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World Fantasy Awards

Today is the last day to nominate for the World Fantasy Awards for 2013.

http://www.wfc2013.org/wfballot01.html

This blog is promoting Michelle Sagara's wonderful Silence, Chaz Brenchley's House of Bells and Liz Williams', WOrldsoul in the novel category; Aliette de Bodard's 'On A Red Station, Drifting', and C E Murphy, 'No Dominion', for novella; and, in the short story category, Jacey Bedord's funny and charming 'Djinn Bottle', Aliette's wonderful, Nebula-winning 'Immersion', and Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, 'Song of the Body Cartographer'.

I could in very remote theory have a horse in the novel race, but I have no expectations. There are many many very fine books out there.

Guest Post: Morgan Keyes (plus a giveaway)

Today I have a guest blogger, the fabulous Morgan Keyes, talking about her new book (aimed at younger teens) Darkbeast. I've been a fan of hers for years: she writes with wit and charm and tremendous pace. And this new book is fabulous.
There's also a giveaway, for US readers only, sadly (due to postal problems). Anyway, over to Morgan.

Darkbeast 150 dpi

Many thanks to Kari, for allowing me to visit and tell you about my middle grade fantasy novel, Darkbeast. Due to the generosity of my publisher, Simon & Schuster, I will give away a copy of Darkbeast to one commenter chosen at random from all the comments made to this post by 11:59 p.m. EDT tonight.

In Darkbeast, twelve-year-old Keara runs away from home rather than sacrifice Caw, the raven darkbeast that she has been magically bound to all her life. Pursued by Inquisitors who would punish her for heresy, Keara joins a performing troupe of Travelers and tries to find a safe haven for herself and her companion.

In preparing to write Darkbeast, I realized that some animals have all the fun. I mean, just look at The Grass King's Concubine – those ferret women have instant charisma. In Kari's own words, they are "short and sharp and, sadly, very smelly, all teeth and noses and curiosity." Like Keara's companion, Caw, the ferret creatures draw our attention from the first moment we meet them.

But what about animals with less charisma? What about snakes? And spiders? And lizards? And toads?

Sure, there are some people who can't get enough of amphibians and arthropods and reptiles. But a whole lot of people – a whole lot of readers – are frightened by certain animals. Some might even say they are repulsed.

So what is a conscientious author to do?

Right off the bat, I decided that I couldn't cater to people's animal fears. If snakes aren't your thing, well, I'm sorry, but Slither is an important supporting character on Keara's journey. (If you're truly phobic, I'm especially sorry, but you probably have a lot more severe problems avoiding the beasts than merely reading a middle grade fantasy novel.)

Next, I decided to help my readers along a bit, to ease them over their animal-dislike humps. I gave them characters to read about who change their attitudes about uncharismatic animals. Now, if I gave you specific examples, I'd be spoiling the story, but suffice to say that Keara herself starts off hating snakes. If a twelve-year-old girl can overcome her aversion, a lot of adult readers can also.

Finally, I reminded readers that these aren't just ordinary animals. These are darkbeasts. They are magical creatures, with the ability to bond with humans, the capacity to absorb evil deeds and take away negative emotions. Darkbeasts can guide a child along twisting paths between right and wrong, helping that child to become a mature, responsible adult.

And the darkbeasts know, the entire time they're doing their job, that they are doomed. They will be sacrificed when their human turns twelve years old. Nevertheless, the darkbeasts serve, bound by tradition, bound by religion.

That selflessness, that dedication actually makes me feel quite sympathetic to the darkbeasts. What are a few extra legs, or a slimy skin, or a few warts in the face of such commitment?

You can discover your own darkbeast by taking this personality quiz:

What darkbeast did you get? And what animal would you choose if you had all the animal kingdom as an option?

Morgan can be found online at:

http://www.morgankeyes.com
http://www.facebook.com/morgan.keyes.author

Darkbeast is for sale in bricks-and-mortar and online bookstores, including: Amazon | B & N | Indiebound

Morgan Keyes grew up in California, Texas, Georgia, and Minnesota, accompanied by parents, a brother, a dog, and a cat. Also, there were books. Lots and lots of books. Morgan now lives near Washington, D.C. In between trips to the Natural History Museum and the National Gallery of Art, she reads, travels, reads, writes, reads, cooks, reads, wrestles with cats, and reads. Because there are still books. Lots and lots of books.

Morgan Keyes

Competition winners

With the help of my lovely assistant, the marquis, we've selected the winners of the two competitions.

