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  1. “What happens on Calchan Geal, stays on Clachan Geal” Chris Brookmyre was a journalist before becoming a full-time novelist with the publication of his award-winning debut Quite Ugly One Morning, which established him as one of Britain’s leading crime authors. His novels have sold more than two million copies in the UK alone, and Black Widow won both the McIlvanney Prize and the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year award. Chris Brookmyre’s 2022 island thriller, ‘The Cliff House,’ is written in quite an accessible way. I am not suggesting that this novel is written simplistically, but rather that it is written in a very familiar way, so one can connect with the narrative easily, although it concerns subject matters that I hope most people wouldn’t have had to endure (such as missing husbands, domestic violence and finding dead bodies in the kitchen). To say I think this book might have deserved a trigger warning for some of the content would be an understatement, Brookmyre writes in a familiar but blugeoningly unapologetic way, handling complex subjects and sensitive details skilfully, but occasionally the content could be at risk of upsetting some people. Jen has rented a luxury getaway for her hen do, an entire island off the Scottish coast, a location that influencers scramble for invites to and celebrities pay thousands and thousands to host elaborate parties and weddings at the large lavish mansion that resides on the Island of Calchan Geal. Luckily for Jen, there was a cancelation. So, she booked the island for her big weekend, inviting her nearest and dearest to join her. ‘I want you to feel the one true essence of the Clachan Geal experience: Splendid Isolation’ Little did they know that within hours of arriving on the island and being greeted by the host and owner, Lauren, that they would find a dead body in the kitchen, and they would realise how very alone they really are. ‘The Reaper: All for one and one for all. Six downloads short.” This thriller is focused on family, secrets, friendship, and survival (more types than one), Brookmyre successfully handles all areas of this novel by meticulously constructing the narrative from a variety of perspectives. Which includes Jen herself, her party guests as well as the islands owner. Bouncing from perspective to perspective is not as disorientating as it could be, and it actually makes it harder to guess who the ‘bad-guy’ character in this narrative is. ‘Not Everybody’s playing an angle’ One of the things I love about Brookmyre, is how he reminds you that he is a Scottish writer within his work. Occasionally, Brookmyre will use Scottish vernacular within his work, or mentions iron-bru, so you can never forget that this is a Scottish novel, written by a Scottish author, brilliant. As well as that, Brookmyre includes a plethora of contemporary (ish) references that help you position the narrative, as well as the characters themselves, and help to contextualise what he was trying to do in terms of setting and atmosphere. Such as relating Jen’s friend Michelle, or the famous singer Mica, to Adele, or talking about watching BBC’s 2009 series ‘Ashes to Ashes,’ (which was no where near as good as the series ‘Life on Mars’ which preceded it). Brookmyre uses references, and Scottish vernacular to position his novel as familiar and highlight that that characters could be anyone, and he does it well. ‘I haven’t been hiding the truth from your Beattie, I’ve been sparing you from it.’ I had not heard of Brookmyre until NetGalley recommended ‘The Cliff House,’ to me, but boy am I glad it did. A terrifying and triggering novel that I would recommend to anyone who loves adrenaline-fueled chaos and thrillers – but I would make sure people were suitably warned: ‘may contain references to dead bodies, violence and domestic violence.’ A cracking novel about a hen party I am glad I wasn’t invited to. https://www.brookmyre.co.uk/ Twitter: @cbrookmyre The post THE CLIFF HOUSE by Chris Brookmyre (BOOK REVIEW) appeared first on The Fantasy Hive. View the full article
  2. I’ve been messing up for years now. I mean, we all make mistakes, obviously. Big ones and small ones, writing-related and otherwise. But the mistake I’ve recently realized is very much related to my publishing career. And now that I’ve vowed to turn over this leaf for myself, I want to shout from the rooftops–to help others, let’s say, turn over their own leaves. Here’s the thing: it’s an easy mistake to make. If you’ve been lucky–and hard-working and persistent and stubborn and talented and about 83 other things, but especially lucky–enough to write and publish more than one book, your newest book is pretty much always the one topmost in your mind. After all, in some sense, you have to put the others behind to focus on the newest one. If you’re lucky (again, and other adjectives here) enough to write under contract with a publisher, the schedule on which you write the new book is dictated, and then when the book comes out, promotion happens right around one big On Sale date, a brief window where your book is New. So I’m not beating myself up about it, but for years, when I’ve introduced myself to new people as an author and they ask what I write, I start talking about my newest book. Sometimes it’s the most recent to come out, and sometimes it’s the one that’s coming out next, depending on where I am in the cycle. Hi, I’m Greer, I write books! What kind of books? Well, my new book Arca, the second in a fantasy series that’s kind of like a matriarchal Game of Thrones, comes out in March! And I have finally realized, while that’s exactly the right answer for a publishing crowd, it’s almost meaningless to civilians. People I meet at my kids’ school, or at a fondue party, or at the endodontist’s office, or wherever, don’t care about a specific book of mine. They don’t care about what’s new. I shouldn’t be focusing on that particular book. And if you have multiple books, and someone asks you about your work, you shouldn’t focus on your newest/latest book either. Don’t tell them what you’ve written. Tell them what you write. What I mean by that is, don’t start with specific titles. If you write in multiple genres, you don’t even need to start with genre, either. I write both historical fiction and epic fantasy, and the deeper I dive into one or the other of those, the more tempted I am to start listing titles, which is right about when people’s eyes start to glaze over. Hi, I’m Greer, I write books! What kind of books? Novels about extraordinary women. That isn’t where it ends, but that’s where it starts. Sometimes, that may be enough to trigger a follow-up question. If not, I could talk next about genre, or specific titles. I could ask the other person a question about what they like to read, and go from there. I could say that sometimes I draw inspiration from real-life figures, like Kate Warne, and ask if they know her story. I could talk about my matriarchal epic fantasy series, including the book that’s coming out next month–but only after setting the stage with the broader description. Because in the real world, by which I mean not the publishing world, your new book is no more important than any of your other books. Unless they’re very likely to have heard of your newest book because you’re, I don’t know, Tana French or something, the title isn’t going to ring a bell. Tell them who you are as an author. Then go from there to introduce your most relevant book to the conversation depending on who you’re talking to. It’ll be more natural. And your new friend might even be more likely to look up your book if you make an effort to connect. Q: Do you fall into the trap of always focusing on your newest book when talking to new people? If not, how else do you approach these conversations? [url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  3. While we all want to stay on top of what’s current about craft, be alerted to the latest conferences, and connect with fellow writers on social media, staying informed about the business side of writing and publishing is some (or many) might say, a necessary evil. To save you from spending hours scrolling through websites to find insights into the business side of writing, we’ve curated a list of recent posts for you to dig into or peruse at your leisure. We hope you’ll find value in these and share the links with anyone else who might want to keep up with the latest. Well, 2023 has started off with a publishing bang. Lots of news, everything from AI’s increasing presence to suggested prison time for our literary guardians who refused to remove banned books—our librarians. AI Artificial Intelligence and the growing questions and concerns surrounding it, continue to make headlines. A decade of research is generating a more powerful and more mature breed of A.I. A link to the best AI writing software. A writer lets her AI “assistant” write her bio with some pretty funny results, and editor and author, Tiffany Yates Martin, muses about what AI may mean for authors. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/01/07/technology/generative-ai-chatgpt-investments.html https://foxprinteditorial.com/2023/01/12/what-does-ai-mean-for-writers-i-asked-it/?fbclid=IwAR26nkrhkttyWECNyrPJWvq3u_dxurJeVJxBPHzXYAczbSjwHaR_SRnbK5Y https://www.thepassivevoice.com/25-best-ai-writing-software-for-2023-best-picks/ https://janeroper.substack.com/p/my-new-intern-helped-write-this-post?fbclid=IwAR2lAeNylq2XOOUhEiCp748sO8lDi3RFIlcZaJjTCdknH5YhpqmFI6xT5bA Audiobooks AI enters audiobook territory as Apple unveils AI narrated audiobooks. Will the rising demand for audiobooks create opportunity for authors or will new auto-narrated audiobook creation simply expand the offering of text-to-speech technology. And a boom in Spanish language audiobooks. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2023/jan/04/apple-artificial-intelligence-ai-audiobooks?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other&fbclid=IwAR1ehtu0IlGnu5TTRy9j9qAZoVy8PY8teNM9DsayOWIroc-PSq7FiM6BzAU https://medium.com/@elisechidleyauthor/audiobooks-the-future-of-publishing-d604c499be05 https://publishingperspectives.com/2023/01/bookwire-expands-its-text-to-speech-audiobook-offer-with-google-play-books/ https://publishingperspectives.com/2023/01/sonic-boom-spanish-language-audiobooks-are-soaring/ Book Banning and Book Shaming At least one state wants prison time for librarians who refuse to remove banned books, and a New York Times opinion piece takes a look back at the fallout from “American Dirt.” https://www.nbcnews.com/nbc-out/out-politics-and-policy/north-dakota-weighs-ban-sexually-explicit-library-books-rcna66271?cid=sm_npd_nn_tw_ma https://www.nytimes.com/2023/01/26/opinion/american-dirt-book-publishing.html Book Conferences Check out some of the book Conferences, Fairs and Festivals slated for the first half of 2023. https://admin.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/trade-shows-events/article/91209-select-book-conferences-fairs-festivals-january-june-2023.html?ref=PRH31DC42C11CC5&linkid=PRH31DC42C11CC5&cdi=321A47B01E594547E0534FD66B0AE227&template_id=6179&aid=randohouseinc45523-20 Bookstores In a surprising turnaround, Barnes & Noble plans to open 30 more stores. https://tedgioia.substack.com/p/what-can-we-learn-from-barnes-and?utm_source=substack&utm_medium=email&fbclid=IwAR2hhrdP7MJkRfe9voC9tCrEXBSJMdTyIFFacNDAMODWlrf8HqvXX43blz0 Environmental Concerns French publisher, Hachette Livre intends to use 100-percent renewable energy by 2026, by reducing overproduction, freight, and more. An shining example for publishers in the US? https://publishingperspectives.com/2023/01/frances-hachette-livre-a-30-percent-carbon-reduction-by-2030/ International Publishers The first report from the Börsenverein on the German book market’s 2022 performance depicts “a major economic challenge,” and the UK’s Independent Publishers Guild is planning a digital showcase of books in the guild’s collective stands at the London Book Fair in April of this year. https://publishingperspectives.com/2023/01/germanys-borsenverein-2022-book-sales-down-2-1-percent/ https://publishingperspectives.com/2023/01/exact-editions-to-showcase-ipg-publishers-books-at-london-book-fair/ Libraries Digital lends at libraries at record levels. How often do you borrow ebooks from the library? https://www.thepassivevoice.com/record-number-of-libraries-surpassed-one-million-digital-lends-in-2022/ Publishing News and Trends A new report says that publishers are planning to create most of their revenue through subscriptions and memberships. Also, with negotiations stalled, Random House and the union have agreed to employ an independent mediator to help end a strike that has stretched on since early November. And New York Magazine talks about what Penguin Random House’s Failed Bid to Eat S&S Means for Publishing. And Centrello, president and publisher of Random House, retires after 23 years. https://whatsnewinpublishing.com/brace-for-an-explosion-of-automated-or-semi-automated-media-publisher-insights-from-reuters-institute/ https://www.thepassivevoice.com/markus-dohles-big-flop-what-penguin-random-houses-failed-bid-to-eat-ss-means-for-publishing/ https://www.thebookseller.com/news/centrello-president-and-publisher-of-random-house-retires-after-23-years?ref=PRH31DC42C11CC5&linkid=PRH31DC42C11CC5&cdi=321A47B01E594547E0534FD66B0AE227&template_id=6179&aid=randohouseinc45523-20 https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/publisher-news/article/91377-harpercollins-harperunion-move-to-solve-labor-dispute-with-independent-mediator.html Publishing Predictions A look back at 2022 and a few predictions for audiobooks, digital sales, and self-publishing 2023. And it’s all good. More on the Harper-Collins strike. https://www.thepassivevoice.com/laurie-mcleans-crystal-ball-publishing-predictions-for-2023/ https://prismreports.org/2023/01/23/harper-collins-worker-author-solidarity/ Sales in 2022 Taking a look back at book sales from 2022 and making some not-so-certain predictions for 2023. https://publishingperspectives.com/2023/01/us-2022-sales-in-the-rear-view-mirror-second-highest-at-npd/ https://publishingperspectives.com/2023/01/aaps-october-statshot-us-revenues-down-5-1-percent-year-to-date/ Have you come across any opportunities or news dealing with the business side of publishing? I’d love to hear from you in the comments. [url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  4. Nils and Beth are back with another buddy read book review. This time round, one of their most anticipated books of the year! It’s been a long wait, will