Tag Archives: fran wilde

Other Worlds Than These

Portal fantasies – stories that begin in the world we know but find their characters venturing through wardrobes, or tumbling down rabbit holes, into a world where animals talk and magic is real – can seem like pure escapism. But they’ve always been more than that. Portal fantasies teach us about our own world. Some serve as a means of exploring and deconstructing tropes; some reinforce certain rules and dominant narratives while seeming to throw logic out the window. And sometimes, portal fantasies are simply necessary. They are not about running away; they are about learning how to to survive.

Riverland by Fran Wilde and The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow are both novels about survival. They are necessary. While they’re very different – one historic, one contemporary, one spanning a few weeks, one spanning years – they also share many similarities. They are both stories about the power of narratives to shape our lives, and they both teach their protagonists how to live in a world that isn’t always kind to them. They are important.

As anyone who reads my reviews regularly likely knows, I enjoy finding common threads among works. I like books and stories that talk to each other, either intentionally or not. So here I am, applying that lens to The Ten Thousand Doors of January and Riverland, opening the doors between them, and listening to them speak. Spoilers ahead. Consider yourself warned…

Riverland begins with sisters Mike and Eleanor hiding under Eleanor’s bed, telling stories. Their stories are a form of escape from a house where things break, where there are raised hands and raised voices, and telling anyone about family business and “bringing trouble” is the worst offense imaginable. Their stories are also a wish, and a form of magic. They are a way of understanding the world; in stories, they can safely say “one day, our real parents will come for us” and never have to directly address the horrible situation they’re in and are afraid to speak of out loud.

“Once upon a time…”

“Why do you always start like that? Why not someday, or tomorrow?”

“Because that’s how stories start, Mike. They’re already over when you tell them. They’re safer that way.”

Mike and Eleanor occupy a liminal space. They yearn for magic to be real, and they are almost young enough to believe it. Yet they are both older than their years, and beneath their  yearning, there is a sense of hopelessness. Eleanor especially is old enough to feel a burden and unfairness to her life that seems to preclude the possibility of magic. She’s trying to protect Mike, but has no real resources to do so; she’s expected be quiet and behave and never get angry, even when she’s surrounded by anger every day; and she’s asked to lie to protect her family’s secrets, even though those secret put her in danger.  She feels trapped, powerless, and the reader feels those things right along with her.

Then the world of her stories manifests as real, and she and Mike tumble from the space under her bed into a river that can’t possibly exist. They meet a pony made of dishrags, and a heron made of sea glass and driftwood. They’re asked to honor a compact their family made before they were ever born and save a world they only just discovered existed. Eleanor and Mike learn that even magical worlds come with unfair expectations and burdens that they will be asked to carry, despite their young age. There is danger in the river, and the consequences they face there threaten to spill over into the real world as well.

Riverland CoverRiverland is beautifully-written. It is painful, and it is also necessary. Ultimately, it is a story about sisters learning to save themselves and  each other. Even though they’re young, even though they shouldn’t have to do it, even though it’s impossible as a reader to stop hoping that someone will swoop in and intervene – a neighbor, a teacher, another family member, even a heron made of driftwood – they are on their own. Riverland gives us the hard truth that sometimes there isn’t anyone else. Sometimes you have to do the scary and terrible thing on your own, even though it hurts and you’re afraid.

One of the most beautiful lessons Eleanor learns over the course of her journey is that there are good kinds of mad, and bad kinds of mad. The bad kind makes you lash out at other people. The good kind leads you to stand up against what is unfair, to speak out even when you’ve been told to keep quiet. It is an important lesson for girls especially, who are too often conditioned by society not to make a fuss, to go along and keep everyone happy. They are taught that their own pain and discomfort is secondary, and the worst thing they can do is make someone else upset, even if staying silent means putting themselves in danger. It isn’t only an important lesson for girls however, it’s an important lesson for everyone. Abusers thrive on making people feel powerless, isolated, and as though speaking up will only bring more pain. The lesson applies to adults on the outside of a bad situation as well. It’s easy to see something wrong and assume someone else will take care of it. It’s easy to feel it isn’t our place to fix it, or that the problem will go away on its own. It’s easy to feel like there’s nothing we can do to help, so why bother to try? It’s easy to convince ourselves we’re imagining things, and maybe there isn’t anything wrong at all. That’s the problem. It’s easy. And so bad things are allowed to continue, because it’s easier to look the other way and pretend not to see them happening.But as Eleanor learns, doing the right thing is scary, and hard.

