Category Archives: Guest Post

Author Guest Post: Brian D Anderson

Author Brian D Anderson joins SciFiChick.com today to talk about his transition from Independent to Traditional publishing! His novel The Bard’s Blade will be released in January 2020.

Making the Change (An Indie’s Transition into the Traditional World)
by Brian D Anderson

So you’ve written a few books, had them edited, paid for a cool cover, learned how to market, and as a result, had a great deal of success selling them online. You’ve even quit your day job. Maybe bought a house or a car…or both. Life’s coming up roses. You’ve achieved something special. Something spectacular. You are a professional novelist! Moreover, you’re an experienced indie, well qualified to pass on your wisdom to the never-ending river of up-and-comers dreaming of emulating your accomplishments.

That’s more or less how I felt a few months ago. For seven years, I have enjoyed a degree of professional success in indie fantasy. Not to say I was at the top of the heap. But I sure wasn’t at the bottom. I had an agent, had made a few significant audiobook deals, and been nominated for an award or two. But that’s where it stopped. I’d reached the limit of where I could go on my own. If I wanted to continue up the ladder, I had to find a way to break into traditional publishing
My agent had submitted several times to the Big Five, without success. I was perfectly satisfied with my achievements as an indie, but the game was changing, and I was rapidly facing the possibility of fading away into obscurity. New indie talent was emerging, and they were hungry, energetic, and motivated. I’d been working at a feverish pace for seven years, and I’m not ashamed to say I was running low on steam. This new class of indies half my age could produce at a rate I simply could not keep up with. And their facility with social networking made me a horse and carriage to their self-driven car.

I decided that perhaps it was time to try something new with my stories, so I wrote The Vale, which is based on the tropes, plotting, and pace of RPG’s like Final Fantasy and Tales Of. I was aware of GameLit and LitRPG, but this was different in the sense that it read like a novelization of a game – no stats, no being sucked into the game world, no other criteria placed on the genre by its fans. I landed a substantial audio deal for the series, which basically crushed my chances to sell it to the Big Five. Still, my agent thought it was worth a shot.

As expected, they weren’t interested. However, an editor over at Tor (Macmillan) read it and liked it very much. And while unable to make an offer, asked that they be given first look at my next project. That alone sent me over the moon. By the way, I saw the lunar lander while I was up there. Take that, conspiracy theorists! I had a mountain of work to do, but I didn’t want to waste the opportunity. I had a new series in the beginning stages saved in a file, so I banged out the first few chapters along with a synopsis. Tor took a quick look and replied by saying that the complexity of the world was too much to make a decision without a complete manuscript.

So, defeated, I went back to my indie work and plodded on, forgetting all about Tor, the book, and transitioning to traditional publishing. Yeah, right! This is Tor we’re talking about. As a kid, most of the books I read came from Ballentine, Del Rey, or Tor. Becoming a Tor author would be the fulfillment of a childhood fantasy. So I shoved everything else aside and worked like my life depended on it.

After about eight weeks, The Bard’s Blade was finished. BEA (BookExpo America) was about a month away, and my agent contacted Tor, offering an exclusive look before shopping it to other publishers while she was in New York. Now, here’s where it gets weird…in a good way.

For anyone who has been through the submission process, you know how mind-numbingly, soul-suckingly, nail-bitingly long an ordeal it is. Aspiring writers can spend years finding an agent just to spend years more submitting to publishers. Tor seemed excited to read it and told us that they would have an answer ahead of the convention. While I wanted to believe this, I fully expected to hear back from them saying they couldn’t make a decision within the allotted time frame. I had mentally prepared for this likelihood so as not to drive myself nuts checking my inbox every five minutes.
Not only to my disbelief but to that of every traditionally published writer I know, this isn’t what happened. Tor received the manuscript on a Friday; on Monday they emailed my agent, stating they were interested and intended to make an offer. That alone had me grinning from ear to ear. I had three numbers in mind. What I would take; what I wanted; and the imaginary number that would not happen. There was, of course, the chance they would come back with a lowball figure that I would be forced to reject. That was the nightmare scenario. To turn down an offer from Tor would haunt me for the rest of my life.

But my astonishment increased when Wednesday arrived and my agent received a deal memo. It was to the dollar what I wanted. Sure, there was some tweaking pertaining to rights, but overall, I could not have expected better. It took a full day for me to absorb what had happened.

Once the contracts were signed, it was time for me to come to the realization that experienced as I was in the indie world, I had a lot to learn about working on a Big Five publication. To her credit as both a person and a professional, Lindsey Hall, Senior Editor at Tor, was understanding, and she bent over backwards to help me acclimate to new procedures and expectations. She was always available to talk and responded to my questions, no matter how silly.