it be worth it? Amina al-Sirafi should be content. After a storied and scandalous career as one of the Indian Ocean’s most notorious pirates, she’s survived backstabbing rogues, vengeful merchant princes, several husbands, and one actual demon to retire peacefully with her family to a life of piety, motherhood, and absolutely nothing that hints of the supernatural. But when she’s tracked down by the obscenely wealthy mother of a former crewman, she’s offered a job no bandit could refuse: retrieve her comrade’s kidnapped daughter for a kingly sum. The chance to have one last adventure with her crew, do right by an old friend, and win a fortune that will secure her family’s future forever? It seems like such an obvious choice that it must be God’s will. Yet the deeper Amina dives, the more it becomes alarmingly clear there’s more to this job, and the girl’s disappearance, than she was led to believe. For there’s always risk in wanting to become a legend, to seize one last chance at glory, to savor just a bit more power…and the price might be your very soul. The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi is expected for release on 28th February 2023 and is available to pre-order: US – Bookshop.org | UK – Waterstones All quotes used are taken from an early ARC and are subject to change upon publication. What were you expecting going into this one? Beth: After absolutely loving the Daevabad trilogy, I couldn’t wait to explore a new world from Chakraborty. I think she’s become an auto-buy author for me, but also, because I’d read Daevabad with you Nils, I was very much looking forward to buddy reading her again. Nils: I felt the same, we had such a blast reading Daevabad together and Chakraborty is wonderful at creating stories and characters which hold enough depth and nuance to discuss in great detail, doesn’t she? They’re always so three dimensional. I was very much hyped for Amina Al-Sirafi, I’d been hearing about this book for over a year through Chakraborty’s Instagram page and every bit of it sounded like something I’d absolutely love. I wasn’t wrong. Beth: She’d been teasing us for quite some time! The tantalising little bits Chakraborty had been sharing about her new book, the extracts and art on instagram etc, really got me excited – I love a nautical/piratical fantasy, and Chakraborty was setting it in the Middle East, in the middle ages, with older protagonists and a female m/c. It was just everything that was ticking my boxes and after Daevabad and The Stardust Thief, I wanted to read more fantasy set in the Middle East inspired by mythology and folklore from that part of the world. Nils: I actually haven’t read any nautical fantasy books, or none which I can recall, so this was something new to me. Yet the idea of Amina being this infamous gutsy female pirate putting her crew back together for an adventure ticked all my boxes. I also knew it would feature themes of motherhood, cultural identity, and that it would be set in the Middle East with an ethnically diverse cast, so I was even more excited. What are our first impressions? Beth: Straight off the bat I knew this wasn’t going to let me down. Before we get to chapter one, we have a note from our narrator about the text we’re about to read, and I absolutely loved that. Nils: Same! The opening line begins with “In the name of God, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate” and for our narrator to be unapologetically a person who holds such strong faith, thoroughly warmed me. Beth: Yes, that’s such a great point! I’m so used to reading fantasy religions that are quite often based on Christianity; the only other fantasy I’ve read which includes the Muslim faith is Daevabad! I really enjoy framed narratives and taking into account the voice of the narrator as a character in of themself. As narrators go, they made me feel in perfectly safe hands, and throughout the story there are little breaks where our narrator interacts with our protagonist whose story they’re telling, and it just lifted the whole experience for me. Nils: I agree, having a framed narrative worked perfectly for this book, it added character and set the tone for the story which was about to unfold. It compelled me to dive right in. Get it, dive?!! Beth, how many nautical puns can we add??? Beth: Nils. No. Nils: It has to be done!! Beth: Stop making a splash Nils: Aye, aye! Beth: But going back to first impressions, the narrator’s note sets us up perfectly for a story of a woman who doesn’t allow age and motherhood to hold her back. When we actually meet Captain Amina al-Sirafi in the first chapter, she’s witty, she suffers no fools, and she leads us straight into action. It was such an exciting beginning, wasn’t it Nils! Nils: Absolutely! As soon as we meet Amina we realise how capable, strong willed, defiant and protective she is. Her first scene we see her facing a demon to save two witless teenagers from being devoured. Her legendary exploits certainly ring true and her personality fits the tales told about her, even if they are a little exaggerated. You know what I really wasn’t expecting though? The humour! The banter! As much as I love books which can make me cry, I’m also a sucker for ones which make me laugh. Chakraborty has shown she excels at both. Amina and her motley crew made me laugh beginning to end. Beth: I was expecting great banter and dialogue, but you’re right, I wasn’t expecting it to be quite so funny! “She looks like a giant.” His companion squeezed my bicep. “ By God, woman. What do you eat to be built like some sort of warhorse?” “Your father’s-” This time they hit me hard enough that I shut up. I was a bit disappointed there wasn’t a map in the arc! I had the UK version, and it’s absolutely gorgeous, with beautiful illustrations of waves between each chapter. But it says map to come and I’m gutted because I know it’s going to be something beautiful and intricately illustrated or something. I swear, this is how they get reviewers to still buy the book even after they’ve had an arc. I’ve gone ahead and pre-ordered the signed exclusive Waterstones edition… It will help to have a map reading this one though. I made a google map and saved the various locations mentioned! Nils: I had a beautiful US ARC which included the illustration of waves too and of a ship, I’m guessing Amina’s ship the Marawati, above each chapter number. However, I really wanted a map too, I wanted to visualise how far our characters had travelled and spot where they were headed next. Beth really helped by showing me pictures of all the locations she could find, they looked beautiful and looked like they held such charm. Beth: “Ok Chakraborty must be exaggerating here, her descriptions make this place sound –googles– wow no ok her descriptions are spot on” Let’s discuss the characters! Beth: Not to throw any dispersions on any other aspect of Chakraborty’s writing, as they most definitely do not deserve any, but her characters are hands down absolutely the best aspect of any of her books and The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi continue that tradition! Nils: Very true! I always instantly fall for Chakraborty’s characters too and I knew Amina would be no exception after I read this: “People have this idea of mothers, that we are soft and gentle and sweet. As though the moment my daughter was laid on my breast, the phrase I would do anything did not take on a depth I could have never understood before. This woman thought to come into my home and threaten my family in front of my child? She must not have heard the right stories about Amina al-Sirafi.” I love seeing fiercely protective mothers, and a large part of Amina’s motives are to keep her daughter, Marjana, safe. Beth: I loved what Chakraborty did here. The narrator’s note painted a picture of a fearsome pirate who sailed the seas making enemies in every port, tricking authorities, and living a successful life on the high seas. What we see now is an Amina who has retired, is living in the arse-end of nowhere with her mother and daughter, keeping her head as low as possible to hide her daughter from the various dangers created from such a colourful life. Her honesty immediately captivated me. She is fiercely protective of her daughter, and when she’s forced back to a life on the sea, that’s the key driving force. But I loved her willingness to accept that actually, there’s a part of her that wants to go back, that has missed being a nakhudda (captain). Mothers can only be motherly – I love how Chakraborty challenged this. Nils: Beth you’ve echoed a lot of the same thoughts I had regarding Amina’s character, but I’d like to add, and I know this is something we discussed on WhatsApp, that as a female POC character it was fantastic to see she was a woman who allowed herself to desire men, to feel lust, and make no apologies for it. Chakraborty challenged the male gaze and represented the female gaze, where we too can enjoy the same kind of pleasures as men do. Beth: Ooh yes, we discussed this a lot didn’t we! For me, it was great seeing an older female character, a mother, expressing her desires to the reader. She described the men she came across by their appearance and whether she found them attractive or not. We’re used to female characters in fantasy books only ever being described by whether or not they’re pretty, so I loved the way Amina applied this to new men she came across! The first couple of chapters we meet Amina and her family, and once she’s been tasked with the main objective of the plot, what follows is a Getting the Gang Back Together montage, and it’s a trope I bloody love. As Nils mentioned above, the cast was diverse and that was fascinating to follow. I thought Chakraborty did an incredible job representing just how many different peoples and faiths were living and operating around the coast of the Indian Ocean – how that part of the ocean drew so many people together. Nils: Chefs kiss to Chakraborty for representing different faiths, nationalities and ethnicities without having prejudice amongst them. Amina’s crew come from all walks of life but they are all so accepting and respectful of their differences. Beth: I don’t think there was a single character I disliked. Our main characters are Amina’s crew: first mate Tinbu, Mistress of Poisons Dalila, and Father of Maps Majed. There’s a ship’s cat, Payasam, who frankly we do not get enough of. Of the crew, Dalila was hands down my favourite. She is hilarious, mysterious, and eccentrically dangerous. On the outside she seems quite gruff and independent, but you can see there are deep undercurrents (happy Nils?) of hurt. Nils: I have such fondness for the whole crew too. Tinbu our first mate, is a gifted archer but has a knack for getting into trouble. Dalila, my beloved Mistress of Poisons has a reputation for experimenting and blowing things up, but she is a gem and Beth I would happily sail the seas with her. Albeit with one eye constantly upon her! Majed, our talented Father of Maps never steers the crew wrong and he’s so endearingly loyal. Payasam is one adorably useless cat. Beth mentioned her favourite trope above so I’ll say one of mine: found families. Together this crew all make the best found family, don’t they? Beth: Argh yes found families! Amina and Majed have their own families that depend upon them, but they also have their family of the crew, and Amina’s blindness to how they see her as family was something beautiful to watch her overcome. Nils: That was definitely a highlight for me too. Shall we talk about Raksh? I know Raksh is a character who we can’t say much about for spoilery reasons but he was certainly one of our favourites! Morally grey, cheeky, will happily run away from a fight and leave you in the shit and never shy to ask for sex, Raksh was a character who was consistently entertaining! Beth: He was absolutely hilarious and certainly had a healthy, um, appetite. (I wouldn’t count this as a spicy read, Chakraborty does the whole “draws the curtains” thing) We should definitely talk about Chakraborty’s villain. Falco Palamenestra is a Frank who has kidnapped the scholarly daughter of one of Amina’s crewmates. After building Amina up as a fearsome, borderline villainous character herself, Chakraborty needed someone evil enough to be a convincing adversary, and I think she really blew us out of the water with this one. There were moments, when Falco was discussing his past, that I thought perhaps we’re going to get a complicated villain who we can reluctantly sympathise with… and then he went batshit. Nils: Falco is villainous in an unnerving quiet way. At first he comes across as a reasonable, charming man, one who has a vision of a world where he’s not forced into the Holy crusades, he actually seems noble. It’s easy to forget the atrocities he’s committed yet it isn’t long until we see his true desire is, like most men during that time period, power. His words are nothing but sugar coated lies. As Amina herself said: “I genuinely could not tell if Falco wanted to seduce me, hire me, or cut my throat and hang me in the cave to perform nefarious magic with my blood.” Beth: He represented that Western white male power of controlling narratives and the evil that can be accomplished just with the power of words and persuasion and coercion. He was a very clever villain. We’ve skirted around some of the themes, so let’s go into those in more detail. I wanted to teach my daughter ro read the waves, and the night sky, to see her eyes widen with wonder and curiosity when I took her to new places, new cities. I wanted to give her all that I’d had to take, positioning her to enjoy opportunities I could never imagine. Beth: So yeah, motherhood’s a big one! Nils: Yes, motherhood and that guilt of wanting to be more than a mother and retain a part of yourself is strong throughout. “Our hearts may be spoken for by those with sweet eyes, little smiles, and so very many needs, but that does not mean that which makes us, us, is gone. And I hope… part of me hopes anyway that in seeing me do this, Marjana knows more is possible. I would not want her to believe that because she was born a girl, she cannot dream.” I love how Chakraborty illustrates that in women following their dreams, doing what makes them happy, keeping their identity, is inspiring their children to do the same, to be strong. Especially their young girls. Beth: Maternal guilt is something I’ve suffered a great deal with, I don’t think any mother is immune to it. I found myself really relating to Amina through this particular shared experience, and I really appreciated Chakraborty exploring these emotions and representing them. Amina’s