Wednesday, November 22, 2017

THE SPEAKER, the second book in the Sea of Ink and Gold series, by Traci Chee

The Sea of Ink and Gold has to be one of my favorite series that's come out in the past few years, and it shows that YA Fantasy continues to break the boundaries of what's possible. THE SPEAKER is the second in the series, and like the first, it weaves together a beautiful narrative.


Having barely escaped the clutches of the Guard, Sefia and Archer are back on the run, slipping into the safety of the forest to tend to their wounds and plan their next move. Haunted by painful memories, Archer struggles to overcome the trauma of his past with the impressors, whose cruelty plagues him whenever he closes his eyes. But when Sefia and Archer happen upon a crew of impressors in the wilderness, Archer finally finds a way to combat his nightmares: by hunting impressors and freeing the boys they hold captive.

With Sefia’s help, Archer travels across the kingdom of Deliene rescuing boys while she continues to investigate the mysterious Book and secrets it contains. But the more battles they fight, the more fights Archer craves, until his thirst for violence threatens to transform him from the gentle boy Sefia knows to a grim warrior with a cruel destiny. As Sefia begins to unravel the threads that connect Archer’s fate to her parents’ betrayal of the Guard so long ago, she and Archer must figure out a way to subvert the Guard’s plans before they are ensnared in a war that will pit kingdom against kingdom, leaving their future and the safety of the entire world hanging in the balance.


Once there was, and one day there will be. This is the beginning of every story.

Sefia lives her life on the run. After her father is viciously murdered, she flees to the forest with her aunt Nin, the only person left she can trust. They survive in the wilderness together, hunting and stealing what they need, forever looking over their shoulders for new threats. But when Nin is kidnapped, Sefia is suddenly on her own, with no way to know who’s taken Nin or where she is. Her only clue is a strange rectangular object that once belonged to her father left behind, something she comes to realize is a book.

Though reading is unheard of in Sefia’s world, she slowly learns, unearthing the book’s closely guarded secrets, which may be the key to Nin’s disappearance and discovering what really happened the day her father was killed. With no time to lose, and the unexpected help of swashbuckling pirates and an enigmatic stranger, Sefia sets out on a dangerous journey to rescue her aunt, using the book as her guide. In the end, she discovers what the book had been trying to tell her all along: Nothing is as it seems, and the end of her story is only the beginning.


In our last interview, you said, "Part of what I love about THE READER is that the legendary and the magical are all sort of woven into the everyday fabric of the world, so you might find them anywhere." In what ways are you able to determine what your stories need?

I think determining what a story needs is a different process for everyone, but for me, I go with my gut. I feel like, over the years I’ve studied and practiced and written, I’ve developed this sense that tells me when something isn’t working, or when something needs a new approach, or when something should be there but isn’t yet. Don’t have the feeling yet? Don’t worry—I believe you will. I certainly didn’t always have this extra sense, but the more I work on my craft, the stronger it seems to get, and the more I trust myself to know what’s right (or not right) for a story.

That's definitely helpful! In THE SPEAKER we get to see a different side to Archer. What about his story was the most challenging to write and why? 

We get to know so much more about Archer in THE SPEAKER, as he tries to reconcile his past, his present, and his future. Like a lot of us, he’s figuring out who he is and who he wants to be… only that’s complicated by a history of violence (both perpetrated by and against him) and a prophecy about the boy he could become. For me, what was most challenging was writing his relationship to his traumatic past, because it’s so complex and so nuanced. It took me a lot of revision and a lot of great advice to pull that out of him, but ultimately I hope it makes him a flawed, nuanced, and fleshed-out character.

He certainly is. Anyone who pre-ordered THE SPEAKER from the following bookstores also received an inspirational notebook. In what ways do you feel inspirational notebooks can be helpful?

If you preordered THE SPEAKER through one of the independent bookstores listed on my website (http://tracichee.com/preorder), you received a custom journal emblazoned with a quote from the book: What is written comes to pass. As with the phrase “this is a book” in THE READER, this quote is repeated again and again in different contexts, changing meaning as the story goes on.

What I love about it in this context is that it makes the journal a perfect repository for all the goals, hopes, and dreams we might be scared to share anywhere else. What is written comes to pass is like a magical exhortation—if you write it, it will happen. If you allow yourself to wish it, it will come true. I think giving yourself permission to dream is HUGE. It’s the first step toward making those dreams a reality.