Riverland is a portal fantasy about travel to another world, but it is very much about this world as well. It is about fighting back and standing up, and not staying silent. It is about getting angry at unfairness, and turning that anger into fuel to save yourself and those around you. It is necessary, and it is beautiful.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January CoverThe Ten Thousand Doors of January follows the journey of January Scaller, a character whose life seems very different from Eleanor and Mike’s. She’s an only child, with a father she rarely sees, being raised by father’s employer, Mr. Locke. While her father is off in far corners of the world, searching for rare artifacts for Mr. Locke’s collection, January rambles around Mr. Locke’s house, usually with only her own imagination for company. Mr. Locke cares for her, but at the same time, he also treats her as part of his collection, a clever curiosity he can show off as long as she behaves.

Like Mike and Eleanor, January lives a kind of liminal existence. Her guardian is wealthy, but she possesses nothing of her own. She’s too brown to belong in white society, too female to have true independence and worth. She doesn’t belong anywhere, until she stumbles through a door in the middle of a field that leads to another world. Until she discovers a book hidden in a chest in Mr. Locke’s house, which speaks of otherworldly and magical places, telling the story of a young woman who once found a door very much like the one January found, and spent all her life trying to find her way back to it and to the young man who stepped through it and into her world one day. Until January discovers she does indeed have power, the kind of power that terrifies men like Mr. Locke.

Mr. Locke keeps secrets from January. He tries to control her. Like Eleanor and Mike, she’s constantly being told that anger, stubbornness, and standing up for herself are all unacceptable qualities in a young woman. When January learns she has the power to open doors between worlds, the knowledge comes with danger from those who fear change and would do anything to maintain the status quo. Stories, narratives, other worlds with other ways of being – where women and people with brown skin are not second-class citizens – have the power to affect change in this world, and that is something that Mr. Locke and his friends can’t bear to have happen. They’ll do anything to stop those stories from being told, and those doors from being opened, including burning the doors, and killing January.

“If we address stories as archaeological sites, and dust through their layers with meticulous care, we find at some level there is always a doorway. A dividing point between here and there, us and them, mundane and magical. It is at the moment when the doors open, when things flow between them, that stories happen.”

While January starts off largely alone, she builds her own family along the way – including her neighbor Samuel, who used to slip her adventure magazines along with the groceries he delivered from his family’s store when they were young, Jane Imiru, hired by Mr. Locke to be January’s companion, and Bad, the best dog ever. While they may not be family by birth, they are still family, and they fight for each other, and rescue each other the way Eleanor and Mike do.

Harrow does a fantastic job of making the face of evil look like the face of reason at times, and of casting doubt as to who has January’s best interests at heart. There is gaslighting at play, and over the course of the novel, January learns to trust her instincts and trust herself, even if that means flying in the face of everything she’s taught is right and proper for a young woman to do.

In both Riverland and The Ten Thousand Doors of January, the worlds the protagonists escape to are vital in teaching them how to survive their own world. They learn how to fight back, question authority, and stand up for what they believe in. Most importantly, they learn how to fight against the status quo, and those who are invested in keeping certain power structures in place. Whether it’s white men running the world, or a parent with absolute control over their family, Eleanor, Mike, and January’s worlds are all designed to be a closed system until another world breaks through and changes everything.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January and Riverland are both rife with magic and moments of heartbreak as well. Bravery is on display, as is fear and the feeling of being trapped and powerless. But Eleanor and January are both character who get back up, who do the hard thing, even when they are afraid, and shout back at the unfairness of the world. By the end of their respective journeys, they both know that portals can be a means of escape, but they can also be a means to bring you more fully in the world and teach you how to claim your space in it and not let anyone take that space away from you.

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Fall Book Love: Ghosts and Bones

Chilly weather makes it the perfect time to curl up with a good book. Here are three recent reads I’ve loved. Hopefully you’ll love them, too. (Warning, spoilers ahead.)

