Out just in time for Halloween, Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing has published Cemetery Plot, the debut novel by local writer, North Raleigh News columnist, and WUNC “The State of Things” director Alex Granados. I first met Alex through a pre-interview phone call, and before long he had joined the Bull Spec team as an associate fiction editor, helping me decide on stories, offer some story edits here and there, and contributing an article here and there as well. I’ve been very excited to start reading, and to start reading about, his post-apocalyptic novel of a planet overcrowded with cemeteries.
By Alex Granados: The Hardest Part?
SOME PEOPLE MAY SAY writing, editing or some other part of the creative process. Perhaps just coming up with ideas is a struggle for many. But the hardest part about writing is trying to get someone to pay attention.
I started writing when I was in elementary school. Accolades came easy. When nobody around you is interested in anything much beyond recess or snack time, creating a short story gives you serious teacher credit.
It was Halloween and I wrote some schlock about zombies attacking people holed up in a house or something like that. In any other setting it would have been considered crap. But as a fourth grader in a disinterested elementary school class, it was award-winning stuff. At least as far as the teacher and the other students were concerned.
Same thing in middle school and high school. People are quick to credit your talent when everybody around you is asleep at their desk. But trying to be a writer in the real world — that’s a different thing.
I would say we are “a dime a dozen,” but clichés are bad writing, and besides, I think we’re even more plentiful than that. Just try sending out a short story to five, 10, 50, 100 different websites, magazines, blogs, agents, etc, and prepare yourself for two things: constant rejection or silence. All those venues are inundated with proposals by writers who think, or hope, they are moments away from stardom. You almost have to think that in order to keep plugging away. But we can’t all be right.
Short stories are bad enough, but try writing a novel. Slog away for months, living with wild mood swings, alternately thinking that you are creating either the next “Ulysses” (when you are in a good mood) or the next “insert name of worst novel ever here” (when you feel like giving up). Then, at the end, having used up time better spent with loved ones, watching television or eating cake, send out queries to hundreds of agents. Wait. Silence. More silence. Rejection. More rejection. Maybe every once in a while an agent will say something nice before telling you “no thanks.” More often, you just get a form letter. You don’t even warrant a personalized “get bent.”
My first novel came out October 31st. It’s being put out by a great indie press called Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing. Meanwhile, I have a stack of other novels that I’m shopping around to the void of silence and rejection, hoping that one day, some more acceptance will slip through.
That is the hardest part.
“The Hardest Part” is hardly the first stop on the Granados guest blog tour to launch his book. He’s already had a TBR interview and a Character Interview by Sarah J Carr. So far the book is only available through Amazon, in both paperback and Kindle. But it should be available from other stores and in other formats soon, along with several opportunities to catch Alex at a reading event in November (see below). [Goodreads]
4 (Sunday) 2 pm — Alex Granados reading and signing Cemetery Plot at McIntyre’s Books in Fearrington Village in Pittsboro. (See above for book info.)
9 (Friday) — Granados at The Storetellers Bookstore in Wake Forest, during the town’s Art after Hours event.
13 (Tuesday) 7:30 pm — Granados at Chapel Hill’s Flyleaf Books.
15 (Thursday) 7 pm — Granados at Durham’s The Regulator Bookshop.
From Monday’s reading:
The Kingmakers is book 3 of their Vampire Empire trilogy. The reading here (sorry for sound quality, just iPhone built in mic) is from The Rift Walker, book 2. Book 1, The Greyfriar, along with the rest of the series are out in print and ebook from Pyr. The series is also being released in audio by Buzzy Multimedia, read by James Marsters, with The Greyfriar already out and The Rift Walker in post-production.
As was done in 2010 and 2011, here are collected the books and other related things from local and regional authors, artists, and other related creators since the last holiday gift-buying season. Note: as this is a first draft, there will be some additions and further explanations made, along with more links provided to buy the books from your local bookstores.
SEASONAL: (I can’t imaging having this category every year, but this year there is one specifically holiday-themed book.)
