STORYBUNDLE LIVE!

9561D84E-7F09-4667-A95C-8760A7B5FBC3Got a text from my friend Kirsten: “Picked up your Storybundle. This is a great deal!”

Kirsten’s a reader after my own heart. Voluminous, wide-ranging. It can be hard to keep up with our hunger for new worlds, new ideas. New adventures!

Kevin J. Anderson has helped fuel our bookish dreams with a new Storybundle of a dozen adventure SF books. Heads up: this bundle only runs for three weeks from August 29 through September 19. 

The bundle includes Anderson’s newly released collection, Selected Stories: Science Fiction Volume 1, (including his first piece of published science fiction, from back when Kevin was only 12!). You also get the Fiction River anthology Superpowers edited by Rebecca Moesta, and the new anthology Bridge Across the Stars, edited by Rhett Bruno.

The nine novels in this bundle range from wild adventure SF (Nobless Oblige by Uri Kurlianchik, Shadow of Ruin by Quincy J. Allen featuring Colt the Outlander from Heavy Metal magazine, created by the Aradio Brothers, and Steampunk Banditos, the new Felix Gomez novel by Mario Acevedo), to edgy thought-provoking science fiction (Albatross by R.A. MacAvoy and Yours Truly, and Crecheling by D.J. Butler), disaster black-hole thriller Singularity by Bill deSmedt, and solid, compelling science fiction The Soul Eater by Mike Resnick, The Application of Hope by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and Dry Creek Crossing by Dean Wesley Smith. Books enough to keep even Kirsten reading for a while.

With Storybundle, you name your own price, minimum of $5 for the base level of five titles, or $15 minimum for the full dozen.  And, what makes me most particularly happy: a portion goes to support Challenger Center for Space Science Education!

I am proud to support Challenger Center in making great science education materials available to teachers and students. And you can support space education, too, while joining Kirsten, me, and likeminded readers in ending summer with big adventures!

Follow this link for more info, or to get this Storybundle now! 

Happy as a Cat in a Box

IMG_7010Here’s Kyle on my desk, joining me in listening to the final chapters of the Albatross audiobook. Kyle APPEARS drowsy, but he is in fact purring busily.

As am I. Breaking open a bottle of elderflower and rose lemonade to celebrate! I’m so pleased with the way this project turned out. I hope to announce its availability for you soon.

Meanwhile, Kyle and I already have the first chapters of SHIMMER waiting for us to hear. Time to break out the catnip!

I’ve been sick recently, and minus the use of my right hand and arm. And we all know what pain and meds can do to you. However, I HAVE managed to do some reading of classics (Prisoner of Zenda…thank you, Project Gutenberg!) and some more contemporary books and stories. Watch for reviews coming soon.

And also maybe some photos of my new glove collection. Or maybe photos of Kyle with my glove collection. (Yes, he found that box too. But one cat photo per post, yes?)

 

 

 

A Voice Fills the Air

pexels-photo-185030.jpegOne of the best parts of my day: opening the digital file and listening to the sonorous voice of the Reader working his way through Albatross.

His audition recording impressed me very much. But I’m usually reading books rather than listening to them. So I did a simple market test, and checked in with a few friends who are audiobook people. John, who first asked me about getting Albatross  in audio, seemed a good place to start. I popped in on John while he was working, and played a clip.

Me: What do you think?

John: You need to hire that man RIGHT NOW.

The others who heard the sample had a similar response, and Bertie was herself delighted. So we did extend an offer, and he signed on. The chapters I’ve heard so far are really solid. I can hardly wait for you to hear them! I’ll post links as soon as the audiobook is available. And more on the man himself once the project’s wrapped.

Foz Meadows Sees Your Tropes and Uses Them for Silage

IMG_6889I was reading this book during the aftermath of a horrific mass murder in our local high school. This quote is really sticking with me: Apathy breeds more evils than defeat. So, you know, keep fighting. I kind of want it on a t-shirt. Thanks, Foz, for helping me get through this rough time. 