Ghost TalkersMy first exposure to Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal was hearing her read an excerpt at World Fantasy, back when it was still a work in progress. I was immediately hooked and wanted more. The core concept of the book was just so cool: a group of mediums works with the British Army during WWI, collecting and relaying intelligence from soldiers killed in battle. Kowal takes the story far beyond a cool concept, however. There is an immediate sense of the emotional and physical toll communicating with the dead takes on the mediums, not to mention the horrors of war itself. Kowal doesn’t shy away from the violence, and she immediately makes the impact of war personal. Her protagonist, Ginger Stuyvesant, is one of the few Americans involved in the war before America’s official entry into the conflict. Her fiancee, Ben Harford, is killed early on, remaining with Ginger as a ghost, determined to uncover the traitor in the British ranks before he can move on. Kowal shows us Ginger and Ben’s loving and playful relationship, and almost immediately pulls the rug out from under the reader’s feet by killing Ben. Having him return as a ghost never feels like a cheat. Loss is threaded through his ongoing presence; the longer he remains on the mortal plane, the more he forgets of himself, bits of his personality drifting away, burning up more quickly when manifests himself as a poltergeist to protect those around him. Kowal makes the reader care for every one of her characters – Helen, the medium working with Ginger who comes up with the method of binding soldiers so they’ll report in as ghosts, Lady Penfold, Ginger’s aunt and founder of the Spirit Corp program, Pvt. Merrow, Ben’s assistant, and the men and women of Ginger’s circle who help keep her grounded as she communicates with the dead. The novel is part war narrative, particularly focusing on the roles of women, frequently overlooked in the dominant cultural narrative of war. It’s also part murder mystery, love story, and ghost story. Kowal slips in bits of humor as well, with the banter between Ginger and Ben, as well as references to Doctor Who. It’s a wonderful novel, with elements to appeal to fans of historical fiction, speculative fiction, and romance.

CloudboundCloudbound is the follow-up to Fran Wilde’s brilliant and award-winning Updraft. It continues the story of the city of living bone, showing the fraying edges of that city in the wake of the Spire’s collapse and the removal of the Singers from power. While Kirit is still close to the heart of the story, in Cloudbound, events are told from the point of view of Nat, Kirit’s best friend. This is a brilliant choice on Wilde’s point, allowing her to show the city from a different angle – literally, from the new areas explored, and figuratively, filtered through Nat’s perspective. Since the Spire’s collapse, there’s been a struggle to fill the power vacuum left by the Singers removal from power. Nat is a newly-minted Counselor, struggling to do the best for the people he represents, and his family – his mother Elna, his partners Ceetcee and Beliak, and the child they’re expecting. Nat’s heart comes through in every decision he makes, as does his inexperience in the world of politics. The web around him is tangled enough that he cannot see through to the end of every thread, but that never stops him from trying, or from fighting for those he loves. His point of view is contrasted perfectly with Kirit, who has been hardened by her experiences in the Spire. She’s come out the other side quicker to judgement, to action, and more war-like. There’s tension between the characters, and tension in the world itself. The crumbling city is a clock ticking down in the background, a constant reminder of how wrong things have gone, and how much worse they can get. As in Updraft, the descriptions in Cloudbound are gorgeous, and the action sequences stunning – whether fighting, flying, falling, or simply exploring, the details are beautifully wrought and visceral. As fantastic as the world is, it feels real, as do the characters. The novel ends with another world-altering event for the characters, their lives once again upended as secrets are revealed, and the danger level ramped-up. I’m already looking forward to the next installment in the Bone Universe series, which is due out next year.

Hammers on BoneHammers on Bone is a novella from Cassandra Khaw, whose short fiction I greatly admire. John Persons is a private detective approached by a young boy who wants to hire him to kill his stepfather in order to protect his younger brother. From the start, it’s quite clear there is something strange about the boy, the stepfather, and Persons himself. There’s a ghost yammering in John Person’s head, likely the real John Persons, as the being calling itself John Persons now is anything but a person. Lovecraftian horror and Noir fiction seem made for each other, and Khaw blends them effortlessly here into a slick and stylish whole that drips with atmosphere. I’m a sucker for both the Lovecraftian and Noir genres, and this novella was everything I hoped it would be. I’m hesitant to say too much or give too much away, especially since at novella length, Hammers on Bone is a quick read. I recommend diving in and devouring it all in one delicious and darkness-tinged bite. If you’re a fan of the hard-bitten detective genre, or weird horror, this is absolutely the book for you. I’m delighted by the fact that Khaw has a second novella forthcoming from Tor, which sounds every bit as wonderful – a sentient, living city losing its mind. What more do you need to know? I’m eagerly awaiting the release of In the Living City.

And because there’s no such thing as too many books, I’d love to know what you’ve been reading this Fall? What have you loved? What do I need to add to my already precarious and teetering TBR pile?


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Hey, It’s SOCKtober!