After seven years of indie work, I’d ironed out a method of production that worked well for me. There is the first draft, of course, where I give little consideration to prose. This is for getting down the plot and fleshing out the characters. The second draft smooths out some of the rough edges. Then, depending on deadline constraints, one of two things happens. One: If pressed for time, the manuscript goes to my editor, with whom I’ve been working for five years. He knows my style intimately and can make additions and adjustment so close to the way I would write I can’t even pick them out. Or two: A third pass where I give it polish and pay close attention to detail. From there, I send it to my first editor.

Once I have it back, I give it a read through, then send it to my copy/line editor and proofreader. She’s fast, and has it back to me in a few days or a week at most. After another final read, I format it and then upload the manuscript to the online platforms.

During this period, I’m working with cover artists and interior designers for the paperback edition. I’m also busy on my social networking sites, getting the word out and prepping fans for the release. The details are many, and would take a book unto itself to explain. But from writing the first page to publication, I can produce a full length 100,000 word novel in roughly 4-5 months.

On the traditional front, though, things move at a different pace. The Bard’s Blade is not slated for release until January 2020. So the first thing I had to learn was patience. An indie making the transition must understand that this is not just a business – it’s a BIG business, with entire departments dedicated to aspects of publishing that an indie manages alone. Where I was the shot caller, now there were committees. Where I could make a choice and then act on it instantly, now even the discussions about making the decisions were scheduled months in advance. But this was not what had me screaming at my computer.

Switching to traditional publishing meant I was giving up the total dominion I’ve enjoyed over the content of my work. I was not the only one invested in the story and concerned about how it would be received by fans. There are good reasons editors pick some books and pass on others. They are there to pick winners. The books with which they are associated are closely watched by their superiors and the industry at large. How long will an editor keep their job after too many flops? In other words, my success is in a real way tied to my editor’s.

Knowing this did not make it any easier when I received the first round of revisions. Holy moly! I sat at my desk in a stupor for…I’m not sure how long. From my perspective, the entire book needed to be rewritten. Whole chapters – gone. New chapters needed. Even my beloved pointy-eared elf-like people were to be eliminated. It…it was…genocide! It was also as close as I came to refusing to go along with it.

But in the end, I set aside my ego and made the changes. And that’s really what it takes. When you make a success out of any endeavor, like I had with indie publishing, you begin to think you possess insights that you do not. You’re surrounded by people looking to you for answers on how they too can sell thousands of books and quit their day job. It makes you feel important; wise. Your association with other authors and the conversations you have can trick you into thinking it’s given you even greater perspective. But until you have experienced the pride-killing blow of being wrong about your own work; yelled at the comment box only to lose the imaginary argument; then looked at the end result of what you did (were forced to do) and grudgingly admitted how much better it turned out, you really can’t know what it’s like.

That’s not to say my skill sets learned as an indie were wasted. I work fast as a necessity. When given a month, I’d only need a few days. When plot issues arose, I was three steps ahead with solutions. And it wasn’t as if Lindsey took over the book and changed what it was about. It felt a bit like that in the beginning, granted, but that was just a visceral reaction, like when an only child has to share a toy for the first time with a new sibling. I was still the one creating the plot points, shaping the characters, building the world. But now I had someone helping me stay on track who could see what I was too close to notice.

I’m still putting out indie books, and will be for some time. Tor, surprisingly, has encouraged this. But I intend to slow my pace considerably. Three novels a year for seven years has taken a toll. Now, thanks to Tor, I’m carrying more tools in the bag, and it’s making it easier for me to move forward. There’s still so much to learn; curtains to be pulled back.
And for the first time in a while, I’m eager to find out what’s next.

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Days of the Dead Blog Tour: Gail Z. Martin Guest Post

Author Gail Z Martin joins SciFiChick.com again for her Days of the Dead Blog Tour!

Epic Vs. Urban—Writing Both Sides of Fantasy
By Gail Z. Martin

Swords or shotguns? Grenade launchers or catapults?

How about both? (Though not, usually, in the same story.)

I write epic fantasy and urban fantasy—along with alternate history and comedic horror—in time periods ranging from medieval to Victorian to modern. Sometimes people ask if it’s difficult, jumping around time. For me, it’s all part of the fun.

This year, we had a bumper crop of books coming out on both sides of the genre. Vengeance is the second book in my Darkhurst series about three undertaker brothers who become outlaw monster hunters and discover there is a much bigger conspiracy than they ever expected. The Dark Road is the second in the Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures, tracing the story of the brigand lord through his time as a mercenary, fight slave and smuggler. Assassin’s Honor is the first in the new Assassins of Landria series, as King’s Shadows Joel Breckenridge and Garrett Kennard go rogue to save the kingdom from a shadowy itinerant holy man who has ensnared the aristocracy with treasonous whispers.