Spoiler warning: I usually try to avoid spoilers in my reader responses. I can’t really do that here; this book is too complex and so you’re fairly warned.

I present for your consideration An Accident of Stars, Book I of the Manifold Worlds, the ambitious portal fantasy by Foz Meadows. (Note 1) I say ambitious because it’s almost as though Foz sat down with a LIST OF PORTAL FANTASY TROPES, and went down the list intentionally reversing or dismantling each one. (My Foz quotes here are not actual quotes. It’s my imagination of her process, every time I’d see her turning some other expectation on its head.) Here’s a few:

  • Protagonist from “real” world is a Chosen One in the new world. Special gifts or powers. I can imagine Foz: “Ohellnoez. Normal girl.”
  • Protagonist is an orphan. Foz: “Nope. Nice family. Supportive. Conveniently offstage, but everybody’s alive and caring.”
  • Protagonist has Special Problems. Foz: “Nope. Sexual harassment at school, all the girls face it, and some (implied) have it worse.”
  • Adults Don’t Understand/Won’t/Can’t Intervene…well, okay, that trope sticks around but it feels like it’s making a point that Yes This Is What The Real World Is Like for Teens; especially resonant with the #metoo movement.
  • We follow the Protagonist through their journey to the other world, experience the world with them, then follow them home. Foz: “Y’know, let’s have another viewpoint right away, before we even get through the portal. And then, a bunch more. But we’ll actually let the main character change and grow, instead of just being a boring narrator placeholding for the reader.”
  • Guys have a bunch of adventures. Foz: Let’s have most of the major characters be females. Even the nominal villain, let’s have the real interesting one be his wife. Let’s see her more often, too. And…the warriors are women. And the religious leaders. And the guys are kind of sidelined, and it’s really not fair, let’s make that really visible! (To be fair, the male characters are also interesting, and the older one has some nuance. The younger one is less developed. But there’s only so much you can do in the space of one novel.)

 

(I can practically smell the burning rage coming from some folks who are still jammed up into the idea of ButFictionHasToLookTheWayIExpectItTo.)

It goes on and on. Instead of a love triangle or epic hetero romance, there are complex relationships: friendships, polyamory, parent/child, complex families, siblings, subject/ruler, worshiper/priestess, etc. We see trans representation, aromantic representation, genderqueer, bi…a whole rainbow of gender and sexual orientation. BUT unlike a number of fantasy novels I’ve read recently, these relationships aren’t painted in graphic detail. This keeps things more YA friendly (and, honestly, a number of my older friends have told me they’re a bit overwhelmed with the volume of sex in some recent fantasy novels, so I’m happy to point them here.)

I really admire the way Foz tackles Big Social Issues around gender, race, identity, religion, sexuality head on. Representation is so vital! And Foz dives in head first, into the deep end. Let’s be very clear: this is a book I don’t think I’d have had the nerve to tackle writing. At least, not without having seen Foz do it first. And maybe not even then, because parts of it are so honest. There’s a vulnerability in that, and some writers just aren’t comfortable opening themselves that way. I am blown away by this author’s determination to Not Shy Away From Hard Subjects.

Sometimes it feels as there may be too many issues being grappled with here to fit easily within the structure of one story. As a result, we get more exposition chunks than we might otherwise; that can pull the reader out of the story flow. The framework is solid: newcomer has to learn the new ways. But there’s so much complexity, so much to fit within that framework, that it feels a little forced sometimes. This wouldn’t keep me from recommending the book, though…(cue moment of personal reflection)… Sometimes exposition feels weighty because we’re being exposed to something outside our usual understanding. For example, I’ve never been in a polyamorous relationship; this may have made the explanations for the complex marriage customs seem longer to me than they actually were. (Note 2) (If my TBR pile weren’t so big, I’d re-read, with my self-evaluation glasses on.)

Back to the book. I like the magic systems, with their built-in flaws that keep things interesting. The world is complex, with some well-developed scenes that made me feel that I was really seeing the place the characters were experiencing. The plot is intricate and as tightly interwoven as the braids that are a recurring image in the novel. The characters are diverse, multi-dimensional, well thought out with their own motivations and goals.