- Anthology: A Cosmic Christmas edited by Hank Davis (Baen, Nov 6), which includes stories by Mark L. Van Name (“Lobo, Actually”) and the late Manly Wade Wellman (“On the Hills and Everywhere”) [IndieBound | Goodreads]
- The Prince Who Fell from the Sky by John Claude Bemis (Random House, May 22), which is a wonderful story of talking, well-characterized animals (packs of wolves, dens of bears, and delightful, delightful rats) in a future, human-less Earth on which a boy has crash-landed, and of the mother bear who comes to protect him [IndieBound | Goodreads] (8 and up)
- The Death of Yorik Mortwell by Stephen Messer (Random House/Yearling, Sep 11) — out last year in hardcover, this year an even more affordable paperback edition and still great-looking, Gris Grimly-illustrated story of the ghost of a boy and the manor house he finds himself haunting [IndieBound | Goodreads] (8 and up)
- Darwen Arkwright and the Insidious Bleck by A.J. Hartley (Razorbill, Nov 21) — book two in bestselling Charlotte author Hartley’s first series for young readers, after 2011’s Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pact which was released in paperback in September — “Eleven-year-old Darwen Arkwright’s life changed forever when he first set foot in Silbrica, the wondrous and magical world beyond the mirror.” [IndieBound | Goodreads]
- Enchanted (Woodcutter Series, #1) by Alethea Kontis (Harcourt Children’s, May 8) — “It isn’t easy being the rather overlooked and unhappy youngest sibling to sisters named for the other six days of the week. Sunday’s only comfort is writing stories, although what she writes has a terrible tendency to come true.”
- Also: check out some of the GRAPHIC NOVELS and COMICS below, including Princeless, Dragonbreath, and A Wrinkle in Time
- Eternally Yours (Immortal Beloved #3) by Cate Tiernan (Hachette/Poppy, Nov 6, 2012) — hardcover and ebook — book #2 came out in hardcover and audiobook in January, and a paperback edition was released in October [IndieBound | Goodreads]
- The Suburban Strange by Nathan Kotecki (Houghton Mifflin, Oct 2) — hardcover — Durham author’s first novel, with another chance on Nov. 12 at The Regulator Bookshop to hear him read and have him sign and personalize a copy — “A supernatural coming of age novel–the first book in a dynamic and dramatic new series–about the shy Celia Balaustine and a mysterious group of misfits at her new high school, Suburban High” [IndieBound | Goodreads]
- A Million Suns by Beth Revis (Razorbill, January 2012) — book two in rural NC author Revis’ Across the Universe sf series after Across the Universe [IndieBound | Goodreads]
- Invisible Sun (Black Hole Sun, #2) by David Macinnis Gill (Greenwillow, Mar 27) — book two after 2010’s Black Hole Sun in Wilmington-area author Gill’s series for teens set on a post-apocalyptic Mars being re-colonized by Earth
- Also: check out The Kingmakers by Clay and Susan Griffith, under FANTASY below
- Pilgrim of the Sky by Natania Barron (Candlemark & Gleam, Dec 2011) — “Just when Maddie Angler thinks she’s over the death of her longtime boyfriend, Alvin, she discovers that he’s not only alive, but he may just be part god. And a killer. Now it’s up to her to unite Eight Worlds she didn’t even know existed in the first place, before chaos reigns.” [IndieBound | Goodreads]
- Greatshadow and Hush by James Maxey (Solaris, Jan and June 2012) — As much as I focus on telling people how fun these books are — crazy powers, an elevator pitch of “Pirates of the Caribbean meets X-Men meets Dragonhunter” — I also have to highlight how much creativity is at work here, along with some good, hard looks at love, death, belief, and truth [IndieBound | Goodreads]
- When We Were Executioners by JM McDermott (Night Shade Books, February 2012) — book two of McDermott’s Dogsland Trilogy after 2011’s Never Knew Another [IndieBound] — paperback
- The Dread by Gail Z. Martin (Orbit, Jan 31) — Martin’s 6th book set in her Winter Kingdoms setting, after the four-book Chronicles of the Necromancer and 2011’s The Sworn [IndieBound] — paperback, ebook, and audiobook
- The Kingmakers by Clay and Susan Griffith (Pyr, Sep 2012) — concluding book in the Vampire Empire trilogy (The Greyfriar, The Rift Walker) which is a swashbuckling mashup of alternate history, vampires, Steampunk, and fantasy [IndieBound | Goodreads] — book one, The Greyfriar, this year was released in digital audio download and audio CD by NC-based Buzzy Multimedia, read by James Marsters (“Spike” on Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
- A Wild Epidemic of Magic by Michael Jasper (July 2012) — book 2 in Wake Forest author Jasper’s Contagious Magic series after A Sudden Outbreak of Magic which is itself due out in digital audio download from Audible and iTunes any day now [IndieBound | Goodreads]
- Shadows Before the Sun (Charlie Madigan #4) by Kelly Gay (Pocket, July 31) — the continuing urban fantasy adventures of Detective Charlie Madigan
- All Spell Breaks Loose (Raine Benares, #6) by Lisa Shearin (Ace, May 29) — the continuing fantasy adventures of Raine Benares
- Raven Cursed (Jane Yellowrock, #4) , Have Stakes, Will Travel (Jane Yellowrock, #4.5), and Death’s Rival (Jane Yellowrock, #5) by Faith Hunter (Roc) — “Jane Yellowrock is a shapeshifting skinwalker you don’t want to cross—especially if you’re one of the undead…”
- Thieftaker (Thieftaker Chronicles, #1) by D.B. Jackson (Tor, July 3) — David B. Coe’s new pen name for an historical fantasy series set in Boston 1765
- Lost Things: The Order of the Air by Melissa Scott and Jo Graham (Crossroad Press, May) — “In 1929 archeologists began draining Lake Nemi in search of the mysterious ships that have been glimpsed beneath its waters since the reign of Claudius. What they awakened had been drowned for two thousand years. For a very good reason.”