Plot and characters aside, the books are all very different. Vengeance is ‘big fat fantasy’, with multiple point of view characters, several braided story arcs, a big cast of characters, and a truly epic scale. The Dark Road is a serialized novel from Jonmarc’s point of view, told in an interconnected collection of short stories and novellas. Assassin’s Honor is buddy flick epic fantasy, under 300 pages, and rocks the ‘Butch and Sundance as medieval assassins’ vibe with humor, action and intrigue. I really like switching up how the story is put together, even though all three are technically epic fantasy due to their scope and the medieval setting.

Continue reading Days of the Dead Blog Tour: Gail Z. Martin Guest Post

Author Guest Post and Giveaway: Ann Aguirre – LIKE NEVER AND ALWAYS Blog Tour

Author Ann Aguirre joins SciFiChick today to talk about strong female characters and to promote her latest release – Like Never and Always! And keep reading below for a chance to win a copy of the book!

You have so many strong female leads, can you tell me about writing/creating strong female characters?

I can’t imagine writing women any other way. All women are strong, even if their strength isn’t apparent to others. I’ve written multiple heroines who are physically fit and capable of fighting, but that’s not the only type of strength that matters. Clever women who outthink their enemies are fantastic, too.

Growing up, I read fiction written by authors who treated their female characters as damsels in distress or as prizes to be won. I didn’t like seeing women regarded that way, especially in fantasy and science fiction. When I was a little girl, I can remember reading The Hobbit at the hospital when one of my relatives was sick. Even then, I recall wondering, Where are all the women? In a story of such grand scope, why are there no female characters at all?

Tolkien wasn’t the only writer who erased women from his stories. Many of the epic fantasies I read followed suit, and if there was a woman mixed in, she almost always served as a reward for the hero or a love interest only. Rarely did I find female characters who had their goals, who lived with agency, and might even part ways with the hero to pursue her own ends.

I was so excited when I found Anne McCaffrey, Ursula LeGuin, and Tanith Lee. They were the first female SFF writers that I fell in love with, and I’d say they’re still shaping my work to this day. Later, I read greats like Kate Elliott, Barbara Hambly, Robin McKinley, and a bit later, Sharon Shinn. Those were the books I had been missing as a pre-teen, ones that told me that women didn’t have to be an accessory—that they could have their own adventures.

Growing up, I didn’t read a lot of science fiction because I couldn’t find the sort I wanted to read. I cared more about the people than the technology, and too often, men stole the spotlight and women didn’t get enough page time for my tastes, so more often, I watched my science fiction, both on television and the big screen. Eventually, I would write the sort of science fiction that I wanted to read, though I’m taking a bit of a break from that right now.

So naturally, when I started writing for teens, I wanted to continue what I’d started in speculative fiction, giving girls fierce heroines to root for and thrilling stories they could experience vicariously. In Like Never and Always, I set up a strange scenario, and it’s definitely a departure in some ways because while there’s definitely bad guys in the story, there’s no big war to fight. It’s dark and deep story, kind of down the rabbit hole, where the farther down you go, the stranger it all gets. I’d call it a thriller with supernatural elements, but that’s also dependent on whether you believe the body switch has actually occurred. I was so thrilled when Kate Elliott blurbed this book! Her work is iconic and brilliant, so it’s amazing to me that my words could be validate by someone who lit the path for me in terms of writing strong women.

Thanks so much for having me on the blog! I welcome all questions and comments.

Continue reading Author Guest Post and Giveaway: Ann Aguirre – LIKE NEVER AND ALWAYS Blog Tour

Author Guest Post: Patrick S. Tomlinson on First Contact!

From an up-and-coming new science fiction author comes an entertaining tale of first contact, exploration, and desperately trying not to screw up: GATE CRASHERS (A Tor Paperback Original; $15.99; On-sale: June 26, 2018). Humankind ventures further into the galaxy than ever before … and immediately causes an intergalactic incident. A planet full of bumbling, highly evolved primates has just put itself on a collision course with a far wider, and more hostile, galaxy that is stranger than anyone can possibly imagine.

Patrick S. Tomlinson joins SciFiChick.com today to talk about First Contact!

What’s it Like Writing First Contact?

It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for! For real, though. All of humanity has been waiting for this moment since Giordano Bruno first infuriated the Church with the heretical notion that what we knew as stars are actually suns, and that those suns have their own Earths, with their own plants, their own animals, maybe even their own people.