Caption Competition:

aitgereda for: "Fearing the Mighty Sunshine Powerup, the dragon attacks!" -- prize, Darkening Skies by Juliet E McKenna

bugshaw for: "It is the English Summer. I found it outside. I caught it and killed it and left it to die on the rug. PRAISE ME" -- prize, Dangerous Waters by Juliet E McKenna.

Competition for 2 advance copies of The Grass King's Concubine

mirrorshard
next_friday

Mystery Prize

jen_qoe

Well done to everyone. Please could you all get in touch with me via lj message or email and send me postal addresses, so I can send out your prizes.

Oh, and the answers to the Dumas competition.
According to Dumas, Aramis' real name is Rene d'Herblay.
The historical figure on whom he was based is Henri d'Aramitz.
Athos' first name, according to Dumas, is Olivier, which as jen_qoe spotted, occurs in his stage play, La Jeunesse des Mousquetaires.

Competition

So: my good friend and fellow Write Fantastic writer Juliet E McKenna jemck has had a book out recently, Darkening Skies, the second volume in her Hadrumal Crisis series. In honour of this, she's given me a copy of the new book plus a copy of its predecessor, Dangerous Waters to give away.
I'm a big fan of her books: she writes wonderful grown-up characters, twisty plots and great action sequences, and this new series is all about the costs and penalties of using magic in politics (a subject that is too seldom thought through, in my opinion). I am loving this new series.
So, to win a book, caption this photograph of Ish. The two best suggestions get the books!
undignified Ish 1small

Ms Cellophane

As I said last week, this is a good summer for new books, and for books that have become available outside their first place of publication. gillpolack's Ms Cellophane was first published in her native Australia, and has been very hard to get elsewhere. Now, it's available to the rest of us in e-book form.
Gillian is a writer I admire hugely, and a writer who is not afraid to confront challenging issues. Ms Cellophane is a book about a challenge that many of us face: ageing while female. Western culture insists on eliding and disappearing women from the age of about 40 onwards, on treating us as less important, less visible, less valuable. Not because of any loss of ability, but simply on grounds of what we look like: we aren't as appealing, therefore we should be good and not impose.
It drives me insane, seeing so many intelligent people thrown away. It drives Gillian crazy too, so she wrote about it. Here she is, talking about her book:

Cellophane Time
Why did I write cellophane time into a fantasy novel? I was past that bizarre and unnerving period of my life by the time I wrote it. People had stopped walking past me and had returned to occasionally remembering I enjoyed dining with them. I was employable and visible. I had dealt successfully and rather unorthodoxly with my own cellophane issues, partly through my fiction, partly through teaching, partly through agitating on committees, and partly through the careful application of chocolate to those in need. When I reached forty it mattered that my job prospects had taken a giant dive and that I was single and that I couldn't get served in shops. By the time I reached forty-two, I had found my solutions.

I had my solutions, but the tendency of our society to demand a significantly lower and far less visible status for women over forty still annoyed me. Some of this annoyance was because I never seem to read main characters who are remotely like me in any of my favourite novels. Forty-two ought to be known for more than Douglas Adams' joke. Redoubtable women surrounded me at forty-two and still surround me now. Also redoubtable men. Some of the redoubtable men made it into novels: the redoubtable women never did.

I adore reading. I love books that are varied and tell many different stories. I don't mind if the vast majority of the people I read about have nothing in common with the people I know, but just sometimes it's nice to discover oneself in a piece of fiction. Or to see familiar scraps of lives. Or to experience through the written word challenges that are close to home and not all about someone else's life, with that someone else set at a perpetual twenty years younger.

I resolved to write a novel that was all about a woman in her early forties, entering her cellophane time. She discovers that Australian society sees through her, that most of the wonderful freedom and job satisfaction and being part of a community vanish from her daily existence. She is more vulnerable to bullying and to loneliness. She has to manufacture her own identity. I gave this experience to the protagonist quite intentionally. All the things we don't talk about. All the things we don't write about. I wanted to create a narrative from sequential silencings.

It happens to so many of us. It happens earlier and longer and differently to visible minorities or those with visible disabilities. Those who don't get to experience cellophane time at all are privileged and are seldom aware of their privilege. They need to have the opportunity to read about middle-aged women, too.