- The Way of the Sword and Gun by Stuart Jaffe (January 11) — Book 2 of Jaffe’s Malja Chronicles, “Xena meets Mad Max in this Post-Apocalyptic Fantasy series.“
- Update: Extracted (Book 1 of The Pioneers Saga) by William Stadler (Oct 20) — Raleigh author Stadler is set to release book two of this series on Dec 12, and book three early next year [Kindle]
- Stellarnet Rebel and Stellarnet Prince by J.L. Hilton (Carina Press, January and November) — a medium future sf combining elements of video games, blogging, aliens, and indeed well done sex scenes [Goodreads] in ebook and digital audio download from Audible and iTunes
- No Going Back by Mark L. Van Name (Baen, May) — Van Name’s latest in his Jon & Lobo series, with the last two books in particular being quite powerfully written adventure sf and each perfect jumping-in places [IndieBound | Goodreads] hardcover, ebook, and digital audio download (the entire series is now available in digital audio download from Audible and iTunes)
- Guardian of Night by Tony Daniel (Baen, Feb 7) — local author Daniel returns to sf with a new space opera/adventure, “For alien Commander Arid Ricimer there was no going home. His species was winning the war with Earth, but the civilization he had fought for was gone, destroyed from within by ideologues and bureaucrats. So he does the only thing that makes sense to a person of integrity—he attempts to defect to Earth with his officers and an entire spaceship, a vessel that mounts a superweapon of almost unimaginable power.”
- CassaFire by Alex J. Cavanaugh (Dancing Lemur Press, Feb 28) — book two in this NC author’s space adventure series after 2010’s CassaStar — [IndieBound | Goodreads] in paperback and ebook (Kobo, Nook, Kindle)
- Exogene and Chimera by TC McCarthy (Orbit, February and August) — books two and three in South Carolina author McCarthy’s near future military sf Subterrene War series, after 2011’s excellent debut Germline, here following first a rogue genetically engineered soldier behind and around enemy lines, and then a US operative whose mission is to hunt down and “retire” such rogue soldiers — mass market paperback and audiobook
- Into the Hinterlands by David Drake and John Lambshead (Baen) — out last year in hardcover, here a mass market paperback release of book one of the Drake-plotted, Lambshead-written space adventure which recasts the story of George Washington in an interstellar conflict [IndieBound | Goodreads]
- The Reporter by Scott Sigler and Mur Lafferty (ebook) — Durham author Lafferty teams with best-selling Sigler on a novella in Sigler’s sf football series The All-Pro
- Stargate SG-1: Moebius Squared (SG-1 22) and STARGATE ATLANTIS: The Furies (Stargate Atlantis, #19) and STARGATE ATLANTIS: Secrets (Stargate Atlantis #20) by Jo Graham and Melissa Scott (Fandemonium)
- The Fifth World by Jacob Foxx (Electronic Sound and Print) — “In the early twenty-second century, the earth is dying, reeling from the effects of a brutal nuclear war. To save humanity, an international alliance called the Consortium seeks to build a new homeland on a distant planet called Gaia. To send the first wave of settlers, the Consortium constructs an enormous starship called the Ark, which will allow them to reach Gaia and begin rebuilding humanity.”
COLLECTIONS: (Several short stories by the same author.)