ETA: Our prize winners are Ralph Walker and Amy Bush. Thank you to everyone who participated and helped to make October a little cozier for those in need!

The weather is getting cooler, the calendar has flipped over, houses are draped in gauzy spider webs, and pumpkins are starting to make their appearances on front porches and lawns. All of that can mean only one thing – it’s time for #socktober2016! What is #socktober2016, you may well ask…. And I’ll tell you that it’s all Fran Wilde’s fault. Mostly!

From my perspective, SOCKTOBER started with this tweet:

Which was followed shortly by these tweets:

SOCKTOBER goes much deeper than fun socks. For that, I’ll step aside and let Fran herself explain: “I started posting socks for October yesterday because I was having a really hard day. Socks = whimsy = happiness, right? And then I figured it could go further and bring awareness to something I’ve known for a while. One of the greatest needs in domestic violence and homeless shelters, as well as for people on the move through upheavals is clean socks. Especially with winter coming, this is a huge deal. So I thought, I’ll post my sock pictures, but also plan to donate to a shelter a new set of socks with each photo I post. I have a massive sock collection, but No Idea if I can Make it 30 days, so it will be like a dance marathon, but with socks. I’m hoping others feel like getting involved too, but I don’t want to tell people how to do this right. Just working on awareness first, and maybe some socks for some people.”

As you can see, the upshot of this is, Fran is not only a wonderful author, she is a wonderful person. After seeing Fran’s tweets, I asked if I could help. We brainstormed, and came up with a plan to spread the socktober love. Throughout October, Fran and I and others will be posting sock pictures on Instagram and Twitter because socks are cool. We’d love for you to join us!

We also hope you’ll go a step further by donating socks to a homeless shelter in your area. As Fran mentioned, socks are one of the greatest needs at homeless shelters, especially as the weather gets colder. To find a shelter near you, and to find out how to donate, start here: www.homelessshelterdirectory.org.

Of course, you can donate other items of clothing, too. Many shelters on the website linked above list the items they most need, or provide contact information where you can inquire about donations.

But wait! There’s more! You can win fabulous prizes while you’re having fun and helping people. Here’s how it works. Donate a package of socks (or other clothing item of your choice), and post your favorite sock pictures on Instagram and/or Twitter between now and October 31, 2016. When you post @ us (@fran_wilde on twitter and Instagram; @ac_wise on twitter and @a.c.wise on Instagram), and tag your post with #socktober2016. You’ll be entered into our drawing for prizes including copies of Fran Wilde’s Updraft and Cloudbound (US-only for physical copies, audiobook anywhere in the world), a gift certificate to Sock Dreams, so you can add even more fabulous socks to your collection, and possibly some other cool stuff we come up with along the way. We’ll employ Ye Olde Random Number Generator to choose a winner on November 1st. It’s that easy!

So come join in the fun and celebrate #socktober2016 with us while helping those who need some toasty socks.

ETA: We’ve added a few additional prizes to the roster. Rachel Sharp has generously donated a $25 Amazon gift card, and a pre-release copy of her upcoming novel Phaethon (to be mailed out in December). On top of that, Rachel’s publisher, Pandamoon Publishing, is donating any three of their currently available titles. Thank you, Rachel and Pandamoon!


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Fall Book Love

Carrying on the tradition I started in the spring wherein I read books actually published in this calendar year (*gasp*) and recommend them before the end of said calendar year so other folks might also have time to read them (*gasp*) I bring you several new books I’ve read and enjoyed this fall. If you’re curious as to what I read and enjoyed in the spring and the summer, you can find those posts here and here.