Most people seem to read Ms Cellophane as a charming light horror, rather suburban, with a touch of romance (today I'm describing novels like vintage wines - I ought to apologise for this, but I remain unrepentant). I find it delightful that readers love it and that it was a Ditmar finalist. I like this. It means writers don't always have to centre our stories on young men and women of majority culture. It means that not all fantasy has to be high adventure or include quest objects and kingship potential and dragons. A small fantasy set mainly in a single household, with a rather interesting mirror and other threats that readers may themselves have experienced can work.

Ms Cellophane will never be a standard novel. (None of mine are: I am usually non-standard in sneakier ways, though.) It will push boundaries and alert people to privilege very gently, for that's what it's intended to do. It won't do it by shouting in anyone's face or by winning prizes for unconventional thinking. This is because I'm tired of the half-hearted social change that's created through shock tactics, just as I was tired of novels that leave me on the sidelines, forever doomed to be boring.

Other people will win prizes for changing the world, but I'm very happy that readers take my novel as intense and as immersive and as something very much for them. The bottom line isn't my writing. The bottom line is that I was one of many, many readers who want to see fragments of their own lives occasionally reflected in their speculative fiction.

You can buy Ms Cellophane here.

Guest Post: D B Jackson

I blogged last week about D B Jackson and his new historical urban fantasy, Thieftaker. He very kindly agreed to write a guest post for me about the book and the history behind it (which, as a Briton who hasn't studied any US history earlier than the 1920s) I have to say I find fascinating.
Over to David:

In recent weeks, as I have pimped-- er, I mean, promoted my latest book, Thieftaker, book I of the Thieftaker Chronicles, I have been asked repeatedly how I chose the historical backdrop for the book. Thieftaker is set in Colonial Boston, several years before the American Revolution, and I believe that much of the curiosity I’ve encountered stems from the fact that I didn’t place the book and its sequels squarely in the war period.

Wars receive a lot of literary attention, and with good reason. War years are almost always fraught with tension, drama, violence, roiled emotions, etc., all of which make for good stories. Indeed, there are already some very good novels set in the Revolutionary War period. But the decade leading up to the American colonies’ split from England saw their share of turmoil and excitement as well. When I was a graduate student, earning my Ph.D. in U.S. history, I found the late Colonial period utterly fascinating. Yet, even when I first began to work on the Thieftaker series, I had no idea that I would wind up setting the books in this period.

The idea for the Thieftaker series was sparked by a footnote that I read in Robert Hughes’ history of Australia, The Fatal Shore. (Yes, a footnote. In a history book. I admit it: I’m a geek.) The footnote described the life of London’s most famous thieftaker, the notorious Jonathan Wild. Wild was a brute and criminal who was responsible for nearly all the thefts that he “solved” as a thieftaker. He or his henchmen would steal goods, and then those things that Wild couldn’t sell for great profit he would turn around and return for a fee. He made a fortune, and all the while was hailed for his uncanny ability to recover stolen goods.

My first thought upon reading about Wild was “What a great idea for a book character!” I modeled my lead character’s nemesis, Sephira Pryce, after Wild. It might be the first time I have had a book idea present itself to me in the form of an antagonist rather than a protagonist.

But where would I set my story of thieftakers? In its first incarnation, Thieftaker was actually set in an alternate fantasy world. After discussions with my editor, however, I decided to shift it to a real world historical setting. My editor suggested London, but I have to admit that I was hesitant to set the book there. I know of so many books that have been set in London, and the truth is I really don’t know the city very well. On the other hand, having studied U.S. history, and having lived for a time in New England, I thought that Boston might be the perfect backdrop for the story.

In the 1760s, Boston was somewhat rundown, even seedy. Not long before, it had been the leading city of Colonial North America. But economic troubles had taken away some of its luster. Her sister cities, New York and Pennsylvania, had surpassed her in both population and financial prowess. I liked the idea of setting the Thieftaker books in a city like this. That sense of a town past its prime worked well with the noir feel I was searching for as a I wrote the first book. More, I felt that Boston’s fall from grace created nice parallels with my lead character, Ethan Kaille, a conjurer and thieftaker, who is also past his prime and down on his luck.

More to the point, Boston in the mid-1760s was becoming the hotbed of colonial protests against British authority. This was a place and time fraught with anxiety and uncertainty. Most colonists in the 1760s still considered themselves loyal subjects of the British Empire, but they were also starting to perceive that there was something unique about their status as Americans. For a character like Ethan Kaille, the hero of my book, who is trying to find his way in the world after serving nearly fourteen years in prison, this added uncertainty seems a perfect complement to his personal struggles. Nowhere were the ambiguities of colonial status more stridently argued than in Boston.