- Disintegration Visions by J.M. McDermott (Apex, March 2012) — McDermott’s fictions are creative, imaginative, and often lush and darkly written mythic fantasy [IndieBound] — also new this year for McDermott was a digital audio download for Last Dragon, his absolutely amazing debut fantasy novel, read by Cori Samuel for Iambik Audio
- At the Mouth of the River of Bees: Stories by Kij Johnson (Small Beer Press, August 2012) — Hugo and Nebula (among other) Award winning author Kij Johnson moved to Kansas to begin teaching after finishing up her MFA at NC State, and this collection, somehow her first, gives readers a delightful smorgasbord of the fantastic to sample [IndieBound | Goodreads]
- Night & Demons by David Drake (Baen, October 2012) — a wide-ranging collection of Drake’s short fiction, including a few not previously collected, with significant new introductions and retrospectives by the author [IndieBound | Goodreads] — paperback
- Update: The Collected Kessel by John Kessel (Baen, November 15) — Collecting 42 of Kessel’s stories, including Nebula winners “Another Orphan” and “Pride and Prometheus”, organized by category with category introductions, and new story notes for every story [Baen] — ebook
ANTHOLOGIES: (Collections of stories from multiple authors, commonly along a theme or other selection criteria.)
- Digital Rapture: The Singularity Anthology edited by James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel (Tachyon, August 2012) — long-standing professor of literature and writing at NCSU Kessel has teamed with co-conspirator Kelly on number of anthologies, and here collects stories presenting posthuman futures [IndieBound | Goodreads]
- Durham author Richard Dansky appeared in several new anthologies in 2012, including Don’t Read This Book (actually scary stories, also including fellow Durham author Mur Lafferty), The New Hero (Dansky’s long-awaited “pirate rabbi” story!), Maelstrom: Tales of Madness and Horror, and Dark Faith: Invocations
- Gimme Shelter (ebook) is an anthology of zombie apocalypse survival, and includes a story by Lafferty
- Shotguns v. Cthulhu (Pelgrane/Stone Skin Press, Nov 1) features, well, shotguns and Cthulhu, with cover art by local game designer Jason Morningstar and a story from Chapel Hill author Natania Barron
- Spells and Swashbucklers includes a story by Greenville author Danny Birt and NC author Stuart Jaffe, among other tales of “Magic, monsters, mayhem…AND PIRATES”
- Update: Stupefying Stories 2.1 is edited by Hillsborough’s M. David Blake, with several local and regional contributors. Ebook-only: http://stupefyingstories.blogspot.com/2012/11/stupefying-stories-21-110-released.html
GRAPHIC NOVELS, MANGA, and COMICS:
- Dragonbreath: Revenge of the Horned Bunnies (Dragonbreath, #6) and Dragonbreath #7: When Fairies Go Bad by Ursula Vernon (Dial Press) — Hugo Award winning graphic novelist Vernon’s continued adventures of Danny Dragonbreath (ages 8 and up)
- A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel by Hope Larson (FS&G, Oct 2) — Asheville’s own (though indeed she now makes her home in California) Larson adapts L’Engle’s beloved book for the graphic novel format (ages 10 and up)
- Princeless Book One: Save Yourself by Jeremy Whitley and M. Goodwin (Action Lab) — collections issues one through four of this fun, all-ages comic which features a princess who does not simply sit around waiting to be rescued, written by local writer Whitley
- The Order of Dagonet by Jeremy Whitley and Jason Strutz (Firetower, now Action Lab) — Whitley teams up with local artist Strutz on this quite funny story: “A Different Kind of British Invasion: When the mythological faerie creatures of England return to wreak havoc on modern day England, the call goes out to our only hope: the Knights of England. Unfortunately, it’s the Order of Dagonet that answers the call. A special order of knights created just for the entertainers of England, these actors, authors and rockstars must face the faerie invasion to save the world. Heaven help us all.” — just being re-released by Action Lab, for a perfect and inexpensive stocking stuffer
- Update: Shakespeare Shaken edited by Enrica Jang (Red Stylo Media, August) — includes work by locals Gabriel Dunston, Jeremy Whitley, and Jason Strutz
- Update: The Stars Below by local writer Zack Smith, art by Rich Ellis — a moving comic without words about a lonely pigeon in NYC [Comixology]
- Geek Mom: Projects, Tips, and Adventures for Moms and Their 21st-Century Families (Potter Craft, Oct 30) — Wired’s GeekMom blog gets a book, with local author Natania Barron a contributor; a book event is set in December at Chapel Hill Comics [IndieBound]
- A Steampunk’s Guide to Sex (Combustion Books, Nov 17) — includes contributions from at least one local writer, with a local launch party Nov 17 at Pittsboro’s Davenport & Winkleperry
- Formatting Comics for the Kindle and Nook (should be updated soon for the newest wave of tablets, hopefully in time for XMas): http://michaeljasper.net/2011/03/28/new-ebook-formatting-comics-for-the-kindle-and-nook/
- Formatting and Selling Ebooks: http://michaeljasper.net/2012/09/07/formatting-and-selling-ebooks-2012-version/
- Pizzula by David Foland, illustrated by Jason Strutz — how indeed would you classify the illustrated story of a the last bite of pizza turned vampire?