not the only mother in the story, and her version of motherhood isn’t the only one either. I thought Chakraborty did a great job exploring the different ways people can be mothers, can be there for their families. Being a physical presence at home is one thing, protecting and nurturing, but sometimes a part of that process is knowing when to step away also. Understanding that your child has myriad needs. I found Amina’s arguments with her own mother fascinating in that regard. But like you say above, one of my favourite messages here was what we tell our daughters. What we give them, how we can help them find their identities. Nils: In fact the theme of identity is also prominent throughout as many of the characters are not always what they first appear to be. You see Amina might be a fierce captain but she’s gentle and fair to those she holds dear, Dalila appears cold hearted and hot tempered but there’s a sense of loneliness beneath, and Dunya, who is the granddaughter, and daughter of an old crew member, who Amina is sent to rescue, struggles with the confinement and expectations of her family versus who she really wants to be. What is so alluring about being aboard Amina’s Marawati is that everyone is free to express their real identity. Beth: It makes me think of the stories we tell about ourselves and how they hold up to the reality of ourselves. For example how Amina tells herself she never visited Dalila because it was safer for all involved that way and Dalila doesn’t need her anyway, when actually she couldn’t have been further from the truth. Stories do that, don’t they, branching out like a sapling searching for sunlight? By the time centuries have passed and that sapling is a mighty tree, there are more branches than can be counted, sprawling in widely different directions. I think the power of stories was an interesting thread. Falco had hunted Amina down on the power of the stories he’d heard about her. I loved the exploration of the role of stories in society, how they can shape expectations, how they can be used for different purposes. How important it is who gets to tell the stories. Those of us who make the sea our home carry libraries in our head; a fact I have tried to impress upon many a land-dwelling intellectual. The scholars who travel the world to study could learn just as much if they would speak to the sailors, porters, and caravan hands who ferry them and their books to such faraway lands. And of course, all this is wrapped up in a story being told to a narrator in turn relaying it to us, just like in Chakraborty’s metaphor of the spreading branches above. What about Chakraborty’s inclusion of mythology and magic? Beth: This is going to sound mad, but I wasn’t expecting a great deal of magic this time around? I thought there’d be a sea monster or two, but that would be it. I’m not sure why. So, whereas there isn’t anywhere near the levels of magic we saw in Daevabad, I was pleasantly surprised by how much magic there was! I thought Chakraborty balanced it so well; that it’s a very human story that magic encroaches into. Nils: I was glad to see some familiar Arabic mythological figures from Daevabad in this novel too though , one in particular made me smile! Beth: Yes! There are some lovely surprises! Nils: However, going back to the theme of stories, I love that a lot of the mythology and fantastical aspects in this book change throughout as the truth behind their origins is revealed. You see Amina’s mission goes from finding kidnapped Dunya to also finding a fabled artefact, one with enough power to cause catastrophic consequences. Yet with every story revealed about this artefact we learn that it is very less romanticised than what early scholars had recorded. Beth: I’m trying to step carefully so as not to spoil anything! But I loved all the snippets of story behind the artefact, they were a brilliant addition. Chakraborty includes an Author’s Note and Further Reading, which was a lovely insight into her basis of research that led to wanting to tell this story. It was very much a focus on the mundane human lives around the Indian Ocean, so of course it’s only natural that the stories of those places would work their way into this one. We all build upon the stories that came before us. Chakraborty mixes real historical figures and elements of Arabian mythology to create myths and stories in her own world. Nils: Her passion for Arabian history and mythology really shines through. I love how Amina’s character was also a feminist version of Sinbad the Sailor. Beth: There is of course a sea monster, as per the US cover. I thought it such an imaginative mix of kraken and scorpion, it sounded truly horrifying! When it first turned up, Chakraborty really ramped up the tension, it was so ominous! What were your overall impressions of the book? Nils: Chakraborty has worked her magic once again and delivered an epic feminist tale quite like no other. This is a story which celebrates being a mother who longs for more, it is a celebration of faith and a stark reflection upon the atrocities committed by Western invaders. This novel is filled with passion and heart. Yet at its core this is a phenomenally entertaining read with the most loveable ragtag seafaring crew. Beth: Chakraborty cementing herself as one of the best storytellers of our time. On the face of it, a swashbuckling adventure filled with daring rescues and magic. But as Nils says, there’s so much thought-provoking depth, perspectives to consider, representations that don’t get shared enough. This is a story of page-burning action, mysticism and magic, and so much heart. I also really appreciated that this works as a standalone story, it has a satisfying resolution; but Chakraborty has left the odd door ajar should she want to return. And I sincerely hope we can. Favourite quotes? Beth: Chakraborty’s writing is just divine! There were so many lines I sent to you Nils! Whether they’d made me laugh out loud, or whether I found them particularly thought-provoking, or just that they were so beautiful. After the Daevabad trilogy I considered Chakraborty a great story-teller, but this book has certainly elevated her even higher. She took one look at me, inhaled like an arrow being drawn back, and shouted, ‘Have you lost your mind?’ I would not want her to believe that because she was born a girl, she cannot dream For the greatest crime of the poor in the eyes of the wealthy has always been to strike back. To fail to suffer in silence and instead disrupt their lives and their fantasies of a compassionate society that coincidentally set them on top. To say no. (there are so many more quotes I’d include if I could Nils!!!) Nils: Yes Beth, Chakraborty’s prose is so superbly crafted. I’ve shared quite a few quotes already but here are two more that really made me think. “It is a difficult thing to destroy your child’s innocence. To tell her the mother she adores is not the “best mama in the world,” but a real person who has done terrible, unforgivable things.” And this quote is so damn powerful: “We are the women in the streets the others watch from behind their screens. Accordingly, we are often granted less honor, our bodies assumed to be available for the right price or simply invisible. I have cast a judgmental eye straight back, dismissing the rich women behind the screens as pampered dolls.” The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi is expected for release on 28th February 2023 and is available to pre-order: US – Bookshop.org | UK – Waterstones All quotes used are taken from an early ARC and are subject to change upon publication. The post THE ADVENTURES OF AMINA AL-SAFIRI by Shannon Chakraborty (BUDDY READ BOOK REVIEW) appeared first on The Fantasy Hive. View the full article
  5. During my prolific writing days, and even during my not prolific writing days, when I’d hear the term “writer’s block,” I believed it to be a self-indulgent myth. Either you were writing or you were not. You sit your ass in your chair and you write or you get up from your chair and decide you will not write. I could give you a lot of reasons, excuses, lamentations for why I haven’t completed my next novel. I bet some of you know a lot of these reasons, excuses, lamentations, too, and likely 89.999% of them are valid. We can talk about how others may say that giving up writing for any length of time is for those who really aren’t dedicated to the craft, but that’s bull-taters. I sacrificed quite a lot for my writing in time, family, social life, etc, so I really don’t want to hear how I am not dedicated to my craft. I’ll guess many of you sacrificed much as well. Life can toss crappy curveballs and we sometimes must make decisions on what we feel is important, and sometimes the writing is not the more important thing: GASP! I know! I never thought I’d say that! Is this the eighth sign of the apocalypse? Before the multi-year-slump, I could spit out a novel like it was nuttin’—doesn’t mean all of them were publishable but writing the words never was a problem and creating characters I loved wasn’t either. I wrote the first draft to Sweetie in 30 days (a challenge I gave myself) and it’s one of my all-time favorite published novels and loved characters. Writing created an excitement and contentment in me that nothing else could touch. Never. Ever. Never. Ever. Never. Ever. NEVER EVER did I see a world where I was not writing. But stuff happened and the writing stopped. And stopped for quite some time. And nowhere in all the time I was not writing did I believe in writer’s block. Nope. But then I opened a novel I’ve had in my computer files, one that I’ve fiddled around with from time to time, here, there, yonder, skippity do dah day. The novel has good bones. It has interesting characters that excite me. I have no doubt I am a good writer. I have no doubt I can create good characters. I’ve known my “severe limitations” when it comes to plots/outlines, and it never before stopped me from sitting my ass in the chair and writing til my ass was numb. But there I was scrolling through the novel and liking what I saw. I inserted a little here, moved a page there, renamed two characters who begged to be renamed. I had a little quiver of excitement build and I thought, “I have missed this part of me.” You know, the part where writing was like an important appendage before it’s been cut off and left with some phantom limb feeling…? And then, out from the cantankerous ether …. Anyone who has ever had an anxiety attack knows how it can be insidious, sneaky, like a noxious fog rolling in—one minute the sky and trees and birds are clear and then comes the smoky clawed tendrils wrapping around and through and within before they grasp and pinch and squeeze and the beautiful world begins to disappear until there is nothing but dense grey-white and the grey-white soaks into your brain and there is no thinking or creating, there is only a foggy confusion and your eyes feel so very wide as they try to see through a dense fairy-tale forest, you know, the part of the fairy-tale where the character is about to be devoured by the unknown, and everything becomes weirdly scary, shaky, and just wrong. I stared at my novel and all the words bulged out at me. The characters turned their backs on me. And every bit of joy I’d felt that I was writing again drained from my body and pooled onto the floor. I, much like our unlucky character in the dark-misted forest, had been devoured. Oh I tell you what! Writer’s Block then felt real! That phrase loomed in the goo of my brain with a sickly green glow. WTF? I’ve had some anxiety attacks in my lifetime, but never ever while writing. I closed my laptop, picked up my remote, and turned on the television to something funny. Laugh, Kathryn. Goddammit Laugh! Like fog will do, the grey-white receded, lucky for me rather quickly-ish, but I wasn’t about to invite the anxiety back. Nuh Uh. The laptop looked sad sitting there, so I took my laptop to my study and left it there. Yet…. I saved Black Moon Cove to my desktop. The next morning I opened it, just a peek. My gut swirled and twirled, just a bit, but I told myself and I’ll tell you too, “Yes, you are afraid. And it’s okay to be afraid. It’s okay to worry about failure. It sucks to fail but the world still turns, so try again or try something else, or do not. It’s okay to decide you don’t want to publish it at all. It sucks that if the novel is published, it may not sell all that well, but you are not alone in this and that may bring a tidbit of comfort. It’s okay to feel angry. It’s okay to be down right pissed. It’s okay to feel envy over another writer’s success, but don’t let that envy turn sour; envy can be motivating or it can be debilitating: decide. It’s okay to feel grief over losses and missed opportunities. It’s okay to feel exhausted and burned out and wondering if you just do not want this for yourself any longer. But if you don’t write the diggity-ding-dang book you’ll never know how this story turns out—yours and your characters.” And I will open that novel again. And I’ll hope the nasty mean fog that may come will be a little less dense and disorienting. And I’ll hope tenacity works until writing once again becomes a part of my body—the severed limb will grow back (or it will not … but that’s another essay). I want to be where the writing is as it used to be—the One Constant that brought joy and sanity to my life. Where writing will once again be what keeps my head clear of clouds instead of the cloud creator. I’m going to open that novel and open that novel and open that novel time after time after time until I am done, even if it takes me fifty-galleven years. Or, I will not. All up to me, right? And if you are feeling what I am feeling, then it’s all up to you, right? We do the best we can in writing, in life. We are writers even if we are not writing. Yes, I said that. Believe what you will, but I am a writer and I always will be. It’s in my marrow. If I never write another book, then that sucks but gosh I have written and written and written and I’m proud of those thousands and thousands of words. What about you? Do you Believe? [url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  6. While the Fantasy-Hive is not participating in this year’s Self-Publishing Fantasy Blog Off (SPFBO) – the eighth such event – we do have some overlap with people who are, which is how I got a recommendation to take a look at Small Miracles, a SPFBO8 finalist chosen by the Queen’s Book Asylum blog. This is a charming little book, impossible to categorise or to predict which way its twisting plot will go. Suffice to say the story often left me