It is--and I'm already putting my notebook to good use.The third book in The Sea of Ink and Gold series comes out next year. Is there anything you can tell us about it yet? 

Let’s see… I can tell you that war is coming, a lot of people are going to die, and the title starts with “the” and ends with “-er”!



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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

ARS HISTORICA and WITHIN THE SANCTUARY OF WINGS by Marie Brennan

I've met Marie Brennan a couple of times, most recently on a panel about worldbuilding. Not only is she scary smart, she's a brilliant author. In addition to Wilders, and The Onyx Court series, she has a new book of short stories out, entitled Ars Historica. Fans of  TheMemoirs of Lady Trent series can also get a hold of the last and final title, WITHIN THE SANCTUARY OF WINGS. Have a look:





Kit Marlowe. Guy Fawkes. Ada Lovelace. Kings and sailors and sainted nuns populate these seven stories of historical fantasy by award-winning author Marie Brennan. They span the ages from the second century B.C.E. to the nineteenth century C.E., from ancient Persia to the London of the Onyx Court. Discover the secret histories, hear the stories that have never been told -- until now.


After nearly five decades (and, indeed, the same number of volumes), one might think they were well-acquainted with the Lady Isabella Trent--dragon naturalist, scandalous explorer, and perhaps as infamous for her company and feats of daring as she is famous for her discoveries and additions to the scientific field.


And yet--after her initial adventure in the mountains of Vystrana, and her exploits in the depths of war-torn Eriga, to the high seas aboard The Basilisk, and then to the inhospitable deserts of Akhia--the Lady Trent has captivated hearts along with fierce minds. This concluding volume will finally reveal the truths behind her most notorious adventure--scaling the tallest peak in the world, buried behind the territory of Scirland's enemies--and what she discovered there, within the Sanctuary of Wings.



In a recent panel on worldbuilding, you mentioned that you've taught creative writing classes a few times. What, in your experience, do writers struggle most with and why?

It varies wildly from student to student, as you might expect. There's no single answer on a craft level; one person might be great at plot while another struggles to create tension and movement, or somebody might have beautiful prose while another's words are clunky and flat. Same thing goes for how they feel about their writing, the psychological side of things.

But if I go up one level of abstraction, I think I could say the most common problem I've encountered is difficulty seeing one's own work clearly. Because that can apply in multiple directions: one person is very insecure and convinced their stories aren't ready for the public eye, even though I'm urging them to start submitting, while another person loves everything they've done and has no interest in revision, even though I've pointed out a number of key flaws that really need fixing. Some people write the same basic story over and over again, insisting that tiny, cosmetic alterations mean this really is a very different tale. Others are determined to pursue a genre or tone they have no knack for, while ignoring the ease and flair with which they write something else entirely.

Objectivity is difficult to achieve -- maybe impossible. That's why we have teachers and beta readers and critique groups, to help give us a new perspective on our work. But that still requires you to sort through the advice you get and figure out which parts ring true, and that's much easier said than done.


Indeed it is! Your series, The Memoirs of Lady Trent follows Isabella, Lady Trent, a renowned dragon naturalist. What about Isabella was most fun to write?

Her voice. Hands-down.

I've never had a narrator's voice come to life for me that vividly, that fast. I was maybe two paragraphs into the first chapter of A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS when I knew exactly what she sounded like, and the voice carried me through all five books. There were times where I struggled with my plot or the underlying ideas of the story, but on the level of the prose, it was like all I had to do was sit for a moment and listen to her talk.

And it made me miss her when I finished the series. I've never felt quite so much like the protagonist of a story was a good friend, one who moved to another state when the story was done.


We love Lady Trent, and we are glad she is preserved in books we can read over and over again! On November 7, your ebook of short stories, Ars Historica, came out. I'm especially intrigued by the story involving Guy Fawkes. What about Guy Fawkes fascinates you most?

The fact that he's the one name everybody associates with the Gunpowder Plot -- but he wasn't actually the one behind it.The whole thing was spearheaded by a guy named Robin Catesby, but very few people remember him, because he wasn't the one found babysitting a pile of gunpowder underneath Westminster Palace. Catesby was a charismatic leader who gathered a whole pack of men to his cause, most of whom died for it in the end. I wound up being morbidly intrigued by the entire plot: what led these men to plan such an act of terrorism and murder, what they thought they would gain from it, etc.