- by Bully Pulpit Games — “On a remote planet far from civilization, the worst criminal scum from a dozen star systems have been dumped, charged with building new lives under the watchful eye of Authority. Within a brutal hierarchy of savagery and servility, convicts and guards alike must make hard choices. Every colonist has their own code of conduct and their own aspirations—aspirations that invariably come at the expense of others. This dangerous new world is too small for everyone to succeed. In fact, it may well be too small for anyone to succeed. Only the shrewdest, the toughest and the luckiest will get a chance to find out. Will you be among them?
- is the latest game from designer Jason Morningstar, author of the award-winning game
- . It is a fast-paced, low-prep, highly collaborative game designed for 3-5 players and one or more sessions of play and includes a detailed, engaging science fiction setting.
- began as an entry to the
- design competition and was produced with the support of backers in a very successful
Other/To Be Categorized/etc.:
- John G. Hartness [Goodreads]
- Nancy A. Collins [Goodreads]
- A long list of authors and books I haven’t added yet!
And, of course, subscriptions to Bull Spec! No, seriously, it is of course the “gift which keeps on giving”, with an issue (or more, if you back-date the subscription) to open under the tree, and more issues throughout next year. Don’t forget to get one for yourself!
There have been – and are yet to come! – a long list of novels, anthologies, comics, graphic novels, and other related goodies published by or including local authors and artists and other local and regional creators this year. So, like we’ve done in 2010 and 2011, I want to put together a holiday shopping guide for 2012. But! I need your help. So comment here or on Facebook, or reply on Twitter, or just email me. What am I looking for?
- Novels, primarily in print or physical media (for audiobooks) and able to be ordered through IndieBound, but if it’s otherwise available in print or available on Kobo, I’ll round up those books and links as well — heck, if it can be gifted (I know that works for Audible and Kindle titles) it can be included
- Anthologies either edited here or including story, art, etc. from local and regional creators (see above for formats)
- RPG manuals
- Graphic novels
- Other stuff I should include?
It looks like I am going on AM 680/850 WPTF to talk about the holiday guide on Saturday, October 27 at 3 pm with Joe Wade Formicola. So please get your book info to me before then, OK? We’ll also hopefully have time to talk up the Teen Writing Contest and upcoming events. But who knows! You’ll have to tune in to find out.
As for “other stuff”, basically for the local/regional awards eligibility roundup post early next year, such as short story publications for example, let’s hold off on those for now and focus on things that people can (or will shortly be able to) buy as holiday gifts this year.
by Andrew Neal
You know who I love? I love Brandon Graham. Well, I love his comics. I don’t know him very well… yet. If you know me from the comic industry, either as my customer or as another comics professional, there’s a really good chance you know how hung up I am on Brandon Graham’s stuff.
But check this out: I’m writing a column for a science fiction magazine now, so it’s chance to preach, not only to a ton of folks who don’t know how much I love Brandon Graham’s comics, but who might not even know who he is! Let’s fix that situation right now.
The story in Prophet is fairly different from the story in King City: Graham has described it as being like Conan in space, and it’s tough to get away from that description, because it’s so apt. This is science fiction, but not hard Arthur C. Clarke stuff. This is Thousands of Years in the Future Pulp Science Fiction. It’s full of monsters and mutants, and John Prophet eats a lot of them. Monster meat has a lot of protein! This series is ongoing now, and the first six issues are collected in a full color paperback for just ten bucks. Another great value.
Wait, there’s one more comic I want to talk about. It’s called Multiple Warheads: Alphabet to Infinity. It’s not out yet, but it will be at the end of October. This one is about an organ smuggler named Sexica with a werewolf boyfriend. Graham is writing and drawing, and this one should be more similar thematically to King City than Prophet. There was actually a Multiple Warheads comic several years back. It is unfortunately out of print now, but you won’t need to have read it to jump into this series.