It is, perhaps, the question that has most preoccupied mankind for the better part of five centuries. So it should come as no surprise that speculations and flights of fancy about the answer keep cropping up in literature, film, art, music, in all creative endeavors, really. The moment the universe coughs up its greatest secret and our place within it is finally, conclusively defined.

Of course, that’s not how it will go. At all. The answer to “Are we alone” won’t define our place in the universe if that answer is “Hell no.” Instead, it’ll throw us into a frenzied struggle to fight for our seat at the interstellar table.

I’ve written about First Contact before. In my debut trilogy starting with The Ark from Angry Robot Books, mankind got the better end of the deal, landing on a planet full of ambulatory sentient cuttlefish that hadn’t had the advantage of plentiful metals with which to move out of their Stone Age. In that series, humanity struggled and sometimes failed to avoid the mistakes of our past, colonialism, gentrification, racism, all of it.

Now, with Gate Crashers, the shoe is on the other foot. We dig too greedily and too deep and find a whole Balrog’s worth of trouble we’re not remotely prepared for. So screwed we end up being, a book called “First Contact for Dummies” features prominently in the early decision-making process of the humans present.
Because I really believe that’s about how it’s going to go down when it happens. At critical moments in history, people just… push through. No one’s ready for it. The “right” people are seldom present. And whoever is there, on all sides, just does what they can and hopes for the best.

The only real difference is, unlike other turning points that are often only recognized as pivotal moments in history after the fact, or played up by historians trying to establish a narrative, no one is going to be confused about the importance of First Contact. Whether that means everyone present will know to be on their A game, or the stress will make them even more prone to missteps that end in calamity, we can’t know until it happens.

Personally, considering the scale of the universe and the fact we haven’t already been overrun by flying saucers, I suspect anyone within our technological arm’s reach is going to be flailing about just as blindly and desperately as we are, clawing for someone to latch onto for comfort in the dark, hoping they don’t end up grabbing the monster under their bed.

I really hope to live long enough to see that moment. Until then, I’ll continue fantasizing about it on the page, and fighting in realspace to straighten out our species so we don’t end up being the monsters.
Looking around our country today, I could really use some help on the second part.

About the Author:
PATRICK S. TOMLINSON is a man of many hats. In addition to writing Sci-Fi novels and shorts, he prowls theaters, clubs, and bars throughout the midwest performing as a stand-up comedian. Between gigs, cons, and rewrites, he works as a pundit and frequent political contributor, with columns appearing in publications such as The Hill and The New York Times. In the little downtime remaining, Patrick enjoys hobbies such as motorcycling, model-building, and shooting. He lives in Milwaukee with his fiancee, two cats, a bearded dragon, and a 2008 Bullitt Edition Mustang named Susan.
You can find him online at www.patrickstomlinson.com and on Twitter as @stealthygeek.

Check out the rest of the Gate Crashers Blog Tour below:
Tuesday, June 26 Books, Bones & Buffy
Tuesday, June 26 Espresso Coco
Wednesday, June 27 Civilian Reader
Thursday, June 28 Bibliosanctum
Friday, June 29 For Winter Nights
Saturday, June 30 Just a World Away

Guest Post: Brian Andrews Q&A

Brian Andrews Brian Andrews

Brian Andrews, author of Reset, joins SciFiChick.com today and provided his own Q&A as a Guest Post…

1. I suspect there must be an interesting backstory with RESET, where did you get the idea for this story?

Once upon a time, I was having dinner with someone who’s plugged into real life X-files investigations around the world. He made a strange comment, almost in passing that he’d heard the Army had found a bizarre piece of tech in Afghanistan in 2002 while looking for Osama Bin Laden in the Tora Bora cave complexes. I asked him what it was and he shrugged, saying only that it was determined to be very old but contained advanced technology. Intrigued, I started asking questions around my network, but I didn’t get any hits. Next, I contacted a Canadian photo journalist who embedded with the 10th Mountain Division (the shooters spelunking the actual Tora Bora caves), but he said he’d not heard anything of the sort. Eventually after hitting enough dead ends, I decided to stop digging. But the germ of the idea stuck with me, nagging my author’s brain and not letting go. I started asking myself questions like: What if the Army really did find an orb with advanced technology in a cave? What could it be? Where might it have come from? What is its purpose? In brainstorming these questions, RESET was born.

2. Let’s chat mind control and tin foil hats. This novel is almost theatrical in nature, with some “high concept” elements. You’ve pecked a lot in here: mind control, armageddon devices, the 6th Extinction, and a “men in black” style government conspiracy that could control the fate of the world. Can you speak to this?