bewildered, but never unengaged. It’s a good sign when I find I have highlighted the very first line in the book, in this case It was eight O’clock on a Wednesday morning when the Fallen Angel of Petty Temptations walked into a quaint café on the north end of Church Street. This opening immediately sets up the mix of uncanny and prosaic, a juxtaposition that characterises the entire book. The opening pages describe the protagonist – fallen angel Gadriel – in some detail, though most of that description is stressing how utterly ordinary and unremarkable she is. However, Atwater’s prose makes for very comfortable reading about a character whose sartorial choices are mostly about the unobtrusive comfort of knitwear. We meet Gadriel using her small powers of persuasion to shorten a queue of customers before meeting her unfallen counterpart, Barachiel the Angel of Good Fortune. As they catch up over coffee Atwater sneaks in references to the story’s central plot device – the accounting of sin. As with the charming TV show The Good Place Gadriel and Barachiel are involved in the maintenance of celestial balance sheets, you might think of it as the accountancy of sin (not to be confused with the sin of accountancy), with chocolate counting as ½ a point of sin, while heartfelt compliments and other modest good deeds earn points of virtue. After a lost bet with Barachiel, Gadriel owes the (still) angelic one favours. In this case Barachiel sets Gadriel to tempt a mortal named Holly Harker into a little bit of sin because “She has one of the lowest cumulative sin metrics I’ve ever seen. Truly she must be even more miserable than a Greek Cynic…. I want you to tempt her… just enough to make sure she’s enjoying her life?” Associating virtue with misery and sin with enjoyment might take old fashioned weight loss messaging a little too far or too simplistically into the moral domain. However, it makes for an interesting set-up as Gadriel finds the simple challenge has some surprising complications. It also means that each chapter opens, like a Bridget Jones diary entry, with a helpful running score of Holly Harker’s cumulative sin metric. (She starts on “-932” sin points – positively brimming with virtue). In her acknowledgements, the author says Small Miracles drew on Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens for inspiration and in some ways was a homage to it. Having never read Gaiman’s source work, and only knowing that story from brief trailers of the TV show starring David Tenant and Michael Sheen, the parallels passed me by. However, Small Miracles did make me think of a Peter Cook and Dudley Moore 1967 film Bedazzled with its tale of unintended and unpredictable consequences when fallen angels dip their hands in the lives of mortals. The miracles (and temptations) that Atwater’s protagonist Gadriel peddles in are more modest than those wielded by Peter Cook’s character George Spiggot (aka The Devil) and seem to invoke a lot of chocolate. However, as Atwater’s acknowledgement points out Small Miracles is “a story about tiny, personal disasters, rather than about giant, world-ending ones.” The text is peppered with Pratchett-esque footnotes. These fall into two categories, the first being authorial asides that raise a smile, or an eyebrow or both, for example the one about how ”Just as God created the platypus out of spare parts, Lucifer created the original chihuahua out of spare spite…one would be hard-pressed to find a more concentrated form of evil that the average chihuahua.” The second category of footnotes provide a running score update to quantify Gadriel’s successes and failures in de-miserifying Holly’s excessively virtuous existence. For example “+10 Points of Virtue (Holly Harker): Rescuing a Lost Kitten.” One can’t help feeling that Atwater must have had an excel spreadsheet open alongside the manuscript document as the precise accounting of these numbers is both the substance of Gadriel’s challenge and an important plot-point as the story approaches its denouement. Gadriel makes an engaging protagonist, mischievous rather than malicious, while also endearingly out of her/his depth, more an angel fallen through a disagreement over policy than from any actual vice. You will have noticed my slight ambiguity about Gadriel’s pronouns and indeed a quick google search for references generates this information, from Christianity.com “Angels are not male or female in the way that humans understand and experience gender.” Atwater has Gadriel and Barachiel charge into that ambiguity with a refreshingly fluid approach to gender explained in the very first footnote. “Angels… chose a gender for the day, in rather the same way that you or I might choose a shirt or trousers…But as with any fashion choice there is always the danger that one might turn up at a luncheon meeting wearing exactly the same gender as the friend with whom one is meeting. This is considered both gauche and embarrassing.” The angelic beings’ gender fluidity is an interesting touch with a consistent explanation within the story. The human characters accept this pretty much at face value with Holly simply noting “I don’t mean to be insulting… it’s just that… weren’t you a woman before.” Holly’s open-mindedness is refreshing, particularly in the contemporary context. As Gadriel digs deeper into the secret of Holly’s virtue, Holly’s teenage niece Ella puts in an appearance and this draws Gadriel into some school based shenanigans. I do enjoy seeing how different authors present the realities of school life, the stresses and squabbles and the staff room politics, and Atwater delivers a credible depiction of a somewhat dysfunctional school, not least in the image of the school disco “The disco was in full swing…The swirling lights highlighted an empty, yawning gap between tables where no one dared to dance.” Of course even a gentle chocolate infused story such as Small Miracles requires a villain and a threat, and there is more at stake for Gadriel than losing face with Barachiel. Those who have dabbled in C.S.Lewis’s The Screwtape letters may be familiar with the name Wormwood (or indeed if they have perused the Book of Revelations). Suffice to say the character is not a positive one and their arrival in the midst of Gadriel’s mission significantly ups the stakes, without losing the gently whimsical nature of the narrative. Overall, this is a very different but enjoyable take on the fantasy genre, with its entertaining examination of the everyday struggles of ordinary folk, all heroes within their own complicated and unexpectedly spicy lives. As one of the many footnotes points out God may show mercy, but capsaicin does not. Find out more about Small Miracles and order your copy HERE The post SMALL MIRACLES by Olivia Atwater (BOOK REVIEW) appeared first on The Fantasy Hive. View the full article
  7. “If you wish to live,” he said quietly, “you will come with me.” Amélie Wen Zhao is back, this time with a YA xanxia duology starting with Song of Silver, Flame like Night. Lan is a song girl in a tea house. This wasn’t always her life, but when the Elantians came and invaded her country with their armies in metal armour, their magicians with metal cuffs wielding powerful metal magic, her world was destroyed. All she can do now is survive, and try to discover the secret behind the scar on her arm that only she can see, magically burned there by her mother when she was murdered by an Elantian magician. What follows is an exciting, action-packed story of magic, rebellion and love, of self-discovery and devastating loss. Firstly, I’m going to have to talk about the cover. I requested a copy of Song of Silver based entirely from the cover, because it is absolutely gorgeous. Divine, even. I wanted to know who was that person on the bridge and what were these creatures they were facing down. Its a perfect example of cover design absolutely smashing its job, so bravo to artist Diamonster! Something in particular I loved about this book was Zhao’s magic systems. We start the story believing that all Hin practitioners of magic were wiped out long ago, but Zen soon absolves us of that notion. He is from a secret temple of practitioners, a last remaining bastion hidden from the colonists. He is on a mission when he senses the qi of another practitioner, and tracks it to our heroine Lan. Unfortunately, when Lan unwittingly unleashes her qi to protect herself (CW attempted rape), the Elantian magicians are likewise alerted to her existence. Zen and Lan enact a daring escape, using their qi to create Seals to escape the city. They very nearly do not make it, Lan being injured in the process when the magician she recognises as her mother’s murderer manages to cast a spell on her, his metal magic implanted in her arm. I loved the way in which the two magic systems differed and represented the people practising them. The Hin channel the energy, the qi, all around them, being ever mindful of the importance to keep balance between yang, positive energy, and yin, the destructive energy. In counterpoint, the Elantians harness metal and electricity in a brutal and powerful form of magic; Zhao utilises her magic systems as strong metaphors to reflect what is happening in her world. Zhao has created a rich and complex history for her world, strongly influenced by China’s history and mythology. The Elantians represent the Western nations that have colonised China, and there were plenty of powerful, thought-provoking moments on the issues surrounding colonisation. The Elantians tear through this land with no regard for its people and culture, believing them ignorant and barbarian. A stark contrast to the beautiful world Zhao paints through our Hin protagonists Lan and Zen. Ying was the only person in this world who knew Lan’s truename – the one she’d had before the Elantians came and required the Hin to identify by a monosyllabic moniker. It’s easy to fall for our protagonists Lan and Zen, who have already suffered through so much. Zhao does a wonderful job of drawing these two troubled souls together into a slow-burn romance, as they face down one challenge after another, one enemy after another. If you’re a fan of the found family trope, then you are absolutely going to love Zhao’s cast of characters, and you are absolutely going to hate Zhao by the time you get to the end of the book. Heads-up, there’s heartbreak a-plenty in store. I don’t want to go into too much detail of the plot and characters, as to stray further from what I have already will start to possibly spoil things. This is an ambitious, sumptuous, turbulent story. Lan and Zen aren’t perfect by any means; however much you desperately want them to make the right choices, Zhao’s world simply isn’t that straight-forward. If you love high-drama love stories set against sweeping Chinese vistas, then this is absolutely the story for you. Song of Silver, Flame like Night is available now from HarperCollins. Order your copy HERE The post SONG OF SILVER, FLAME LIKE NIGHT by Amélie Wen Zhao (BOOK REVIEW) appeared first on The Fantasy Hive. View the full article
  8. Rachel Toalson is an especially prolific poet, essayist, and award-winning author of picture books and of middle grade and young adult fiction. Lest you think writing books for young humans means toning down reality, Rachel has mastered the art of hard topics — how to convey them, how to guide a young mind through them — in a way that helps to instill hope and to set young people on a path of functional thinking. “Toalson handles difficult, complex subjects with nuance and care, never losing sight of who her readers are, and striking the delicate balance between honesty and hope.” —Jordan Leigh Zwick, The Book Seller (Grass Valley, CA) Her next work of middle grade fiction, The First Magnificent Summer, is the story of an awakening–of sexism, as a twelve-year-old girl realizes her own estranged father may be treating her as Other because of her gender. It releases on May 30th. If you need some inspiration, please settle in; you won’t be disappointed. Many thanks to Rachel for sharing her journey and her many profound insights about the writing life. GW: Thanks for agreeing to share your writing and publishing experiences with the Writer Unboxed community. I like to start by asking writers about their author origin story; it’s kind of like a superhero origin story but with a pen. What’s yours? RT: The sole purpose of my first dabbles in story was getting me out of trouble. I was an imaginative, precocious middle child with an older brother and a younger sister. We lived out in the middle of nowhere, which meant trouble was right at our fingertips. After a Pecan Battle (we were supposed to be gathering pecans so my grandmother could make her delicious pecan pie), my sister ran into the house wailing. I’d launched the fated pecan that hit her brow, but I made up an elaborate story that blamed my grandmother’s boyfriend for the wound that required ice and a Band-Aid. There was a giant hole in my story: My grandmother’s boyfriend hadn’t been outside all morning. But I was good at telling stories. I told them for entertainment. To everyone—my siblings, my mother, the kids at school. I documented things that happened on the playground. I retold important events with a little flair and exaggeration. And in the margins, I worked on my Great American Novel at the age of seven. It sounded a lot like Little House on the Prairie, which my mother was reading to us at the time. My mother saw a spark (and probably a way to get me to stop talking so much). She made sure I always had sharpened pencils and a stack of stapled computer paper. I told everyone I knew I’d be a writer someday. In high school some amazing English teachers affirmed my writing gift. In college my love for it exploded under the direction of some magnificent professors. And I found my people, which is important in any origin story. Who are we without our people? I’ve been through some trauma in my life. Writing helps me process the narrative and reframe it. That’s probably the simplest answer to why I keep picking up a pen. GW: I don’t think it would be an understatement to say you’re a prolific author. Tell us a bit about your journey to publication; how did you land your agent? Your first book deal? And, how have you managed to be as prolific as you are with six children at home?! RT: I spent the first decade of my career as a journalist and an editor for some Texas newspapers. But after the birth of my sixth child, I faced a job lay-off. After catastrophizing, as I’m wont to do, my husband said, “Why don’t you go for your dream?” And I thought, Yeah. Why not? All those years