LetterstoZellLetters to Zell by Camille Griep wasn’t even on my radar until a friend lent it to me. It ended up being one of those books that took me completely off guard with how much I enjoyed it. I love fairy tale re-tellings, but sometimes the genre feels a little stale. I was fully prepared for an ‘okay that’s cute, I see what you did there’ take on fairy tale characters, but Letters to Zell is filled with genuine emotion, and it’s not always pleasant emotion either. As the title implies, it’s an epistolary novel with Cinderella (CeCi), Snow White (Bianca), and Briar Rose (Rory), writing to Rapunzel (Zell), about their day-to-day lives now that Zell has moved away. The classic fairy tales form the jumping off point for their stories, but once each character finishes their ‘Pages’, they’re free to live out the rest of her lives however they choose. Any deviation from one’s Pages (i.e. fate) could destroy the known Grimm world. As the story opens, Bianca has yet to finish her Pages, and she’s dragging her feet. She’s not super keen on the idea of marriage, and she resents the need to punish her stepmother just because her story says so. As for CeCi, she’s happy and in love with her prince, but not keen on the queen thing either. She and her husband have no interest in children, and her real passion in life is to become a chef. Rory, meanwhile, is trying to do the best to want she’s been told is her destiny. Long ago, her true love almost destroyed the world by trying to steal her Pages and set her free. He was banished from the realm, and she was put to sleep to save her life. Now she’s stuck with a husband who has no interest in her, is desperate for a child she can’t seem to conceive, and doesn’t really know where she fits in the world. All of this serves as the backdrop for a story of true and deep friendship. Female friendship in particular is often neglected in fiction – both written and filmed. We have the term bromance, but no feminine equivalent. Again and again we see stories featuring a lone exceptional female, or if there’s more than one woman, they’re either bitter rivals constantly at each others’ throats, never talk to each other, or only talk about their relationships with men. In Letters to Zell, Griep gives us a strong female friendship that is far from smooth, but feels all the more real because of it. Each character is fully developed, true to her own wants and desires, but with deep love and loyalty to the others. They misunderstand each other. They work at cross-purposes occasionally. They fight, but the love never goes away. Griep also gives us a novel with a full and satisfying arc for each of her main characters. CeCi, Bianca, and Rory all grow over the course of the story. It’s sweet at times, and heartbreaking at others. Despite the fairy tale setting, each character feels like someone you might meet in the real world, and someone you want to root for even when you don’t agree with all their choices. Just like a friend.

FallandRisingFall and Rising by Sunny Moraine is the sequel to Line and Orbit (co-authored with Lisa Soem), picking up the threads of the first novel and evolving them. In a way, it’s a more mature novel in its themes – not in terms of racy content, though it is a kissing book – but in the way it delves into choices and the consequences of those choices. The characters are dealing with the aftermath of a major battle, trying to cope with their trauma even as they’re facing a new threat. They’re dealing with loss at the same time as they’re simply trying to stay alive. As with Line and Orbit, romance and relationships are a major part of the novel, woven in-between the battles, desperate escapes, and daring fights. Fall and Rising tackles the natural evolution of Adam and Lochlan’s budding relationship from Line and Orbit. After the first heady days of a romance born in the midst of fleeing for their lives, they’re coming to learn more about each other, and learning to live with each other. They’re still fleeing for their lives, and at the same time, dealing with the difference in their cultures, figuring out who they are in relation to each other, and who they ultimately want to be within themselves. They’re learning who they are apart and together, how they strengthen each other, and where they’ll have to compromise to make things work. Love factors into the novel in other ways as well – the deep love of friendship, love for one’s people as opposed to the love of a specific person, and the ways love can tear you apart. The characters are faced with hard choices throughout the novel; they’re called on to make great sacrifices, and it’s wrenching to watch. The final scenes of the book especially are heart-hurting in the very best of ways. As always, Moraine’s prose is stunning, proving that a work can have it all – action, adventure, romance, strong characters, and gorgeous writing. I’m already looking forward to the next book in the series.

UpdraftLast, but not least, is Fran Wilde’s debut novel, Updraft, which I’ve been looking forward to since it was first announced. The worldbuilding in the novel is absolutely stunning, and while it’s far from the only striking thing about the book, it is likely one of the first things that’ll grab you. Wilde plunges (or perhaps lifts) the reader into a city of living bone high above the clouds, introducing them to a society that travels by wing. The city with its tiered towers is lovingly described, and its structure also lends its shape to the nature of the book, its layers of meaning. For instance, the bridges strung between bone towers are a sign of favor; they strengthen towers both in terms of political position and  literally – bracing them against the natural forces of gravity. The world of Updraft is one that begs to be explored. There are sung laws, mouths in the sky, and secrets deep in the city’s heart. Against this backdrop, Wilde tells the story of Kirit, a young woman earning her right to fly, her right to speak, and fighting to save her city, her family, and her friends. There are two sides to every story, and as Updraft progresses, Kirit must cope with the fact that the history she’s been taught all her life is only part of the picture. Through all the alliances and shifting truths she must navigate, Kirit remains fierce and loyal and determined. But while at her core Kirit remains true to herself, she grows immensely as well, and the world around her is irrevocably changed. Without giving too much away, I particularly appreciate the way Updraft isn’t afraid to shatter the natural order of its society. Many fantasy novels are about trying to ‘set things right’ – to restore the rightful ruler, lift the curse, put things back the way they were before. Updraft is a novel of revolution. The characters actions truly impact the world, and by the time the novel is done, it’s clear that nothing will ever be the same again and they will have to live with the consequences. It’s a fascinating novel on many levels, blending characters, politics, economics, engineering, and action, and the descriptions of flight are absolutely stunning. As with Fall and Rising, I’m already looking forward to Updraft’s sequel.