I begin my book on the night of 26 August 1765. As rioters are abroad in the city streets, protesting Parliament’s passage of the Stamp Act by destroying the homes of several representatives of the Crown, a young woman is found murdered. The riots are real, and my description of them is as historical accurate as I could make it. The murder is a fiction of my own creation. Together, the aftermath of the murder and riots form Thieftaker’s narrative core.

My biggest challenge in using Boston as the story’s setting lay in creating a magic system that would blend as seamlessly as possible with my colonial backdrop. Fortunately, Boston and the surrounding countryside already had a longstanding relationship with the supernatural. The Province of Massachusetts Bay had seen witch scares going back nearly a hundred years, including the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, which saw over one hundred and fifty people jailed and twenty executed. In Thieftaker, conjurers and witches are not the same thing. Witches are creatures of myth and nightmare; preachers rail against witchery and black magick in their sermons. Conjurers like my hero, on the other hand, are quite real. But while witches don’t actually exist, fear of them is constantly conflated with fear of conjurers. Ethan and others of his kind must keep their abilities secret, lest they be hanged as witches.

By connecting my imaginary magic system with the true historical phenomenon of witch scares, I was able to find that seamless blending of the fantastic and the historical I was after. The paranormal aspects of my story wound up reinforcing the sense of time and place that are so important to the book. And, in return, the historical references to something with which most readers are familiar -- that age-old fear of witches -- made the magic system seem that much more “real.”

In the end, 1760s Boston turned out to be the perfect setting for Thieftaker and its sequels. The combination of a city in decline, a political system on the verge of implosion, and a belief system that seemed to acknowledge the existence of “magic,” allowed me to weave my characters and my storyline into existing historical phenomena. And, perhaps more to the point, the richness of Boston’s history from that era allowed me to have a tremendous amount of fun.

*****
D.B. Jackson is also David B. Coe, the award-winning author of a dozen fantasy novels. His first book as D.B. Jackson, Thieftaker, volume I of the Thieftaker Chronicles, has just been released by Tor Books. D.B. lives on the Cumberland Plateau with his wife and two teenaged daughters. They’re all smarter and prettier than he is, but they keep him around because he makes a mean vegetarian fajita. When he’s not writing he likes to hike, play guitar, and stalk the perfect image with his camera.
David's website
David's blog
Twitter
Goodreads
And Amazon

Thieftaker400

Coming shortly: Thieftaker

One of the things I'm liking about this summer is the number of books that I'm really looking forward to that are due out in July and August. And one of them is due out tomorrow: Thieftaker by D. B. Jackson, who is also the awesome David B Coe. I love David's books, and this new one looks even better than his previous ones.

"Murder and magic stalk the streets of pre-revolutionary Boston. Ethan Kaille, a thieftaker of some notoriety, and a conjurer of some skill, is hired by the father of a murdered girl to find her killer. Soon he is swept up in a storm of intrigue and magic, politics and treachery."

You can see the cover (which is gorgeous) and read sample chapters on David's website. Go, read, buy!

http://www.dbjackson-author.com/Book1ArtPage.php

http://www.dbjackson-author.com/FreebiesPage.php

Signal boost: Judith Tarr Kickstarter

If I had to put my hand on my heart and name just one fantasy author who changed how I view the genre, how I write; one author who made me feel that there was space for someone who writes the sort of things I write, who has the background I do, it would be Judith Tarr, dancinghorse. A new Tarr novel has been an event for me since the very first day I picked up her first novel (The Isle of Glass). I have every one of her books. She's ranged from historical fantasy to subtle sf to really strong historical novels to young adult to wonderful genre-bending crossover. I love them all. Meeting Judy on lj -- and being allowed to call her Judy -- was a thrill and a gift and a treasure.
She;s running a kickstarter, to fund another of her complex, nuanced, elegant, mind-bending novels. You can read about the project here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/834883724/living-in-threes
GOo read, fund. It will be worth it. Because in Judy's case every thing she does really is magic.

Welcome

My friend and fellow DAW author, Lisanne Norman, has been on LJ for a while, but has now made her journal open. She's zaan: do go by and say hi. And read her books (the Sholan Alliance series): they're huge fun and very good.

Book plug for a most excellent book

So my fellow DAWthor, and all round fine individual Benjamin Tate has a new book out this month. Called Leaves of Flame, it's the sequel to Well of Sorrows, which I read and raved about last year. This is one of the quirkiest, most original fantasy series I've come across in a while. I commend it to your attention.



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