I’d been writing books, of course. I’d written two adult novels that went nowhere—no agent even asked for a full manuscript (Today Me recognizes they weren’t any good). But I had another novel—one written for kids—that I thought might be something special. It was. I queried twelve agents I found through Twitter’s #MSWL and Writer’s Digest listings. Ten requested the full manuscript. I got two offers and signed with my agent in 2016. We went out on sub with my first book, a novel in verse called The Colors of the Rain, in early 2017 and had an offer by May. It published in September 2018. However. Traditional publishing is a slow process. I’m a very productive writer. So I also self-publish fiction under a pen name and write poetry and essay collections under my full name. As to how I stay productive with so many kids, I send them to public school so I can write. Half-joking aside, I protect my writing time. Writing centers me and helps me process emotions and heals old wounds. My family gets a better version of me, and I get to live my passion and dream. Everybody wins when I get to write. One more note: Early in our marriage, my husband and I decided that his career was not more important than my career, just because he’s a man. We do what we can to support each other and raise our kids jointly. GW: How has publishing been different than you’d anticipated? Is there something you didn’t know back then you wish someone in the business had told you? RT: I was only marginally aware of how much patience traditional publishing would require. In theory, I knew it could take a year or more to sell a book, then a year or more to see it published. But in practice, I found myself unpleasantly surprised—maybe because I’m a very productive, task-oriented person, and I write quickly. Waiting is hard for me. And I’ve actually been pretty fortunate in how long I’ve had to wait for books to sell and to see them publish. Because I’m such a productive writer, I have a huge bottleneck; I have nine middle grade, five young adult, two chapter book, and three poetry manuscripts ready to go to my agent. But it’s not the right time yet. So I have to wait. It’s torturous. To help manage the bottleneck, I also self-publish books, under a pen name. It helps me maintain a modicum of control and care for myself mentally and emotionally. Writing is therapeutic for me. So is publishing. Also: We, the writers, are in charge. I know it doesn’t feel that way when we’re in the querying trenches or out on submission; those are vulnerable places to be. But the truth is, we don’t have to take the first offer that comes our way. If an agent or an editor is asking for an edit to your book that doesn’t feel “right,” you don’t have to take the deal. It’s your book. Agents don’t have a job without writers. Editors don’t have books without writers. It’s not about finding an agent or editor; it’s about finding the right one. I know I’m in a privileged place to say that, being an agented writer with multiple books published. But it’s something I wish someone had told me in the beginning. GW: In a business where so much is out of our control, what do you do take control of your writing career? RT: This is a great question, because there is so much out of your control in this business—particularly the traditional publishing side, where the gates keeping you out can feel endless. None of us is in control of how readers respond to what we publish. That’s a very scary place to be, for most of us. It takes guts to publish just about anything. What is in our control is getting words down on a page. We control whether or not we make it a goal to write for an hour and a half every day—and whether or not we do it. Related to that, and something that’s very important to me: we control our improvement as a writer. I want to be excellent at what I do. I want to make sure I’m not stagnating and that I continue learning and growing as a writer (and a human being). So every New Year’s I assess my writing strengths and weaknesses. Then I make a plan for improvement. We can’t control how readers interpret our books or what they take away from them or whether they like them. But we can work to write the absolute best book we can write today. Lastly, we control our mindset. We can choose to see things positively or negatively. We can decide the world is against us or for us. We can gather up all the broken places in our lives and patch them up on the page, in hopes that someone else can do the same in their lives because of our stories. Maybe that’s a poetic way of saying we control our vision, what we hope our books will do in the world. Vision can carry us a long way in this business, because it’s hope. GW: What advice would you give a newbie writer who someday wants to be doing what you’re doing? RT: I can’t stress enough how important it is to take care of yourself. This business can be brutal. It’s a business of rejections, and that wears on you. It makes you question practically everything—your abilities, your vision, your stories, your purpose, your hopes and dreams. Get therapy. Surround yourself with people who believe in you. Find writer friends who understand the business and how hard it can be, and connect with them regularly. And give yourself permission to step away for a while if you need to. No one can do what you do quite like you can—and we need you and your stories. Write every day or every other day or every Monday—whatever works for you. It’s great to hear about other writers’ processes, but you’ll have to find your own. And that takes practice and experimentation. Write the stories you want to read. Love what you do. And if you don’t love it, figure out why and what would make you love it. Support other writers. Talk about great books. Read as much as you can, all over the place, not just in the genre or age group you write. Listen to audiobooks while you’re washing dishes or slicing onions or running an errand. Take a poetry book with you to read in the line at the grocery store. Put your phone away. Try to make the world a better, kinder place with your art. I want to say so much more, but I’ll end with this: Don’t give up. I know this business is hard and sometimes thankless. Sometimes you’ll think, Why am I working so hard at something that matters so little? But you and your stories do matter. And I have to believe that those who persevere will ultimately see their dreams and hopes become reality. Many thanks to Rachel Toalson for sharing so generously with us today, and for providing the inspiration many of us need on the regular. To learn more about her and any of her many works, including her upcoming The First Magnificent Summer, visit racheltoalson.com and follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. WU community: Do you write to help process your life? Has that work brought enlightenment? What has your writing journey taught you? [url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  9. Amélie Wen Zhao(赵雯)was born in Paris and grew up in Beijing, where she spent her days reenacting tales of legendary heroes, ancient kingdoms, and lost magic at her grandmother’s courtyard house. She attended college in the United States and now resides in New York City, working as a finance professional by day and fantasy author by night. In her spare time, she loves to travel with her family in China, where she’s determined to walk the rivers and lakes of old just like the practitioners in her novels do. Amélie is the New York Times bestselling author of the Song of Silver, Flame Like Night duology and the Blood Heir trilogy. Welcome back to the Hive, Amélie! Congratulations on the release of the first book of your new duology – what can readers expect from Song of Silver, Flame Like Night? Thank you, so great to be back! In Song of Silver, Flame Like Night, I think readers can expect something old and something new (and actually, now that I’m on this, there is also something borrowed, something blue). Those who have followed me from the Blood Heir trilogy will find so many of the tropes they love: slow-burn romance, morally gray characters who make morally gray choices, fast-paced action and beautiful, lush magic worlds. At the same time, Song of Silver, Flame Like Night is set in a completely new world and new culture: it is me taking my Chinese identity and heritage and just expanding it into a full-blown world of martial arts magic and scholarly temples tucked between lush pine forests and mountains that reach to the clouds. Song “borrows” heavily from Chinese history, philosophy, mythology, and culture. I think of this work as both a love letter to my people as well as a reflection and examination of the turmoils we have been through, and a celebration of the persistence of our spirit. And finally, something blue: I just have to gush about the gorgeous covers (both UK and US) that nailed the story in very different interpretations. I can’t wait for readers to fall into the world. Your world is inspired by Chinese mythology and folklore, and echoes the colonisation of China by Britain. What made you want to tell that particular story? Among my fondest memories of growing up in Beijing were the days I spent with my grandmother in her sìhéyuàn (traditional Chinese courtyard house), perched beneath the old jujube tree and listening to stories from her past. My grandmother (and actually, all of my grandparents) grew up during some of China’s most turbulent times: she fled her home as a child to escape Japanese invasion and natural disasters, and saw her country go through massive political changes. To add, my husband is from Hong Kong, which was one of the first territories ceded to the British as part of the Opium Wars and the Unfair Treaties where parts of China were cut up and handed to western powers like a pie. We’ve had many conversations on his home’s colonial history and what it means to us, and that cemented my desire to explore the impacts of colonialism and imperialism on a people and their heritage. I’ve realized from a very young age, since the days beneath my grandmother’s jujube tree, that the histories we read about in textbooks aren’t so distant from us after all: they live and breathe in us, passed on to us by those who lived through them, and they are a part of our legacy. I wanted to tell these stories – and these histories – to honor the memory of my grandparents, my family, my people, and all those who came before them. To come back to the mythology and folklore, what particular stories inspired Song of Silver, Flame Like Night? Which is your personal favourite? Song of Silver, Flame Like Night features a number of our myths and folklore: so many creatures of our Classic of Mountains and Seas (the ancient book chronicling many mythological beasts and beings across China) appear in Song. As well, the Four Auspicious Beasts of Chinese mythology, which, in my version, are no longer auspicious but rather, self-serving, power-hungry, and chaotic. Though… I think my favorite myth woven into Song is one of romance: Lan often mentions a “red thread of fate” connecting her and Zen. This comes from a Chinese myth that there is a red thread connecting lovers destined for each other. We need to talk about the incredible magic systems in Song of Silver, Flame Like Night. The Hin use qi and Seals, whereas the Elantians use metallurgy. Each magic system is a strong reflection of the people who practise it; what were your aims here? The two branches of magic are actually distantly related: while Hin practitioners are able to draw qì (magical energy or life force) from anything and everything around them, the Elantians are only able to wield the energy of metals, and have developed a much more scientific and systematic method of using the metals. The two magic systems are meant to denote the philosophies of each group. The Hin approach is meant to be one of balance, of harmony with nature, and of using their magic to protect and nurture – that is, until greedy Hin practitioners and imperial rulers came along and began hoarding power for self-serving needs. In contrast, Elantian metalwork is a much more incisive and calculated system: the Elantian have studied it like a science and refined it with the goal of militarizing and weaponizing it. Metal tends to represent industry and war, so I thought that was both a clever and rather on-the-nose reference. Tell us more about your protagonists Lan and Zen? They don’t meet under particularly auspicious circumstances! Lan and Zen have my whole heart, and I had so much fun with this grumpy-sunshine, street rat-scholar duo. Writing them was like peeling back layers of an onion: both present as confident and self-assured at first, but as we get to know them, we start to see the emotional burdens and traumas of their pasts that they tend to hide from the world. And writing them together was like taking off layers and layers of armor … and having them fall in love with the person inside. Without spoiling anything, Lan and Zen also illustrate the theme of how life isn’t just black and white, and how sometimes there might not be a “right” choice in certain circumstances. They each have a great number of secrets and carry some serious trauma. How important is representing these issues for teens and young adults to you? Teens and young adults have so much they’re working through, and there is so much nuance to their thoughts and identity: as a teen, I recall I was trying to understand the world as it is while finding my own identity and how I fit in it. I think one of the factors that differentiates young adult literature from adult literature is that there tends to be more of an element of hope in the YA age category. I always go into writing my books and my characters with realistic situations and grief, yes – but I always write these characters with heart and hope. The world may be dark at times, but my characters never stop searching for those fragments of light. The US and UK covers are gorgeous – I have the UK edition, and it’s what made me reach out and request an arc! Were you pleased with how they portrayed the four demon gods? Both covers are completely stunning, and I am indebted to the artists Diamonster (UK) and Sija Hong (US). They portray the story and themes in very different ways, and I honestly couldn’t be more thrilled with how the artists interpreted the book. Both have a deep understanding of Chinese culture, and I think it truly shows in how they rendered the covers! Your previous trilogy, Blood Heir, is quite different! How did you find the writing process, moving away from that world and the characters you knew so well? I think my two series are ostensibly