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An Interview with Fran Wilde

Author PhotoFran Wilde was kind enough to stop by today to talk about her debut novel, Updraft. If her answers to my questions leave you hungering for more, well you’re in luck! It just so happens Fran is doing a Reddit AMA today, and you can ask her questions of your very own. Also, if you happen to be local to the Philadelphia area, Fran will be taking part in The Future of Philly Sci Fi and Fantasy at the Free Library of Philadelphia on Wednesday, September 9, along with Michael Swanwick, Jon McGoran, Gregory Frost, Siobhan Carroll, and Stephanie Feldman. Six wonderful authors talking about the local Philadelphia speculative fiction scene – this is event not to miss! But for now, back to the interview. To start things off, I will introduce Fran by shamelessly stealing from her author bio…

Fran Wilde is an author and technology consultant. Her first novel, UPDRAFT, debuts from Tor on September 1, 2015. Her short stories appear in Asimov’s, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Nature, and Tor.com, while her nonfiction interviews with writers appear under the banner “Cooking the Books” at Tor.com, Strange Horizons, the SFWA blog, and at franwilde.wordpress.com. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook.

ACW: Welcome, Fran! First off, congratulations on the publication of Updraft! I feel incredibly lucky to have read an early copy of this novel. It’s been tough waiting for the book to be out in so I could squee about it without spoiling it for anyone, so I can only imagine how you’ve felt! To start things off, care to give us a taste of what Updraft is about?

FW: I feel incredibly lucky to have you as a beta reader.

Updraft is about a city built on towers of living bone; it’s about secrets and laws, monsters, songs, wind and silence. It’s the story of Kirit and her friend Nat, and how breaking a law leads to consequences unimaginable and deadly.

ACW: I love everything about the world you’ve built for this book, and the characters are amazing. You’re currently working on the third book in the series. Were there any challenges you faced writing the second and third books as opposed to the first? Was it easy to slip back into the characters’ voices, or did you have reintroduce yourself to everyone before they would start telling you their stories again? If you can say without giving too much away… Did anything about the characters or the direction the story took surprise you while writing the second or third book, or did you have everything more or less mapped out in your head from the beginning?

Updraft was written, initially, in six weeks. Then I revised the second two thirds completely, over another few months. At times, it felt like the story was spilling out of me. Cloudbound is similar in some ways, but there were new directions I wanted to go, and new themes I wanted to explore (and upend). The hardest part is getting all the details right – the tower names, secondary characters’ eye color. Thank goodness for notes, and copy editors.

And yes! A lot surprised me about the second book! I didn’t want to write in the comfort zone of the first book, so I’m glad for that. I loved writing it for that reason.

UpdraftACW: Because I’m a bit of a process nerd, I’d like to talk a bit about Updraft’s origin story. The first novel started life as a short story, correct? When did you realize it was actually a novel, and how did you go about expanding it? Are there bits of the story that remain intact more or less the way you originally wrote them, or did everything change as the world expanded?

Correct. The first book began as a short story – the second short story I’d written in this world. The first short story is actually part of the second book (take that, process). I realized with the help of beta readers that there was much more to it. Lots of things changed. The singing and wind, the wings and the towers? Those stayed the same. So did the characters in the stories.

ACW: On another process-related note, you did some rather unique research while writing the first book – indoor skydiving in a wind tunnel. Could you tell us a bit about that and how it impacted the flying scenes in your books? What other types of research have you done for the series, and what’s your favorite bit of odd, or new knowledge you gained?

I wrote a whole post about the wind tunnel for iO9! It was a great thing to do – I learned so much about how a body moves in that space, and how small changes impact things like roll and lift.
As far as other research, I did a lot of background reading on monsters. I grilled my resident scientist for details about chemistry. I looked at a lot of high-altitude foods. And sinew – how it was used for sewing and light construction. And cephalopods. Lots of research about them.