What turned my curiosity into a story was the discovery that there was a Jesuit priest, Father Henry Garnet, who knew about the plan and opposed it, but kept it secret anyway. Because he heard about it when he took the confession of one of the conspirators, and under Catholic doctrine, he was spiritually prohibited from sharing that information without leave -- even though he knew they were planning mass murder. To me, the struggle Father Garnet went through was the most tragic part of the whole thing. And that wound up being my entry point into making this a story, rather than just a recap of history.


Fascinating! (And poor Father Garnet.) What are some of your current projects?

Normally my answer to this is just a single novel, which at the moment is a follow-up to the Memoirs of Lady Trent, concerning Lady Trent's granddaughter, black market antiquities smugglers, and the translation of an ancient epic.


But at the moment I'm involved with a whole lot of things: not just that novel but some freelance fiction writing for the game Legend of the Five Rings, freelance setting writing for the Tiny D6 game line, a Serial Box project whose details I can't reveal just yet, and a whole slew of possible future novels that are all currently hanging fire, waiting to discover which ones of them I will be doing when and in what order. Furthermore, I have an ongoing Patreon project, New Worlds, that explores different facets of worldbuilding. So it's busy times around here!


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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Supernatural Society series by Gail Carriger

I am a forever fan of Gail Carriger, evidenced by when I featured her here and here. She continually expands on the unique worlds she's built, and keeps on creating characters that many readers can't get enough of. Her latest book, ROMANCING THE WEREWOLF, is the second in her Supernatural Society series.

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Werewolf in trouble..

Biffy, newly minted Alpha of the London Pack, is not having a good Christmas. His Beta abandoned him, his werewolves object to his curtain choices, and someone keeps leaving babies on his doorstep.

Professor Randolph Lyall returns home to London after twenty years abroad, afraid of what he might find. With his pack in chaos and his Alpha in crisis, it will take all his Beta efficiency to set everything to rights. Perhaps, in the process, he may even determine how to mend his own heart.

New York Times bestselling author Gail Carriger presents a charming gay love story set in her popular steampunk Parasolverse. Featuring the long-awaited reunion between everyone’s favorite quietly capable Beta and the werewolf Alpha dandy who let him slip away. This sweet romance is full of unexpected babysitting, holiday decorations, and no small amount of pining.

Delicate Sensibilities?
Contains men who love other men and have waited decades to do so.




Imogene Hale is a lowly parlourmaid with a soul-crushing secret. Seeking solace, she takes work at a local hive, only to fall desperately in love with the amazing lady inventor the vampires are keeping in the potting shed. Genevieve Lefoux is heartsick, lonely, and French. With culture, class, and the lady herself set against the match, can Imogene and her duster overcome all odds and win Genevieve's heart, or will the vampires suck both of them dry?

This is a stand-alone LBGTQ sweet romance set in Gail Carriger's Parasolverse, full of class prejudice, elusive equations, and paranormal creatures taking tea.

Delicate Sensibilities? This story contains women pleasing women and ladies who know what they want and pursue it, sometimes in exquisite detail.


In our last interview, you said you'd love for Rue, of Custard Protocol fame, to visit Peru or Japan. Are either of these possibilities part of Rue's future? 

While I am a professional liar (AKA fiction author) I try not to do it too much in interviews. So, yes!


Exciting! ROMANCING THE WEREWOLF is the second in the Supernatural Society series. If you could have lunch with one character from the Supernatural Society, who would it be and why? And what would you have for lunch? 

Oh, can't I choose both Biffy & Lyall (the main characters from RTW)? It would just be so very civilized. I'd join Lyall in eating a kipper and a fried egg for lunch. The best thing about kippers is they are good for any meal. We'd have them with, of course, a nice pot of tea. And then, because they are thoughtful werewolves, the boys would probably include some pudding they knew I loved, like trifle. Even though they don't eat such...erm...trifles. We would discuss food, and interior design, and fashion. It would be lovely.


I'd love to be a fly on the wall! In panels, I've heard you talk about "Clark Kenting" and suspending disbelief. When it is hardest for you to suspend disbelief in books that you read?  

Oh, that is an easy one. I often hit up against misuse of historical terminology or fashion or food in steampunk or alt history stuff. And I don't watch or engage with any shows or books that are likely to to do forensics. A lot of this touches on my previous areas of expertise and I just can't get away from them getting it WRONG. SO, for example, CSI is right out.


Makes sense. The third book in the Custard Protocol series, COMPETENCE, comes out next year, and is told from Primrose’s perspective. What, if anything, can you tell us about Primrose's story? 