very different because of the aesthetics and cultures, but if you take a look at their hearts, they carry the ingredients that make my books, well, my books: immersive worlds and magic systems, fast-paced action, conflicted characters, and themes on politics, destinies, and choices. That said, moving to a different world or even a different character always requires an adjustment period. I think of it as breaking in new shoes: I need to walk a few miles in them before I’m completely comfortable with them. At first, writing a new world and new characters can feel slightly forced compared to writing the cast and world of Blood Heir (who’ve been with me for the past seven years!). But as I write, certain elements of the world start setting in, and the characters’ voices and personalities come naturally to me like they’re friends I’ve gotten to know (except they live in my head). The wonderful thing is that when I go back to the books I’ve written, the characters and worlds are always there like old friends, ready to greet me. Can you tell us anything about book two of Song of the Last Kingdom? What can we expect? I’m very excited for readers to continue Lan and Zen’s stories, and also a little nervous because of what I’m putting them through. Expect starcrossed angst, diverging and conflicting choices, shock reveals, and to fall deeper into lush realms of mythology and magic in this world that weren’t previously explored in book one. I can’t wait. And finally, do you have anything in the pipeline for after the Last Kingdom? What’s next for Amélie Wen Zhao? I’ve been so busy with revisions for book two of this series, I haven’t let myself truly dream about my next project because I’ll get too excited and want to immediately begin writing it! Just thinking about it gives me the butterflies: it’s also a world of Chinese mythology and folklore, and epic and romantic with all the classic xiānxiá C-drama vibes. Think peach blossom petals, palaces of jade and stone, flying swordsmen, goddesses hiding secrets, and star-crossed loves. Song of Silver, Flame Like Night is out now in the US (order here) and is out 2nd Feb in the UK (order here) The post Interview with Amelie Wen Zhao (SONG OF SILVER, FLAME LIKE NIGHT) appeared first on The Fantasy Hive. View the full article
  10. David Buisán Rivers of London: Deadly Ever After Created by – Ben Aaronovitch Written by – Celeste Bronfman Script Edited by – Andrew Cartmel Pencils by -José María Beroy Inks by – David Cabeza Colours by – Jordi Escuin Llorach Letters by – Jim Campbell Edited by – David Leach You might be surprised to hear that I have never read Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series. I know! You’d think it would be right up my street. But, as with a number of fantastic series out there, I have the book: I just haven’t read it yet. So, when Will from Titan Comics asked if I was interested in the latest graphic novel from series, I thought it would be a great way of glimpsing what all the fuss is about. It’s certainly whetted my appetite for more! Rivers of London: Deadly Ever After follows Olympia and Chelsea, daughters of the river goddess Mama Thames, as they discover just how much harder messes are to clean up than make. Peter and Nightingale aren’t on hand to help out, so when they unwittingly break an enchantment and release a bitter and resentful 19th century artist from his entrapment by nymphs, they have to untangle the ensuing fairy tale muddle themselves. Right at the start, we’re treated to a beautiful map of the Thames illustrating how the book series and the graphic novels fit together. It’s super helpful, and apparently although each stands alone, they are all “essential parts of the saga”. This is one thing I will forewarn, that although I was able to enjoy the story and take the characters for who they were as it was, I did get the sense that a number of things might have landed better had I read the rest of the series first. There’s a lack of exposition which points towards the assumption that the reader has prior knowledge. As I said, this didn’t hamper my reading, I just think fans of the series will get more out of this than newcomers like me. Despite that, I did enjoy the story. A friendly get together for a BBQ in the woods goes awry when members of the group start acting out fairy tales; the vegan suddenly turns big bad wolf, the actor playing a prince on stage gives up his role to focus on his new love of amphibians, and Snow White falls into a coma after her step-mother hands her an apple… I’m a huge fan of fairy tales, and I love reading stories that bring them into the modern world. It was great fun (for me, not the characters, as it transpires) finding out who was going to end up in which tale next. As much as they’d love to bury their noses in their phones and absolve themselves of guilt, twins Olympia and Chelsea figure they probably have a moral obligation to get to the bottom of why these fairy tales are coming to life. I had the impression that these are perhaps side characters in previous books who have been given the opportunity to shine here, and it was lovely to getting to know them. They were a great mix of the aloofness you’d expect from the divine, with the need to prove oneself to your ‘betters’ of your average teenage. Olympia and Chelsea were great protagonists, but my favourite characters were a pair of talking foxes. Because obviously. It’s talking animals. They’re always going to be my favourite. Deadly Ever After is a great mix of fairy tale, magical action, humour, and even a little horror – Jeter, our victim turned unwitting villain had a really tough time of it and came across as quite creepy! He had a eyes-glowing-with-obsession vibe, but it was also easy to sympathise with the great-grandad trying to make up for lost time and look out for his great-granddaughter. Kind of. Mostly. The artwork was certainly affective in conveying those moments of horror, focusing in on expressions to bring us closer to the emotion of the character. I loved the Arthur Rackham-like nymphs and sprites featured on Buisán’s cover above, immediately giving the impression that any fae that may turn up will not be the friendly kind. All in all, this was a fun romp with plenty of exciting supernatural action in the world of Rivers of London; a great taster for anyone new to the series with its self-contained story, but also bound to be a great deal of fun for fans who will appreciate the cameos. Rivers of London: Deadly Ever After is available now from Titan Comics. You can order your copy HERE The post RIVERS OF LONDON: DEADLY EVER AFTER by Aaronovitch, Cartmel & Bronfman (BOOK REVIEW) appeared first on The Fantasy Hive. View the full article
  11. Here’s what I Iike the least about superhero movies: In order for the hero to be affirmed as heroic, and for justice to prevail and the plot to resolve, in the end there must be a fight. Not just any fight, mind you, but a gigantic, loud and massively destructive battle. You’re not truly a hero until you prove it, not with weapons but with your fists. (Or perhaps energy bolts shooting from your upraised palms.) That’s what a hero is. Violent. A fighter. Same goes for female superheroes. Is that what it takes to elevate a mere protagonist or main character to the level of hero? Is that what makes heroes super? No fists, no hero? I’ve posted in this space before about writing heroes and heroines. There’s a lot to say about that. My thought on that topic today began with Porter Anderson’s recent post “Another Diversity”, a look at Richard V. Reeves’s book Of Boys and Men: Why the Modern Male is Struggling, Why It Matters, and What To Do About It. Reeves’s book bemoans the condition of men today. The post occasioned a slew of richly deserved, sneering, oh-boo-hoo comments from women, no wonder. However, it was Keith Cronin’s string of impatient (with men) comments that started me thinking. He wrote, “It’s time for boys to try harder and become better men” and “It’s time for them to find out what it REALLY means to ‘man up.’” I immediately pumped my fist in the air, but then began to consider why our first idea of what it means to become a man is that it must be hard and can only happen with supreme effort. Questions occurred to me. In story construction, to become a hero must the hero necessarily start out as a louse? Certainly, change is inspiring but when we wish to make a male character a hero, does that mean that being male is being, de facto, flawed, or that the status of hero cannot be awarded without some kind of personal correction? More broadly, is heroism never innate and only earned? Further questions. In another way, is being a hero always about exhibiting the qualities traditionally associated with manliness: toughness, stoicism, action? Is the only way to become a hero to go through a physical test, to fail, to be humbled, to face oneself squarely, and finally succeed? What are a hero’s qualities, but more importantly what are a hero’s values? To be sure, we can ponder similar questions in constructing heroines. We can face the same presumptions that underlie our idea of what a heroine is or how she gets there. In creating characters, we are subject to our cultural biases and swayed by literary traditions, no way around it, but I think it’s important that we can look critically and deeper into what raises characters to the highest status. The Making of a Hero A hero or heroine is someone with whom we don’t just identify, it’s someone for whom we cheer. Heroes and heroines inspire us. That’s their function. That’s why they have long been part of literature, and not just popular fiction but enduring classics. It’s how dark and tragic characters sometimes become iconic: not because they are suffering and supine but because they are struggling and seeking. The very act of trying is heroic all by itself, and not only when there are impossible odds. Trying is the action part. The hidden component is the value which a heroic character stands for, defends or discovers. Put those two things together—a high value and the action that demonstrates it—and you have the recipe for creating heroism. It can be an innate quality or it can be earned but either way it is something that primarily exists not on the page but in the minds and hearts of readers. So, here’s my point: Heroism isn’t an action, nor a value, but rather a feeling stirred in the observer, and we can capture that feeling in one simple word: admiration. Now, there may be a small number of readers out there who admire men who hit on women in elevators, tell racist jokes, don’t leave tips, and cheat to get rich. There may be readers out there who cheer for women who whine, manipulate men, make unreasonable demands, and belittle saleswomen behind cosmetics counters. We’re not talking about outlaws, rogues or bad asses—or even our newly admirable “bitches”—we’re talking about plain old crummy human beings. You don’t have to worry about them. What you do want are for the decent human beings, who are the vast majority, to cheer for your main character as they read. Practical Heroes To make that a practical reality, I’ve created a list of qualities and values that heroic characters can exhibit. My suggestion is to select any one thing from the list below and find one way for your protagonist to enact it. Since I started out thinking about men, I have fashioned this list for male characters (borrowing a rhetorical device from Keith Cronin) but it might also apply to female or other-gendered characters. This list is highly personal but I hope suggestive. Here goes: A real hero knows to quit when anyone is getting hurt. For a wronged hero, an apology is good enough. Restoring right is then up to both parties. For a real hero, no game is zero sum. When a real hero wins, everyone wins with him. A real hero can be strong, and can also think, sing, dance and laugh. A real hero may usually be right yet never assumes that others are wrong. A real hero sees value in everyone. A real hero knows that there’s a difference between fighting for what’s right and fighting to prove that you are tough. He also knows that there’s more than one kind of fight. A real hero understands the difference between leading and conquering. He leans on his whole team. A real hero is loyal but not when that loyalty isn’t deserved. A romantic hero makes the object of his affection feel safe. A Romeo only fakes it. A real hero treats women with respect. In fact, he treats everyone that way. A real hero isn’t afraid to dress well, appreciate a poem, pay a compliment, show courtesy, express concern, or grieve the losses of others. A real hero likes fine things but fine people even more. A real hero stays clean, and not just by taking showers. A real hero is honest with himself. He knows his temptations. He may not always get it right, but at the end of the day he does. A real hero knows that courage means standing up for what is right, but also admitting what is wrong. A real hero makes sure that accumulating wealth makes others richer too. A real hero packs light, especially when the upcoming challenge is heavy. A real hero tests himself, holds himself to high standards, and encourages others when they fall short. A real hero is true to himself, but also allows himself to change. A real hero speaks up, sees far, leads by example, and never gives up. I think we could use more heroes in our fiction, don’t you? Heck, we could use more in our world. As I said, my list of what stirs admiration is a personal one. Feel free to add to it. Make your own list. Whatever heroism is for you, your current novel is the place to demonstrate it. When you do, we won’t devalue your writing. We’ll cheer. How are you making your protagonist a hero or heroine? Who are some of your favorites in the works of others? [url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  12. Today we’re here to bring you the official book announcement and cover reveal for David Wragg’s upcoming release of The Hunters. This will be the first book in a new trilogy titled Tales of the Plains, which will be published by Harper Voyager. Let’s get straight to showing you the cover in all its glory shall we? (Cover Artist: Gavin Reece. Twitter: @gavinreece62) Isn’t that absolutely gorgeous?! Just wow!! The Hunters will be released on 20th July and you can pre-order your copy HERE Now we have a Q&A with David where we find out exactly what his new trilogy is all about… Welcome back to The Hive David! Firstly thank you for letting us host your official book announcement for The Hunters and the cover reveal. How pleased are you with that stunning cover design? How involved in the