RESET was described on TOR.com as being a genre-bending novel. I think this is the perfect description. I’m most drawn to stories with what I would call “near-term” science fiction elements—technologies that exist now, but are only in an embryonic stage of development. Artificial Intelligence is a perfect example of this; there are millions of possible scenarios that could unfold as AI matures, but we can only speculate about which will come to fruition. It is this speculation that drives my novels. Mind control technology is the core theme of RESET.

As an author, the natural temptation is always to try to “save” your best ideas for the perfect time in the perfect story so you don’t waste them—kinda the literary equivalent of not wearing your favorite shirt so it stays nice. RESET is the novel where I finally came to my senses and pulled our every cool idea I’ve ever wanted to showcase in a book: Mind Control, Parasitic Organisms, the discovery of Alien Technology, Underground Bunkers, Doomsday Preppers, a crazy old Conspiracy Theorist, and DARPA (of course).

What I ended up with is a story that pays homage to conspiracy theory lore of the past three decades while feeling both nostalgic and fresh. And yes, I even found a way to work in the proverbial “tin foil hat” into the plot, but in this case the tin foil hat is a Faraday Cage helmet designed to stop nefarious Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). Yes, mind control is real folks…just look up TMS and Duke University and you’ll find reporting on actual research that will make you shiver in your chair.

3. RESET has an incredibly strong female cast, with Army wife Josie Pitcher emerging at the novel’s true hero. Can you speak to this?.

In writing this story, I fell in love with all the characters, but probably to Josie Pitcher the most. Josie embodies the type of heroine the world needs today, someone who is compelled to action by curiosity, loyalty, and courage, rather than self-interest and ego. Josie is no Atomic Blonde or Jessica Jones throwing punches and kicks; her weapons are the ones real heroes use to fight their battles—her wits, her power of persuasion, and her courage to act in the face of impossible odds. With RESET, I wanted to take Superman saving the damsel in distress storyline and flip it on its head. In RESET, you start by meeting this tough as nails 10th Mountain Army ranger who seems like he’s unstoppable, until suddenly he’s not and the only one who can save him is his young, tenacious Army wife. Ultimately, the fate of the human race rests on Josie’s shoulders…but that’s all I can say!

4. I noticed that the audiobook was performed by the voice actor Ray Porter who also reads your TIER ONE series. Can you speak to his performance on this book?

Definitely! In my opinion, narration is storytelling in its purest form. If you think about it, the oral tradition of storytelling is at the core of human culture. We’ve been swapping stories for millennia—be it sitting around the campfire, the dinner table, or at a child’s bedside. That’s why it was so important for me to get Ray to read this novel—he is a world building narrator because he captures the nuance and emotional connection between the characters. Nobody does dialogue better than Ray. I’ve listened to the recording several times now and it is a masterwork, with over a dozen different characters performed. Please check it out on Audible, I promise you won’t be disappointed. LINK: https://adbl.co/2J81cwd

5. One final question: The ending of this book has been described as an OMG event reminiscent of M. Night Shyamalan’s early movies. Can you talk about this without spoilers?

RESET has the biggest twist of any novel I’ve ever written and yes, the reveal comes in the very last “two” chapters. I would call this a double-barrel twist, the first twist begetting a second twist that, I’m not sure has been done before. That particular comment you referenced from Charle DeLint with the comparison to an M. Night Shyamalan ending is high praise. There’s also a certain poetry to the ending of RESET. I use the symbolism of a Celtic Knot in the novel several times, an intertwining with seemingly no clear beginning and no clear ending—everything comes full circle. I can’t wait to hear reader’s reactions!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Brian is a US Navy veteran, nuclear engineer, and former submarine officer. He co-authors the Wall Street Journal best-selling TIER ONE thriller series (Tier One, War Shadows, & Crusader One) with Jeffrey Wilson. He is a husband, father, coffee lover and occasional malcontent. His latest stand-alone thriller, RESET, is new for 2018. You can find him online at: www.andrews-wilson.com and @bandrewsjwilson
Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.to/2oUCyHT

Author Guest Post: Gareth L. Powell

FIVE CLASSIC SPACE OPERAS THAT STILL HOLD UP TODAY
by Gareth L. Powell

‘Space opera’ has been around since the heyday of the pulp magazines in the 1930s and 1940s. Initially the term was one of derision, likening the genre to tacky ‘horse opera’ westerns. However, just as the hippies and punks of the 1960s and 1970s took their derogatory labels and wore them with pride, so the term ‘space opera’ came to be used for action-packed stories featuring big spaceships and weighty themes.

Looking back now, not all of those stories have aged well. Some are frankly unreadable, either due to their dreadful prose, cardboard characters, or woeful science. But if you look hard enough, there are still plenty of gems to be found.

Below, I have picked ten classic* space operas that still have much to offer the modern reader.