Right now you may be asking yourself, “Where will I get these fine comics and graphic novels over which Andrew is going completely bonkers?” and that’s when I slap you with some cold hard knowledge: BAM! I have a comic book store in Chapel Hill, and not only that, my comic book store will be hosting a signing for Brandon on October 27, from 5pm until 7pm (That “yet” in the first paragraph wasn’t just hopeful)! We’ll have copies of Prophet, King City, and Multiple Warheads (including an exclusive Multiple Warheads Launch Tour cover) as well as some of Graham’s previous work.
That’s right. I just co-opted my science fiction review column to tell you about a signing at my comic book store. It’s like I’m getting paid to advertise for myself. Is this the finest example of synergy to be found in the annals of Bull Spec, or just an example of how I have absolutely no shame in my game? It’s both, y’all.
But seriously. Even if you don’t live near my store, you should hunt these comics down. I love them, and I bet a lot of you will as well.
British author David Tallerman‘s short story “The Burning Room” appeared in Bull Spec #4 and was later included in Ellen Datlow’s online Full Honorable Mention List for Best Horror of the Year volume 4. Tallerman has published dozens and dozens short stories across fantasy, science fiction, and horror, and what I’ve managed to get my hands on has been of the spookier or more serious variety; as a comment on his December 2010 story “Jenny’s Sick” at Lightspeed Magazine describes his stories, “Haunting, but with a distinct narrative tone.” Yet early this year, Angry Robot published Tallerman’s debut novel, Giant Thief, featuring a sarcastically and darkly funny thief who manages to find himself in possession of, if indeed one can possess such a thing, a stolen giant, alternately stomping and bumbling his way across a low fantasy landscape, in and out of trouble, castles, boats, and carriages. Here, Tallerman writes about the hardest part of writing the recently-released sequel, Crown Thief.
I always wanted my second novel, Crown Thief, to stand on its own. As a reader, little bugs me more than getting to the final page of a book and realising that “end” means “now wait for the next installment.” I think that has as much to do with my childhood reading habits as anything; as a kid I’d load up on library books, not paying attention to much besides the covers and back blurbs. Nothing was more frustrating that getting one home and realising I couldn’t read it because I’d missed the previous five volumes, or else discovering that all I’d been reading was a taster for umpteen sequels.
Still, childhood prejudices aside, doesn’t anyone who picks up a book deserve a complete story for their money? Sure, there’s a lot to be said for the megaseries, especially when it comes to fantasy, a genre uniquely suited to telling preposterously large and epoch-spanning tales. Even then, though, it seems to me that the casual reader, the reader who impulse buys because they like a cover or blurb, shouldn’t get completely short changed. How hard is it to make a middle volume readily pickupable, or to wrap it up in a way that makes the next part a choice rather than an obligation?
Well … as it turns out, it’s pretty hard.
It didn’t take me long to realise that writing a book that feels complete but also picks up existing characters and threads and themes – and also paves the way for a planned third installment – is no easy order. It quickly occurred to me that I find it almost as irritating when a writer goes to great lengths reintroducing people and places I already know from a previous volume. And how to get around the fact that the early portions of Crown Thief involved characters backtracking over terrain they’d covered in my first book Giant Thief? What was new to one reader could soon get tired for another, while it would be all too easy to leave new readers feeling stranded.
What I ended up with was a kind of writerly multiple personality disorder. I always try and have an imaginary reader in mind, or perhaps just to keep a portion of my brain stuck in reader mode, watching over my mental shoulder to remind me what I wouldn’t stand for if I’d paid money to read my work. With Crown Thief, that reader acquired a sibling, with a whole different set of tolerances and prejudices. Keeping them both satisfied was a balancing act; it also meant accepting that I couldn’t always win. There’d inevitably be pages where the new reader was slightly befuddled or the returning reader felt a little patronised; the best I could hope was to ensure that the one never went too long without a crucial dose of background information, while the other had more than enough in Crown Thief that was fresh and different to Giant Thief that they’d forgive the occasional unwanted recap.
Did I pull it off? I hope so. I felt like I had when I reached the end, but it was definitely a weight off when an early reviewer began by pointing out that they hadn’t read Giant Thief and had enjoyed Crown Thief regardless. At the least, I’m pretty sure my younger self would have been satisfied had he snatched it up from a library shelf.
Tallerman’s Giant Thief is also available in unabridged audio from Angry Robot on Brilliance Audio, narrated by James Langton. Crown Thief is just out from Angry Robot in mass market paperback and ebook.
