been able to maintain my preferred schedule for basically my entire adult life.

As for the stories themselves, I am much more of a discovery writer than an outliner, though lately I've been working on some collaborative projects where outlining is a necessity. I can do that if I have to, but I prefer when possible to figure out my story as I go along -- that way I stay excited about it, rather than feeling like I'm just filling in the blanks.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Praise for Thunderlord

From Library Journal: 

Those who fondly remember the “Darkover” books (Stormqueen!; Hawkmistress!) set during the Ages of Chaos will welcome this new entry, which chronicles the aftermath of a conflict between two houses that can control the weather telepathically. Ross collaborated with Bradley on several other Darkover titles before Bradley’s death in 1999, and has written most recently The Children of Kings.

From Gabrielle Harbowy, editor and author:

Stormqueen! is my favorite of the Darkover books, and Thunderlord is a worthy successor to it. Ross sets up a complicated situation, drawing on all the nuance of Darkover politics and manners, and then proceeds to tighten the knot around her characters with fierce tension and, as the kids say, "all the feels." Definitely a worthy addition to the Darkover legacy!

Buy it now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Powell's, or your local indie bookseller.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Today's Moment of Serenity

Sunset In The White Mountains Of New Hampshire,
Jesse Talbot (1806 – 1879)