ACW: Let’s talk about Cooking the Books for a moment. You started the series in 2011, and you have interviewed some amazing authors about the intersection between food and fiction. The series has since morphed into a podcast, and gained a sibling series, Book Bites. Do you have a favorite recipe from the series? What’s your personal go-to comfort food when you’re writing? Does cooking help you work out plot problems, or are there other things you turn to when you need to distract your brain so it can do its work?

When I’m writing, anything crunchy is my go-to. That’s dangerous because potato chips are crunchy, and so is popcorn. But snow peas and carrots are where I’m at these days. Sigh: less fun, but better for me.

Cooking is hard for me when I’m on a deadline. I get very distracted. And I’m a *terrible* baker except for cookies. Too much measuring. I like to see what I have in the fridge and improvise.
But when I have time, cooking with family and friends is one of my favorite things to do.
Favorite recipes from the blog? There are too many. I’d rather hear what other folks’ favorite recipes are from the blog. What are yours?

ACW: One of my personal favorites is blowtorch-cooked marmot, courtesy of Elizabeth Bear. It’s not something I would cook personally, but it’s…certainly memorable as far as recipes go. But back to fiction writing – how different is your writing process for your short fiction and poetry versus your novel process? Are you able to work on short fiction while you’re deep in a novel, or do you have to completely separate the two? Songs play a key role in Updraft, so I also want to ask – what is your songwriting process like? What made you want to include actual lyrics, versus simply alluding to the fact that characters are singing?

Often I’ll work on short stories in between novels. The process is the same – sketch and brainstorm, figure out themes, write a whole bunch of words, throw it all out. Start again. Wash, rinse, repeat. I’m chased by the feeling that I want to push harder, do more with each story. Novels too, but stories run faster. [That is SUCH a good pun. Will anyone get that I wonder.]

ACW: Other than the third novel, what else are you working on currently, or do you have coming up that you want people to know about?

I’ve got a couple more novels in the works – one is in editing, several are nascent. There’s a gem universe novella coming from Tor.com next spring — “The Jewel and Her Lapidary,” as well as more gem universe stories, and several bone universe stories. And I have a project I can’t talk about yet, but I should be able to do so soon.

ACW: Ooh! I can’t wait to hear more… Thanks for stopping by!


Filed under Author Interview

Sunday Pimpfest IV

My first bit of pimpage for the week is somewhat bittersweet. Well, more bitter than sweet, actually. Robin’s Bookstore, Philadelphia’s oldest independent bookstore, is closing for good at the end of this year. In addition to being a wonderful bookstore, they hosted lots of great author events over the years, including the Philly Fantastic reading series. If you’re local to the Philadelphia area, or planning on visiting before year-end, I highly recommend a visit to the store before it’s gone for good. They’re having a huge going out of business sale, too. After all, you can never own too many books…

And while I’m pimping local bookstores, I would be remiss not to mention Between Books in Delaware and the newly-reopened Doylestown Bookshop. They have books. They want to sell them to you. They also host wonderful author events. Support them! Love them! Did I mention the books? They have them. You should acquire them. There’s still a little bit of free space on your bookshelf. Don’t pretend otherwise.

And finally, to round out the pimpfest, a round-up of Next Big Thing posts from the folks I tagged to talk about their works in progress:

Author, editor, and Rock Band Queen Fran Wilde talks about her novel Bone Arrow, Glass Tooth.

Author, editor, and occasional superhero/villain Carrie Cuinn talks about her novel Bloom.

Author, and landscaper/zombie hunter Lee Thompson talks about his novel She Collects Grave Nectar.

Author, teacher, and general bad influence Greg Frost talks about his novel Dark House.


Filed under Recommended Reading

The Next Big Thing

The lovely and talented Lucas Mangum tagged me in his Next Big Thing blog post, which means, I need to (terrifyingly) talk about my current work in progress. (Why did I think this was a good idea, exactly?)

The general concept, whether I think it’s a good idea or not, is that I talk about my WIP, and tag other authors, and ask them to talk about their WIPs. Simple enough, right? Here goes…

Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing

1. What is the title of your book?

The Thief of Precious Things (working title)

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

It’s based on a short story, which appeared in Ekaterina Sedia’s anthology Bewere the Night. I wrote the story, and submitted it to a workshop I was involved with at the time. The general feedback seemed to indicate the story could grow into something larger. (Side note: the workshop was run by Greg Frost. It’s his damned fault, and that’s why I’m tagging him to post about his WIP. This is my thanks/revenge.)