A couple of interesting things going on this weekend:
- This weekend (Oct 13-14) is Sci-Fi & Fantasy Literary Weekend at the Carolina Renaissance Festival in Huntersville, NC (a bit northeast of Charlotte, between I-77 and I-85). Among other authors involved, Charlotte epic fantasy author Gail Z. Martin and adventure fantasy author Misty Massey will be participating. There’s also a costume contest and other activities.
- Meanwhile in Durham, on Sunday newly opened Atomic Empire (formerly Sci-Fi Genre) hosts 2012’s North Carolina State Championship Magic (the Gathering) Tournament. Registration opens at 9:00 a.m. and the first round begins at 10:00 a.m.
Portland author Tina Connolly is a Clarion West graduate and the author of a long and growing list of well-received short stories, including “Selling Home” in Bull Spec #6. She’s also a podcast narrator, both out and about on several podcasts and on her own, the bite-sized fiction podcast Toasted Cake, which won this year’s Parsec Award for best new podcast. Her just-released debut fantasy novel Ironskin tells a story which is more complex than the intriguing but reductive tagline “Jane Eyre with fairies” conveys, and mapping out the muddy middle of this more complex plot was the hardest part of its writing.
“Jane Eliot wears an iron mask. It’s the only way to contain the fey curse that scars her cheek. The Great War is five years gone, but its scattered victims remain—the ironskin. When a carefully worded listing appears for a governess to assist with a “delicate situation”—a child born during the Great War—Jane is certain the child is fey-cursed, and that she can help.”
“Middle-Muddles and Lockpicking Tools” by Tina Connolly
THE MUDDLE IN THE middle. That’s the hardest part for me. Or count it as the doors between acts, maybe.
Ironskin was my 7th book, and the most structurally complex of any book so far. Well. The most complex of any book *finished.* I naturally write short (flash! It’s a GREAT length) and so for a long time I had piles and piles of Chapter Ones littering my hard drive, with no idea what to do next. Eventually I attacked this roadblock in a couple ways—first, by writing a couple romance novels (because they had a very solid structure to follow) and then, several years later, by writing middle-grades. I wrote two MGs and then a YA, each one slightly longer and more complex. But none of them were really complex—they all had a pretty neat and tidy structure—you know, like a farce, for example. Complications pile up, but there’s a clear throughline to where you’re going. (I still rather love the shortest of the MGs, and it has a very thoroughly structured plot—think something vaguely like Jumanji, where every chapter is the next crazy event that happens.)
But Ironskin is not a farce, and it’s meant to be more organic. It started life as a novella (with a lot of extra stuff left over, and a lot more left to say.) At some point while I was struggling with arranging it into a book-length arc (and despairing), someone pointed out the similarities to Jane Eyre. That gave me the structural key to turning my piles of scenes and ideas into a plot. (And thematically it worked beautifully—I think my subconscious was several jumps ahead of me.)
Things started improving. Until I ran into the same problem I had with previous novels—that of getting stuck at the doors between acts. You start off in the beginning, full of steam—so much to say! But then the door opens into act 2. You turn the corner. And . . . what? How do you complicate things up? And then, after you’ve complicated them . . . the door to act 3 comes along. How do you wind them all back up?
But at some point, muddle-middles aside, the book takes on a life of its own. Themes organically come out and you find the important things you’re trying to talk about. You stop trying to make the plot do things, and look at what puzzle pieces fit in with the puzzle you already have. IE, it turns out this book is about X. So in this hole, what else do I want to say about X? Or, Jane’s character shows that she often does Y. I need to reinforce Y in this hole.
So I learned a lot while writing this book. It was the most challenging story I’d attempted and finished. I’ve written 2 books since Ironskin—I wrote a complete YA while we were shopping Ironskin that I haven’t done anything with yet. And then I wrote the sequel, while baby-wrangling. (THAT will be the subject of “the hardest part” post for book 2, lol!) And I’m noticing with relief that what I learned is still bearing fruit and even improving. My process is getting better. (Slowly.) The muddle in the middle is still, yes, a great muddly part where I curse the book and rue the day I started it and swear I’ll never it make it to the end. But I muddle through better these days. The doors into the acts aren’t shut and barred against me—or at least, I finally have a better set of lockpicking tools than that old credit card and hairpin. So there’s hope. . . .