Well, she has a very decided opinions on Rue and the activities of the Custard Protocol. But she is also Rue's BFF of many years so her concerns are tempered by much affection. Of course she has her own battle to fight, an overly interested lioness shifter being but one of many. And, of course, there is the great trial of being born with a particularly annoying twin brother.

ROMANCING THE WEREWOLF


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ROMANCING THE INVENTOR


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And be sure to check out Gail's other books:

Parasol Protectorate (5 books) 

Soulless (Parasol Protectorate, #1)     Changeless (Parasol Protectorate, #2)     Blameless (Parasol Protectorate, #3)      Heartless (Parasol Protectorate, #4)     Timeless (Parasol Protectorate, #5)

The Parasol Protectorate Manga (3 books)

Soulless: The Manga, Vol. 1 (The Parasol Protectorate Manga)    Soulless: The Manga, Vol. 2    Soulless: The Manga, Vol. 3

The Custard Protocol (2 books)

Prudence (The Custard Protocol, #1)     Imprudence (The Custard Protocol, #2)

Delightfully Deadly (1 books)


Poison or Protect (Delightfully Deadly, #1)

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

THE MEMORY BOX and THE MONSTRUCTOR by Joanna Rowland

Joanna Rowland has a knack for writing the exact picture books that children and their parents need. Whether the subject is divided households, like in her book ALWAYS MOM, FOREVER DAD, fun monsters, or grief, readers of all ages can expect stories that are both entertaining and heartwarming.  Her latest books, THE MEMORY BOX, and the MONSTRUCTOR offer readers a perfect way to transition from October to November.

From the perspective of a young child, Joanna Rowland artfully describes what it is like to remember and grieve a loved one who has died. The child in the story creates a memory box to keep mementos and written memories of the loved one, to help in the grieving process. Heartfelt and comforting, The Memory Box will help children and adults talk about this very difficult topic together. The unique point of view allows the reader to imagine the loss of any they have loved - a friend, family member, or even a pet. A parent guide in the back includes expert information from a Christian perspective on helping children manage the complex and difficult emotions they feel when they lose someone they love, as well as suggestions on how to create their own memory box.









Naughty Monsters. Have they forgot? To learn their manners they must be taught. Little monsters are acting like humans at school. Oh no! Their teacher gets the Monstructor to come in a save the day.









In our last interview, you said that you send yourself away for a weekend once a year. Is this still true, and what other ways do you refill your creative well when it runs dry?

I haven’t gone away by myself recently. But I do try to take a retreat with a few writers.  The last time I did that, everyone from that retreat sold what they were working on. I can only hope that luck will happen again.


When I feel like I have writers block I try a couple of things. Sometimes I read. Sometimes I take a break and just live for a few weeks and come back with fresh eyes. I spend lots of time on drives thinking about the book I’m working on.


Sounds like a great way to recharge. THE MEMORY BOX provides a needed lens into the grieving process, especially for young and emerging readers. When did the idea for the book first come to you, and what ways has it developed since?  

I knew I needed to write about grief when a relative who was supposed to receive my first book Always Mom, Forever Dad, a book on divorce,  had a parent that passed away. My first attempt on writing about grief started out as a nature poem from the perspective of the deceased. I still have a place in my heart for that one too. Then I tried writing about grief form the perspective of animals. It didn’t feel right. I thought about how I would help my young child deal with grief. Then the concept for Memory Box came, but it has had so many versions. So many different voices. So many first lines. I took it to conferences, retreats, readers, and pretty much anywhere I could. I never could get an agent with this but I can say this book has taught me the most about revisions and new visions than anything else I have ever written. I’m so thankful for the rejections. They just pushed me to try harder. I was not going to give up.


And we thank you for it! If you could tell your younger writer self one thing, what would it be and why?  

I’d tell my younger writer self, "Write the words you want to write. Don’t worry about spelling. Don’t worry about punctuation. Get your words down the way you want to hear them and the rest will follow."


Well said. If you were stuck on an island with only five books, what would you want them to be and why?  

Only 5? That's tough. I picked 3 YA and 2 PBs:


Twilight because this book awakened me back into reading for the love of reading.
The Hunger Games,
 The Wonderful Things You Will Be,
What Do You Do With An Idea,
Harry Potter

THE MEMORY BOX


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THE MONSTRUCTOR


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ALWAYS MOM, FOREVER DAD


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