3. What genre does your book fall under?

I’d say probably Urban Fantasy. By which I mean it’s a work of fantasy in a mostly urban setting and not the definition Urban Fantasy has taken on in some cases, which falls (to my way of thinking) under the umbrella of Paranormal Romance. The focus of my story isn’t romance, and there isn’t much sex. (Sorry.)

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Hmm. This is a tough one. Even though it isn’t really intended for young audiences, I picture the (unlikely) movie rendition being animated. That said, it would be an odd, artsy animation, possibly silent and/or black and white, thus pretty much guaranteeing only I would want to sit through it. So. Yeah.

5. What is a one-sentence synopsis of the book?

Can I get back to you on that one? It has shape shifting fox women, and men whose shadows are crows, and humans who are mostly caught in-between and…uh, I haven’t figured out how to make that into a tagline yet, but I promise you’ll be the first to know!

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

The ‘book’ is still in its itty, bitty infancy. I’m doing the first revision pass now, and it’s light years away from publication. If I do get it to a workable stage, I’ll be seeking an agent, and traditional publication.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

First draft? Um…six to eight months? I wasn’t really paying attention. And I’ve been hiding from it on and off ever since. Writing isn’t so much a problem. Editing and revising – that’s a whole different story.

8. What other books would you compare this story to in your genre?

Probably the work of Charles de Lint. There are elements of the book that are highly influenced by Someplace to Be Flying and Forest of the Heart in particular. I’m trying, as much as possible, not to be derivative, and to set my work apart.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

As I said above, it’s largely Greg Frost’s fault. I joined his workshop. I needed to write a story for critique. A first sentence jumped into my brain. I wrote something, and… Damn him for being encouraging! And damn other people for also being encouraging! Don’t you all realize I have no idea how to write a novel? And damn the characters for not shutting up, and insisting I say things about them. The nerve!

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Well, let’s see… Women who are foxes? Men whose shadows are crows? Cooking magic? A war-scarred woman who has sex with a ghost? I dunno. I’m still figuring it out myself. But whatever flailing I engage in, I hope to drag at least some of you along for the journey…

Include the link of who tagged you and this explanation for the people you have tagged.

As I said, Lucas Mangum tagged me, and I’m tagging the following people in turn because they are awesome, encouraging, and to blame in varying capacities. Also, because they agreed.

Carrie Cuinn
Gregory Frost
Bernie Mojzes
Lee Thompson
Fran Wilde

Go visit their blogs, read their work, and generally follow everything they do. If all goes according to plan, they should be posting about their own Next Big Thing in the next week (or so).


Filed under Random Rambling

Sunday Pimpfest

Sunday is a good day for pimpin’. I’m pretty sure that’s in the bible somewhere. Today, I’d like to bring your attention to several awesome things my friends are doing in various spots around the web. Heck, maybe I’ll even try to make this a weekly thing. Unless I get distracted. That never hap… Ooh! Look! Shiny!

First, there are only 62 hours left to support the Sword & Mythos IndieGoGo Campaign. Innsmouth Free Press wants to combine Sword & Sorcery with Mythos in an anthology that pays its contributors pro rates, and you want to help them. Why? Because Innsmouth Free Press are good folk. With this anthology, they’re taking genres which have historically been, to put it in the kindest terms, less than inclusive. (If we’re not being kind, we might go so far to say the roots of the genre are downright sexist, racist, and several other unpleasant ‘ists’ to boot.) The Sword and Mythos anthology will be full of kick-ass stories that prove even genres with narrow-minded roots can evolve into something incredible. Still not convinced? Well, you can earn some incredible rewards with your support, too, so go forth and donate!

Second, my Journal of Unlikely Entomology co-editor, Bernie Mojzes, has been posting installments of his serial novel, illustrated by Linda Saboe, every Sunday. Kudzu: A Novel is up to Book III, but the archives are still online, so you can go back to the beginning and catch up. Raccoons and kudzu in space! What more do you need to know? Go read it!

Last, but in no way least, the fabulous Fran Wilde of Cooking the Books fame, has a new story in the latest issue of Nature as part of their Futures series. It’s available both in print and online, and it’s lovely.

Oh, and as an extra bonus recommendation, I point you toward xkcd’s Click and Drag in case you’ve been living under a rock, and haven’t yet seen it. You’re welcome.

Now it’s your turn. What have you seen lately that you want to share with the world? Online, print, fiction, non-fiction, film, music, a ridiculous picture of a corgi, anything. Tell me what I’m missing that I absolutely need to know about.

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Filed under Random Rambling