Friday Updates: new events, Nathan Kotecki on Saturday, Hope Larson on Sunday, Kij Johnson on Tuesday, and more local author publication notesPosted: 5 October, 2012
As usual, as soon as I send out the newsletter I find out about publication news and events that I’ve missed. This month is no exception, although the events list is indeed exceptionally long. But first, some upcoming events:
- NEW: 6 (Saturday) 7 pm — Flyleaf Books hosts Durham author Nathan Kotecki for a reading and signing of his new Young Adult fantasy novel The Suburban Strange. More info: http://www.flyleafbooks.com/event/nathan-kotecki-reads-his-new-young-adult-fantasy-novel-suburban-strange
- 7 (Sunday) 2-4 pm: Graphic novelist (and Bull Spec #2 interviewee!) Hope Larson visits Chapel Hill Comics for a reading and signing from hew new adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time: https://www.facebook.com/events/506635952698280/
- 9 (Tuesday) 7:30 pm — Kij Johnson returns to the Triangle for a reading and signing of her new collection from Small Beer Press, At the Mouth of the River of Bees: Stories, at Quail Ridge Books. More info: http://quailridgebooks.com/event/kij-johnson-nebula-winner-new-stories
Local author publication notes:
- Karissa B. Sluss, short story “Deadest in Show” in Return of the Dead Men and Women Walking a horror anthology published by Bards and Sages: http://www.bardsandsages.com/deadmen
- Peter Wood, short story “All Your World’s a Stage” in Interstellar Fiction Oct 1: http://interstellarfiction.com/fiction/all-your-worlds-a-stage-by-peter-wood/ — along with an interview: http://interstellarfiction.com/nonfiction/contributor-qa/qa-with-peter-wood/
- A paperback edition of Stephen Messer’s middle grade fantasy novel The Death of Yorik Mortwell, illustrated by Gris Grimly, out from Random House Books for Young Readers: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8089200-the-death-of-yorik-mortwell
And here is that (very!) long list of “NEW-NEW” events in October and November:
NEW-NEW: 6 (Saturday) 7 pm — Flyleaf Books hosts Durham author Nathan Kotecki for a reading and signing of his new Young Adult fantasy novel The Suburban Strange. More info: http://www.flyleafbooks.com/event/nathan-kotecki-reads-his-new-young-adult-fantasy-novel-suburban-strange
NEW-NEW: 14 (Sunday) 10 am — Atomic Empire hosts the North Carolina State Championship Magic Tournament. Registration begins at 9, winner receives invite to the national championships in Indianapolis. More info: http://www.atomicempire.com/2012s/
NEW-NEW: 18 (Thursday) 7 pm — Local authors Mark L. Van Name (The Wild Side anthology, Baen) and Clay Griffith (The Vampire Empire series, Pyr) will discuss urban fantasy at the Cameron Village library.
NEW-NEW: 23 (Tuesday) 7 pm — Durham author Nathan Kotecki visits The Regulator Bookshop for a reading and signing of The Suburban Strange. More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/241877642602182/
NEW-NEW: 5 (Monday) 7 pm: Quail Ridge Books hosts Cinda Chima for a reading and signing of her young adult fantasy novel The Crimson Crown, the fourth and final novel of her Seven Realms series. More info: http://www.quailridgebooks.com/event/cinda-chima-seven-realms-conclusion-crimson-crown
NEW-NEW: 10 (Saturday) 11 am — McIntyre’s Books hosts Ilie Ruby for her second novel, The Salt God’s Daughter, “Imbued with a traditional Scottish folktale and hints of Jewish mysticism”. More info: http://www.fearrington.com/village/calendar.asp?month=11&year=2012
NEW-NEW: 17 (Saturday) 3 pm — Quail Ridge Books hosts Morgan Keyes for a reading and signing of new “ages 10 and up” fantasy novel, Darkbeast. More info: http://www.quailridgebooks.com/event/morgan-keyes-new-fantasy-darkbeast
NEW-NEW: 19 (Monday) 6:30 pm — Local author Mark L. Van Name will host a NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) related writing workshop at the Cameron Village Library.
NEW-NEW: 30 (Friday) 7 pm — Cherie Priest returns to the Triangle, as Flyleaf Books hosts a reading and signing from her forthcoming Clockwork Century novel, The Inexplicables. More info: http://www.flyleafbooks.com/event/cherie-priest-reads-her-new-steampunk-adventure-inexplicables
NEW-NEW: 30 (Friday) 7 pm — Quail Ridge Books hosts Allie Condie for Reached, the conclusion of the #1 NYT bestselling “Matched” trilogy, a YA dystopia. More info: http://www.quailridgebooks.com/event/allie-condie-matched-trilogy-conclusion