*For the purposes of this list, I have defined the term ‘classic’ as including books written or published before the turn of the Millennium.

1. Nova by Samuel Delany. Without doubt, one of my favorite books, Nova is set a thousand years into the future, and tells the story of Lorq Von Ray, last scion of a powerful and rich dynasty, and his quest to harvest the rare mineral illyrion from the core of an imploding sun. Filled with literary fireworks, the book relates Von Ray’s quest to tarot lore and the Arthurian Grail legends, while simultaneously using the literary ambitions of one of its characters to provide a meta-commentary on the process of novel writing itself.

2. The Centauri Device by M. John Harrison. Harrison takes the tropes of pulp space opera—starports, lone traders, and naval engagements—and gives them a cyberpunk makeover. Crews have to jack directly into their ships via sockets on their wrists. The main character deals amphetamines and is discharged from the army because he wets himself every time a gun goes off. Whether or not it was written as a criticism of the genre, it paved the way for the grittier ‘New Space Opera’ of the 1990s.

3. The Ship Who Sang by Anne McCaffrey. When I sat down to write Embers of War, I re-read this book to help get me in the mood to write about a sentient starship. I hadn’t read it since I was a kid, and I was relieved to find it just about held up. Taken at face value, it’s a fun, if episodic adventure. Unfortunately, modern readers might baulk at the idea of data held on magnetic tape, and the titular ship’s constant yearning for a man to make her life complete.

4. The Game Of Rat And Dragon by Cordwainer Smith. This is only a short story, but I decided to include it because a) it’s quite extraordinary, and b) this is my list and I can do what I want. In the far future, human starship are routinely attacked during faster-than-light travel by invisible aliens that drive their crews insane. The only way to protect against these attacks is to use cats paired with human telepaths. The cats perceive the aliens as rats and destroy them with miniature nuclear weapons. If you haven’t read it, you really should. And while you’re at it check out Smith’s other stories, such as ‘Mother Hitton’s Littul Kittons’, and ‘Golden the Ship Was-Oh! Oh! Oh!’

5. The Forever War by Joe Haldeman. Based at least in part on the author’s experiences fighting in the Vietnam War, this tale of interstellar conflict follows the fortunes of William Mandella, a physics student conscripted into the war against the mysterious Taurans. Due to the time dilation caused by interstellar travel, he finds each tour of duty—while only lasting a couple of subjective years for him—throws him further and further into the future, with the result that every time he returns to Earth, he finds it changed almost beyond all recognition.

Honorable Mentions:
Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds
Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold
A Fire On The Deep by Vernor Vinge
Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks
Downbelow Station by C.J. Cherryh
The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester
Dune by Frank Herbert
Gateway by Frederik Pohl

Embers of War by Gareth L. Powell is published by Titan Books. You can find Gareth on Twitter @garethlpowell

Author Guest Post: D.B. Jackson

“A New Artistic Challenge”
by D.B. Jackson/David B. Coe

Today marks the release of my first short fiction collection.

Tales of the Thieftaker brings together eleven short pieces I have written over the past several years in the “universe” of my Thieftaker Chronicles, a historical urban fantasy series set in pre-Revolutionary Boston (Thieftaker, Thieves’ Quarry, A Plunder of Souls, and Dead Man’s Reach, all from Tor Books). The collection includes some previously released work, as well as pieces that have never before been published.

Among the stories in the latter category is “The Ruby Blade,” a full-length novella that serves as the centerpiece of the book.

Those familiar with the series will recognize that title: The Ruby Blade was the privateering ship on which Ethan Kaille, my thieftaking, conjuring protagonist once served. A mutiny aboard the vessel in 1745 resulted in his court-martial and imprisonment. He served fourteen years at hard labor on a sugar plantation in Barbados, a living hell that left him broken, both physically and emotionally.

Beginning with the first novel of the series, the mutiny was a touchstone of Ethan’s backstory, something referenced in the books again and again, but never fully described. For years, fans of the Thieftaker Chronicles have asked me about the Ruby Blade, wondering when I would get around to writing that episode of Ethan’s life. So, when I decided to publish Tales of the Thieftaker, I knew I would have to include this particular story. I also knew, though, that I didn’t simply want to write that old tale and slot it into the collection. Instead, I found a way to blend it with a new mystery, and to set it in the days after the end of the final book in the series.

I should pause here to say that while I consider myself a novelist, and am best known for my longer work, I love writing and reading short stories. I enjoy the challenge of shaping a complete tale in a limited number of words. I often learn something new about my craft when reading short work from my colleagues and seeing how they approach this task. And more than any other series I’ve written, the Thieftaker Chronicles has lent itself to short fiction.