process were you? Thank you very much for having me, it’s great to be back on the Hive. I’m delighted with the cover. You can see we’ve sprung for colour this time around and it looks fantastic. It really does pop out at you in colour! My involvement with the cover is in preparing character descriptions for the principals, including snippets from the manuscript and the odd image reference (where available) for details of costume, equipment, hairstyles etc. It’s quite a detailed document by the time I send it over! The composition and artwork are, of course, all the work of the extraordinarily talented designer and artist, and the result has been spectacular. (Don’t tell anyone but sometimes I think the best part of being published is seeing the covers for the first time!) Did you gasp?! I most certainly did. It’s so vibrant, and gives a wonderful feeling of setting and character. So David, tell us a bit about your new trilogy, Tales of the Plains? What can readers expect from The Hunters? The trilogy follows the adventures of Ree, a middle-aged horse farmer with a chequered past, and her 12 year-old niece Javani, who are living (at the start of the series at least) at the very edge of the ‘civilised’ world, in the far reaches of the Serican protectorate (for those who remember Serica and its capital Arowan from The Righteous). This is mining country, with its own politics and power structures, and just because you’re a thousand miles from princes and palaces doesn’t mean you can leave intrigue behind. In The Hunters, Ree and Javani find themselves the sudden target of several different (extremely dangerous) groups, and must run for their lives – but as for why they’re being hunted, and by whom… thereby hangs the tale (that means you need to read the book to find out). There are three interlinked stories in the trilogy, and while I wouldn’t read them out of order, each one stands alone with a beginning, middle and end. What I’m saying here is: NO CLIFFHANGERS, so anyone who felt exercised by the end of The Black Hawks can rest easy this time around! The book is set in the same world as your previous duology, Articles of Faith but thirteen years later. Can you tell us how the world has changed or progressed within that time? Well, time has passed, the world has moved on, and people have got older, some have died, and some new folks have been born, here and there. The march of technology has continued, and some of the innovations that featured towards the end of The Righteous have become a little more commonplace, especially in the … less-policed … areas of the world. Fans of blasting powder, mechanical crossbows and full plate armour will not be disappointed… Let’s discuss your characters in more detail! What can we expect from Ree and Javani? Ree is someone who has lived a long(ish) and interesting life, and has tried to leave all that behind and assume a modest existence far from sources of trouble with her young niece. (This strategy may not have been totally successful.) Of course, said niece wants the opposite of a modest existence – Javani is firmly set on a life of adventure, and prepared to go to great lengths to engineer one. (This strategy may also be questionable in outcome.) Their relationship is the foundation of the trilogy, with a great deal of sniping, arguing, name-calling and complex emotions along the way. It’s possible, for example, that Ree hasn’t been entirely honest with her niece about either of their histories… Intriguing! What about your other characters? Can we look forward to a few familiar faces? YES INDEED, but not immediately. Fans of Articles of Faith will have plenty of easter eggs and nods to places, characters and events from the first series, but there’s no need to have read the first series to enjoy the new one. The Hunters will feature some family connections, and by the end of the trilogy I’m sure we’ll all be seeing some favourites again (*cough* Lemon *cough*). *squeals in delight* Please let there be wolves too? Well, the setting is a bit of a departure from the original books, geographically speaking, but no matter where you go, wolves are never far away… One of the aspects I love about your books, and I’m sure other readers do too, is the humour and the… well… batshit crazy shenanigans! Will Tales of the Plains also include this? There will absolutely be shenanigans. Yessssss! The tone of the new books should feel pretty familiar to anyone who read Articles of Faith, with perhaps one minor difference. Things have been pretty bleak for the last few years in the real world, and I didn’t want to write more morally grey characters in a hopeless, cynical world where every choice was wrong. I hope this series will deliver a (maybe slightly old-fashioned) sense of adventure, excitement and good triumphing over evil, but with the inevitable quirks of my writing. Above all, I want it to be FUN. That’s not to say it’s not chock full of vicious murder, great peril and bad things happening to good people (one scene in The Hunters still makes me sniffly) but I hope overall it’s an uplifting and invigorating read! And I don’t want to give too much away, but all those technological advances I mentioned earlier precipitate some flat out ridiculous chases and confrontations across the first book, and the second may or may not feature clifftop battles and outrageous archery. Your shenanigan quota will not go unfulfilled. And for that I’m glad! And lastly, if you were transported into the world of Tales of the Plains, how would you fare? Oh, very very badly indeed. One of the nice things about writing about lawless, chaotic and lethal wastelands populated by killers and thieves is knowing you’ll never need to go there yourself, not even on holiday. Haha! Thanks for joining us David! Thank you so much for having me! The post THE HUNTERS by David Wragg (COVER REVEAL and Q&A) appeared first on The Fantasy Hive. View the full article
  13. Welcome to our new feature – The Fantasy Hive Top Picks! Every month, we’re going to share with you our favourite reads of the month. We’ve rounded up our contributors and asked them each to recommend just one (looking at you Jonathan) favourite read of the month. A big thank you to Nils for coming up with this feature, and our contributors for taking part! Beth: The Jaguar Path by Anna Stephens The sequel to her ancient Central-American inspired novel The Stone Knife, The Jaguar Path deals with the fallout of events in book one. The Pechaqueh have successfully brought all of Ixachipan under the Song, spreading their faith to all the people and bringing peace so that Singer Xac may bring forth the world spirit. Of course, what this means for the people of Ixachipan, and our Tokob protagonists from book one, is a life of slavery and a fight for survival. This was a powerful read, heart-wrenching as always from Stephens, and so twisty! Beth’s review | Pre-order Nils: The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi by Shannon Chakraborty This was a phenomenally entertaining feminist pirate read with the most loveable ragtag seafaring crew. I buddy read this with Beth and we laughed, we theorised, we teared up and we were left wanting more! I won’t say anymore as our review is due to go up soon, but I will say: add this to your TBR immediately! Review to come soon | Pre-order Lucy: The Atlas Paradox by Olivie Blake A book filled with confusion, Chaos and problems of time, an absolutely brilliant second novel of Olivie Blake’s trilogy (The Atlas Six – Novel One) Available now Julia: Gates of Hope by J E Hannaford Alright, choosing just one single book per month is a real hardship for me, but here we go… My favourite of the month was probably Gates of Hope by JE Hannaford! It’s the first book in a new epic fantasy series, which is a great blend of intriguing world building, good characters, magic and mystery. Pre-order Jonathan: The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende I hope you people realise what monsters you are, making me choose a single book. Out of all the wonderful books I read. But seeing as I have to, I’m giving it to Isabel Allende’s beautiful and lyrical magical realist classic The House of the Spirits (1982, translated into English by Magda Bogin 1985), which is just glorious. An epic family saga that delves into the history and political upheavals that have shaped Chile whilst retaining a close eye on the personal and the magical, it’s nothing short of a revelation. Goodreads Theo: The Sandman Volume 1 – Preludes & Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman Picking a favourite book out of any list?! That’s like the sadistic thing the arch-villain does to the protagonist in the middle act of a novel. You know – “Pick your favourite book, Mr Bond – the rest go in the furnace!” Or like asking a parent to name their favourite child! (But then you aren’t going to actually burn anything are you, Nils, so I suppose I’d better turn my mind to the task.) I had five very different speculative fiction reads in January, covering self-published and trad-published, fantasy and sci-fi and all excellent in their very different ways (with reviews either already up on the Hive or due to come.) Buuuuut… I am going to go for Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman Volume 1 – Preludes & Nocturnes, because it was my first foray into reading a graphic novel. It has an entrancing protagonist – captivatingly written, drawn and speech-bubbled. The kind of superpowered yet underdog-ed character that you can’t help rooting for. As if someone had blended the DNA of Elric of Melnibone, Terry Pratchett’s DEATH and John Wick! Goodreads Scarlett: The Sword of Kaigen by M. L. Wang Some amazing favourites everyone has chosen here! The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi is high on my tbr! So glad you loved it, Nils. I haven’t read The Atlas Paradox yet, but I do have a penchant for graphic novels and love your choice of The Sandman, Theo! My month and new reading year started pretty well. I’ve been mostly mood reading and counting the days till warmer weather! My eclectic reading plate this month was a sampler of everything, a memoir, a classic, a mystery, some lit fiction and two great fantasy reads, The Howling Dark by Christopher Ruocchio, book 2 in The Sun Eater series, and The Sword of Kaigen by M.L. Wang. Both of them were fantastic, and I absolutely loved Empire of Silence prior. If I was forced to make a choice as my favorite read in January, I will go with The Sword of Kaigen. This novel, spoke to me for M.L. Wang’s incredible ability to write refreshingly authentic of a world filled with martial arts, interesting family ties and insane battle scenes. The female characters in this story exhibit the perfect mix of strength and endurance, yet prevail profoundly feminine and tender. I couldn’t help myself feel moved in many moments/passages, torn between turning the pages and not wanting the story to end. Available now What was your favourite read of the month? Share with us in the comments! The post TOP PICKS – January 2023 appeared first on The Fantasy Hive. View the full article
  14. If writing ever makes you feel lonely, consider Cecile Pineda’s work. You won’t find solace there. You will find a model of courage, of an artist living “at the edge of Being,” the phrase she uses in a 2004 interview with Jeff Biggers in The Bloomsbury Review. Pineda never offers readers the comfort of genre, of managed expectations. She never feigns a coherent, well-organized world or self. For her, the world is mutilated and nonsensical, and the self is shattered. She writes as she lives, balancing between life and death, always a soldier at the tip of the spear, never a general safe at the back of a fray. Didion could point to a center that wasn’t holding. Pineda would not, even to the point of madness. What does madness feel like? In her memoir, Entry without Inspection: A Writer’s Life in El Norte, published in 2020, two short years before her death, she compares it to being “…evicted from yourself.” As she explains, your world vanishes. “There’s nothing left to fall back on, no sense of who you might be or where you might have come from or what dues you may have paid. Nowhere is your country, no one is your kin.” The burden of his undocumented status, that feeling that “[n]owhere is your country, no one is your kin,” lies at the heart of what she terms her “cultural deracination”: My father made the decision to deprive me of a language (Spanish), in a sense to cut out my tongue. But he was not stupid. He understood this country, he respected the weight of its racism; the vacuum presented by its aspiritual culture. He made a conscious decision that I would speak French (my mother’s language) in place of Spanish. But I am fiercely proud—especially in the face of California State Proposition 187—of claiming my place as the child of an illegal. Her mother is French. Her father is Mexican. Her father cuts away one of those two native tongues in order to protect her. She sutures her tongue, claims her place as a Chicana, only to find herself separated from the broader culture. Here is the “estrangement” that forges her identity as a writer living “at the edge of Being.” The title of her memoir refers to her father’s immigration status. He fled the Mexican Revolution in 1910 and crossed the border under an assumed name. Her memoir begins and ends with her father’s passage across the border and the resulting eclipse of his identity and hers. Pineda drapes the story of her life over a ten-day arc, the story of Jean Blum, a Holocaust survivor and the whistleblower who drew national attention to the deaths of immigrants detained by ICE, immigrants like her father, who sought asylum but were criminalized instead, charged with “entry without inspection.” The connections between Blum’s story and Pineda’s are not random, though to readers demanding explanations, transitions, or sustained argument, Pineda throws down the gauntlet. Make what you will of these intersections between Blum’s story and mine, she seems to say; between the racism that ignited Hitler’s followers and the racism that ignites dehumanizing US government policies and border militias alike. She and Blum share “the story of a life in search of itself, stamped by an absence, an absence for many years without name, the name of family separation….” History repeats itself in untidy patterns, as does the intolerance, the bigotry, and the cynical scapegoating that drives violence. Yet the single voice ultimately makes a difference. Pineda was an iconoclast who challenged assumptions about Latina identity and the representation of that identity