Between themes, characters, worldbuilding, and plot … I wonder if An Accident of Stars might have been better served by being TWO books. Each of these areas left me wanting a bit more development. I wanted to see more of the characters, more of their worlds, have a bit more space to breathe around the social questions. But I understand that pacing is important, so I’m going to trust that Foz and her editors made these choices for reasons. (And leaving them wanting more is not generally seen as a bad thing.)

I’ll definitely be picking up Book Two. This was a really solid, ambitious work for a first novel. Congratulations to Foz for a trope-bashing extravaganza! And, hey Foz? You know…keep fighting.

(Note 3)

 

(Note 1) Foz and her husband came to my attention recently due to egregious and unfounded attacks by some hacks with more time than skill, in writing OR online detective work. I pulled this book to the top of my TBR pile as a gesture of solidarity. Because it’s not a good idea to let the malicious voices be the dominant ones in a conversation just because they’re loud and annoying.

(Note 2) It’s a good thing to read books that represent people who don’t look, act, love, believe just as you do. It strengthens our understanding, increases our ability to identify with other humans. It makes us better people. And if it makes us uncomfortable? Well, sometimes we need to be uncomfortable.

(Note 3) I read an early print version of this book. I understand that later versions have had the formatting errors corrected. 

Making Wonder: Metamorphosis

IMG_7369This tiny creature is an Atala butterfly. Once thought to be extinct, due to habitat loss and other human-induced causes, these shimmering bits of wonder have returned to South Florida through a collaborative effort and years of patience. We’d heard this success story, and my son and I wanted to be part of it. Atticus was, I think, mostly fascinated by the plants at first. Cycads, the slow-growing sole food source of the Atala caterpillar, coexisted with the dinosaurs. We were both enthused by the idea of a dinosaur garden. I set out to find plants. Atticus painstakingly chose prehistoric creatures from his collection.

A kindly stranger, met online, mailed to me a geneous number of coontie pups. These were the single-frond offspring of the many coontie in his Gainesville yard, and were meant for my son’s kindergarten class garden. We planted most of them there, but he sent so many that there were a few left over. We tucked those few into our little yard’s native landscaping. With care, three of the baby plants grew.  They do grow slowly, though. Very slowly. We settled in to wait. We bided our time, for a while, by staging elaborate dino dioramas. And learning about butterflies.

I’d travelled several towns over to a garden center that was rumored to have an Atala population. I THOUGHT I spotted one, but it was hard to be sure…they’re so small, and move so fast. And I’d never seen one before, so I couldn’t be sure.

About three years after planting the coontie, I saw the first Atala in the yard. The next year, there were two. The following year, none. A couple of years later, three or four. Gradually, especially after we replaced our ficus hedge with native plants, the butterflies became regular inhabitants. The plastic dinosaurs dotting the garden were eventually retired, and my son left the garden to his mother. But he enjoyed our annual watch over the metamorphosis: egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to adult.

This year, wow! This year saw a week when at least twenty butterflies PER DAY were emerging. We have, in my opinion, an established colony. It’s delightful to walk through the yard and see the Atala so close, so abundantly thriving. We’ve invited small children over to share the wonder, and it IS a wonder. Let me clarify the timeframe, though: it’s my son’s second year of college.

The butterflies aren’t the only ones who’ve gone through changes.

So it hits home. Creating a habitat for butterflies: how very like raising a child. How very like writing a book. Collaboration, with an intent toward a goal that’s not guaranteed,  and an outcome nobody can really predict. But in the end, wonder: a book. A new adult. A great cloud of shimmering butterflies.

You watch them, then you release them into the world with a wish and all the good energy you can muster. Then…you watch, and hope the world embraces them.

SHIMMER, sequel to ALBATROSS, is at the printer. Atticus is away at school, making theater magic. And South Florida has a great throng  of black and scarlet and dazzling blue butterflies. Keep your eyes open for all of them!