But in the case of “The Ruby Blade,” I faced some unique challenges, and that is always good for an artist. For one thing, I was writing Ethan’s “origin story,” which I found daunting. I had been asked about this episode in Ethan’s background for so long, and my readers had expressed such eagerness to read it, that I felt more pressure than I have for perhaps any other work in my career. Beyond that, I knew that the story would be an odd length. Each Thieftaker novel comes in at about 100,000 words. Most short stories come in at about 6,000 words. The former would have been far too long for the story I wanted to tell; the latter far too limiting.

A novella, by definition, falls in between the two lengths–according to most definitions, a novella is any story between 17,000 and 40,000 words. Three bits of trivia: 1) At 7,500-17,499 words, a novelette falls in between a novella and short story. Who knew? 2) This particular novella, “The Ruby Blade,” came in a hair longer than 40,000. Technically, it’s a really, really short novel. Shhh. Don’t tell. And 3) Before this, I had never written a novella.

That last piece of trivia proved to be the greatest of the challenges I encountered. A novel tends to have a certain rhythm, defined in a sense by chapters. Write twenty books or so, and you kinda get a feel for how they ought to flow. By the same token, the pacing of a short story is distinctive as well. You can’t be nearly as leisurely spinning a yarn in a short piece as you can in a full-length book. I’d had plenty of experience with this, as well. But in this instance, I was writing neither a novel nor a short story, and so had to discover a new cadence for my storytelling.

The method I chose for telling this tale, facilitated the development of that unique rhythm. As I said before, “The Ruby Blade” is, in essence, two stories in one. Courtesy of Ethan’s long-time nemesis and rival in thieftaking, Sephira Pryce, he is presented with a new mystery in the winter of 1771. But in order for them to solve this case together, he must first relate to her the events of 1745 that led to the mutiny. The story shifts between the two time periods, and those transitions provide cadence and tension that make both strands of the plot work.

I find writing any sort of story akin to piecing together a puzzle. The shape and size of the puzzle may change with each new work, but usually the process remains much the same. Tackling this novella proved different. Everything felt new again, and that made the writing especially exciting. This story forced me to rethink my process a bit, to adjust my strategy for shaping narrative and character arc. And the truth is, having written one novella, I can’t wait to try my hand at another.

*****
David B. Coe/D.B. Jackson is the award-winning author of nineteen fantasy novels and as many short stories. As David B. Coe, he writes The Case Files of Justis Fearsson, a contemporary urban fantasy from Baen Books consisting of Spell Blind, His Father’s Eyes, and Shadow’s Blade. As D.B. Jackson, he writes the Thieftaker Chronicles, a historical urban fantasy from Tor Books that includes Thieftaker, Thieves’ Quarry, A Plunder of Souls, and Dead Man’s Reach. Tales of the Thieftaker, his first short fiction collection, has just been released by Lore Seekers Press.

David is also the author of the Crawford Award-winning LonTobyn Chronicle, which he has recently reissued, as well as the critically acclaimed Winds of the Forelands quintet and Blood of the Southlands trilogy. He wrote the novelization of Ridley Scott’s movie, Robin Hood. He is currently at work on several new projects including more short fiction, a media tie-in, and a time travel/epic fantasy trilogy. David’s books have been translated into a dozen languages.

He lives on the Cumberland Plateau with his wife and two 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.

http://www.DavidBCoe.com
http://www.davidbcoe.com/blog/
http://www.dbjackson-author.com
http://www.facebook.com/david.b.coe
http://twitter.com/DavidBCoe
https://www.amazon.com/author/davidbcoe

Days of the Dead Blog Tour: Gail Z. Martin Guest Post

Swords & Shotguns: Epic and Urban Fantasy
By Gail Z. Martin

What’s the difference between epic fantasy and urban fantasy?

Generally speaking, epic fantasy happened long ago, often in a medieval time period, with swords and castles. The stakes are big, often the fate of a kingdom or dynasty at risk. Urban fantasy usually means books set in present-day or at least Twentieth or Twenty-First Century, where it’s our world but with magic and the supernatural.

I think the lines are blurrier than that. I could envision a story in a medieval setting that deals with supernatural goings-on within a city that saves the world but never has the epic Lord of the Rings-style big battles. And I’ve written stories set in a modern city where the fate of the world hangs in the balance because of paranormal problems.

I write epic fantasy, urban fantasy and steampunk. (And as far as I’m concerned, Steampunk is often Victorian urban fantasy with cool gadgets.) So while the sub-genre categories are handy on Amazon and to tell booksellers where to shelve novels, they matter less to me as an author, because I come up with the story first, and then figure out which bucket it best fits.

Epic fantasy is fun because I get to put my degree in medieval history to use and research fun things like trebuchets and garderobes, and what kind of explosives were available in the 1400s. Oh, and I’m gaining the ability to swear with words no one’s bandied around since before Shakespeare.

Urban fantasy means I can use pop culture references and modern slang, and I have to research the history of the cities in which I base stories, because people live there and can catch me if I’m wrong about something. I look up stuff on guns and modern explosives and probably have a file at the FBI for questionable internet searches.

I think the hardest thing about writing in both epic and urban fantasy is switching mindsets. My urban fantasy characters have largely experienced the same world I live in, with some paranormal twists. But the epic fantasy characters are going to see the world differently because of how people back then understood science, medicine, rank and class. They’ll pay no attention to things like abysmal sanitation or take for granted the pecking order of a hereditary nobility, but fail to understand disease transmission or infection. Not only is the wording different, the world view is different. This is important, because if you don’t write about characters who are products of their times, then you’ve just got modern people dressed up in costumes.

So the trick with urban fantasy is to make people believe that there are ghosts in Charleston, SC, vampires in Central Park, or fae riding motorcycles through West Virginia. You’ve got to get readers to suspend what they know about the world and make room for magic and the supernatural, which suddenly makes the familiar into new territory.

And the difficulty with epic fantasy is creating characters who are true to their world and the limitations of the knowledge and cultural failings of their time and make them sympathetic and relatable to modern readers. To be realistic, they’re going to have some of the biases and blinders common to their era, and that becomes a growth opportunity for them to overcome. They’re going to view the world through scientific fallacies and since-disproven theories. Yet for the reader, those assumptions and the actions that follow have to make sense and not get in the way of the story. They may be progressive or enlightened in some ways, and very much a product of their times in other ways.

Believe it or not, this is the fun stuff for an author. People in the past had incredibly clever ways of dealing with the world around them in lieu of the technology we take for granted, and ferreting those details out makes the world come alive. Likewise, when I can find a bit of history or a detail about a modern city that supports the case I’m building for a supernatural threat, I celebrate, because the plot then becomes even more tangled up with the setting.

I’ve written three epic fantasy series so far, including the new Darkhurst series (Scourge) and the upcoming Assassins of Landria series. I’ve also written or co-written two urban fantasy series (Deadly Curiosities, Spells Salt & Steel) with three more new series forthcoming. There’s lots of territory left to explore!

My Days of the Dead blog tour runs through October 31 with brand new excerpts from upcoming books and recent short stories, interviews, guest blog posts, giveaways and more! Plus, I’ll be including extra excerpt links for my stories and for books by author friends of mine. You’ve got to visit the participating sites to get the goodies, just like Trick or Treat! Get all the details about my Days of the Dead blog tour here: http://www.ascendantkingdoms.com/2017/10/25/its-my-days-of-the-dead-blog-a-palooza/

Let me give a shout-out for #HoldOnToTheLight 2017, back for more with new authors and fantastic new posts! 130+ Sci-Fi/Fantasy authors blogging about their personal struggles with depression, PTSD, anxiety, suicide and self-harm, candid posts by some of your favorite authors on how mental health issues have impacted their lives and books. Read the stories, share the stories, change a life. Find out more at www.HoldOnToTheLight.com

Book swag is the new Trick-or-Treat! All of my guest blog posts have links to free excerpts—grab them all!

Rafflecopter giveaway—enter for a chance to win a copy of Spells, Salt and Steel! http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/9751c0426/?

An excerpt from our new Spells, Salt, and Steel: A New Templars Novel— http://www.ascendantkingdoms.com/short-stories-and-more/spells-salt-steel/spells-salt-steel/excerpt-spells-salt-steel/

And an excerpt from my friend Jean Marie Ward’s ‘Fixed’ from The Modern Fae’s Guide to Surviving Humanity: http://jeanmarieward.com/books/excerpt-fixed/

About the Author:
Gail Z. Martin writes epic fantasy, urban fantasy and steampunk for Solaris Books and Orbit Books. Vengeance: A Darkhurst novel, is the second in a new epic fantasy series for Solaris (coming April, 2018). Her Deadly Curiosities urban fantasy series set in Charleston, SC has a new novel, Vendetta, and a new collection, Trifles and Folly. Spells, Salt, and Steel is the first in another new urban fantasy series set in upstate Pennsylvania.

Other work includes the Chronicles Of The Necromancer series, the Fallen Kings Cycle, the Ascendant Kingdoms series, the Deadly Curiosities urban fantasy series, and Iron & Blood (co-authored with Larry N. Martin)

Find her at www.GailZMartin.com, on Twitter @GailZMartin, on Facebook.com/WinterKingdoms, at DisquietingVisions.com blog and on Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/GailZMartin.