in narrative form. Asked by Francisco Lomelí to reflect on how she came to be a writer, Pineda points to her years of work as a theater director and dramaturge: I got to script words on the actors in my company, often drawing from physical and verbal work that emerged from developmental rehearsals. I learned how to train actor-writers, to elicit words from them which [provided the score] of a given performance piece. In other words, without knowing it, I was learning the creative discipline I would eventually draw upon in my fiction: writing with the body, making use of visceral impulse to break silence, to find my voice.” (Imagining a Community: An Interview with Cecile Pineda by Francisco Lomelí, February 23, 1996) She turned actors into characters and used the “visceral impulse” to speak. She wrote with the body, drawing on the ideas of Luisa Valenzuela and Clarice Lispector, trying to feel what she could not imagine. Pineda finds herself in a position women writers have often expressed: a content without a form, a consciousness without a narrative shape. Faced with that absence, Virginia Woolf, for example, in A Room of One’s Own, strings together the history of women writing, focusing on the agility with which each worked to represent her experience in a patriarchal society. The novel Woolf describes is malleable. In her words, square, pagoda shaped, budding with wings, arcades, and domes. However, this narrative “shape,” she reminds us, “is not made by the relation of stone to stone, but by the relation of human being to human being.” Thus for Woolf, the integrity of a novelist depends on conviction, the writer’s certainty that he (Woolf uses the masculine pronoun) is telling the truth. “What genius, what integrity it must have required in face of all that criticism, in the midst of that purely patriarchal society, [for women novelists] to hold fast to the thing as they saw it without shrinking.” The image of an elderly woman and her middle-aged daughter crossing the street rises in her mind’s eye and she stops to describe what she imagines: The elder is close on eighty; but if one asked her what her life has meant to her, she would say that she remembered the streets lit for the battle of Balaclava, or had heard the guns fire in Hyde Park for the birth of King Edward the Seventh. And if one asked her, longing to pin down the moment with date and season, but what were you doing on the fifth of April 1868, or the second of November 1875, she would look vague and say that she could remember nothing. For all the dinners are cooked; the plates and cups washed; the children sent to school and gone out into the world. Nothing remains of it all. All has vanished. No biography or history has a word to say about it. And the novels, without meaning to, inevitably lie. Tell your truth, Woolf argues. A woman’s experience is as valid as any other. When your historical circumstances change, so will your consciousness, so will the truth you tell. And in case her primarily male audience has missed the point or is tempted to say she can’t write logically, at the very end of A Room of One’s Own, she offers the linear, logically sustained version of her argument on “Women and Fiction.” Woolf not only argues for a new form of writing, she has actually shattered the conventional expectations of an essay, a form that historically develops alongside the natural sciences as a way of testing, trying out ideas (“to essay”) and disseminating them. Woolf has imagined and conveyed a new hybrid form, an essay that also tells a story about a narrator (Mary Beton, Mary Seton, Mary Carmichael). (A good contemporary, non-literary example of this hybrid is Oreskes & Conway’s The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View of the Future, which combines science fiction and history.) Difference demands hybridity. So much of what Woolf wants to say about the topic “Women and Fiction” is not represented in a patriarchal society but rather conjoined by the force of grammar (“and”), as if to insist that the relationship between “Women” and “Fiction” not only exists but thrives. Woolf builds the bridge, actually conjoining both sides. She tells a story that is hybrid, both nonfiction and fiction, allowing argument and plot to intersect, demonstrating over and again how neither biography nor history records the details that capture her imagination. “Latina letters will be with us for a very long time, as long as there remain folks who refuse cultural homogenization, who celebrate their diversity,” Pineda told the San Antonio Express-News. Gloria Anzaldúa, another very important Chicana writer, defies homogenization, articulating the barbaric history contained within the web of bone and flesh that is her body. She transits between psyche and collective history, between viscera and culture, something palpably evident in the figures and cadences of her credo: I want the freedom to carve and chisel my own face, to staunch the bleeding with ashes, to fashion my own gods out of my entrails. And if going home is denied me then I will have to stand and claim my space, making a new culture–una cultura mestiza–with my own lumber, my own bricks and mortar and my own feminist architecture. As the subtitle of Borderlands/La Frontera confirms, she is “The New Mestiza.” If her entry is denied, she will stand and claim that threshold, designing and constructing it into a mestiza culture, one predicated on the very liminality and hybridity that has always defined her. Creative resistance is possible through hybridity. In retrospect, it seems reasonable that, finding themselves alone in their endeavors, women writers would locate their integrity in what Pineda described as the “visceral impulse,” using her body to leverage herself against the silence and so finding her voice. This is the body of her experience. It is the body of her writing, too. Pineda’s novel Face, a finalist for the 1985 National Book Award, begins with a newspaper article about a Brazilian barber whose face was disfigured in an accident. The barber decides to reconstruct his own face. Cutting and stitching together a new face became a metaphor for Pineda, in her life and in her art. The death of her mother, the decision to close her theater company, the feeling of being ostracized, out of synch with Reagan’s America, when greed, normally one of the seven deadly sins, became quite fashionable–all of these contributed to her sense that, in her words, she was “writing from the bottom of the social ladder, looking up.” She was also reinventing herself as an artist: “I really [felt] I would die if I did not write. Face is about repairing my life stitch [by stich]. [Writing it] had all the intensity of needing to survive” (brackets original, Francisco Lomelí). [url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  15. Today we’re here to bring you the official cover reveal for the upcoming And Put Away Childish Things, a novella by Adrian Tchaikovsky. This will be published in Hardback on 28 March in the US and 30th March in the UK from Rebellion Publishing. Before we show you the cover, here’s what the book is all about: Book Synopsis All roads lead to Underhill, where it’s always winter, and never nice. Harry Bodie has a famous grandmother, who wrote beloved children’s books set in the delightful world of Underhill. Harry himself is a failing kids’ TV presenter whose every attempt to advance his career ends in self-sabotage. His family history seems to be nothing but an impediment. An impediment… or worse. What if Underhill is real? What if it has been waiting decades for a promised child to visit? What if it isn’t delightful at all? And what if its denizens have run out of patience and are taking matters into their own hands? And here’s the cover! Cover art is by Gemma Sheldrake (Twitter: @gemsheldrake; Website: petitecreme.com) Here’s where you can preorder: https://geni.us/TMjiH And as an extra treat, we have an exclusive extract for you from chapter one! Extract from Chapter One They were in the Oxford Story Museum for the shooting. How Even Me? preferred to film in the attics of their guests’ grand houses where they could pretend to unearth dusty old photographs of sainted ancestors undergoing privation or doing praiseworthy things. Harry’s two-room flat was unaccountably missing an attic, because the house had gone with Lisa—along with the kids and most of the money—during the divorce. However, the museum still had a wall panel about his grandmother’s Underhill books as one of its permanent exhibits, and probably the whole thing got waved through as mutual good PR that didn’t have to impact on anyone’s balance sheet too much. They positioned him in front of the display. There were a couple of first editions, the once-bright covers faded, plus some stills from that 1973 animation and a creepy little puppet from the Polish stop-motion of ’87 which still figured in Harry’s nightmares. With that as a backdrop, they did the preliminaries, the little interview sections where he reminisced fondly about Granny Magda, or Mary as her pen name had been. He even went so far as to mention the secret, those little hints she’d dropped about the provenance of her own mother. And he wasn’t really expecting Margot to play God Save the Tsar and then crown him, but it was nice to have the whiff of it hanging in the air. And he relaxed and let his guard down, and then they brought out the box. “Harry,” Margot said. And he’d wanted them to call him Felix. He wanted to start calling himself Felix, instead of the godawful clownish Harry, that non-name he’d taken on and which he was thoroughly sick of. But he was Harry Bodie to the world, and to Equity, and his agent reckoned it was still more help than harm when it came to names to conjure with. “Harry,” Margot said, “what would you say if I told you that we’d been able to track down some real information about your great-grandmother. Far more than Mary ever told you?” And, the bitch, she was doing her excited voice, as she did in every show where the guest’s past held a cornucopia of riches rather than hardship and grief. And he should have thought that they could easily re-shoot her part later, if she wanted to give it the opposite spin. That the Margot Lorne speaking to him then and there needn’t be the one who made it to screen. He fell for it hook, line and sinker. And they had a box there, an old metal chest that eagle-eyed afficionados of How Even Me? might have recognised as turning up in a number of mid-list celebrity attics, because the show got sloppy with re-using its props. Because they wanted the true and honest reaction, they passed it into his hungry hands for him to open. They’d arranged the papers inside quite carefully, so that their narrative was laid out step by step. The admission notice, the treatment reports, the doctor’s notes, the birth certificate. Filming as Harry’s excited sounds of discovery ground down to something bleak and sad. The London County Asylum was stamped on half the pages. That was where his great-grandmother had turned up, apparently. January 8th 1916, which he reckoned was a time when the asylums were doing a booming trade, so small wonder the paperwork looked rushed. Admission of a pregnant woman answering to the name of Devaty Svoboda, initially speaking no English, though she appeared to have picked it up quickly enough. No clue as to where she’d come from, but the country had a lot on its mind right then. And incurably deranged, as the spiky handwriting of one professional had it. Possessed of such detailed and elaborate delusions that the specialist had insisted she be kept in residence for study. She claimed to be the Queen of Fairyland, said the notes. And Harry did his best, and probably he could have turned the whole thing into an exercise whereby he used the heartstrings of the audience as bootstraps for his upcoming career. But in that instant, wrong-footed as he was, he was just so painfully aware that Margot Lorne and her entire crew were laughing at him. That they’d all taken a profound dislike to him from the first moment he turned up, on the not-unreasonable basis that he had made himself profoundly dislikeable. And so his reaction was less noble sorrow and more peevish anger that his goddamn great-grandmother hadn’t been anything more useful to him, and the cameras were rolling all the time. Worse than that, if even possible, was the next two months of him calling the production company with threats, and then having his agent call them with the same threats phrased in more professionally-appropriate language, and then having some lawyers call them with different threats that cost Harry rather more money than he’d have preferred to spend and got him precisely nowhere. He’d signed a contract before going on the show and nowhere in that contract did the words ‘power of veto’ appear, and so they were damn well going to use what they’d got. And at last, just as he was doing his bit in the CBeebies 2019 Christmas panto, the show was broadcast and it all became public knowledge. His agent, Steve, was pessimistic over the phone. “I hate to say it, but… it’s the queen of fairyland bit. People are funny about mental health, aren’t they? Doesn’t exactly jibe with ‘serious proper actor.’ Unless you fancy milking it?” Play up the sorrow and the woe about poor great-grandma. Ostentatiously do a charity gig for an appropriately-themed good cause. The sort of thing that Felix ‘Harry’ Bodie, hungry would-be grown-up actor, would do. Except Harry had, by then, watched his own lamentable performance on How Even Me? approximately nine thousand times and had come to the conclusion that Felix ‘Harry’ Bodie was a bit of a shit, and that his great-grandmother had genuinely been hard done by. He discovered, to his surprise, that he didn’t have the heart to turn his family sorrows into a career mill after all. The thought of the bedridden old woman insisting she was Queen of Nowhere to the daughter she hadn’t been able to keep… It turned out there were actually depths he wasn’t willing to plumb. He started drinking again. Or drinking more, because despite all the professional advice he’d never been able to go dry. Not in entertainment, where everyone was positively pickling themselves the moment they turned the cameras off. He was definitely drunk when he came back to his flat in the small hours one night in February, after the world had mostly forgotten about him again. He was drunk when he dropped his keys in the rosebush-snarled patch of garden out front and ended up on his hands and knees, muttering to himself as he tried to find them. It hadn’t been a good night. The pub had been mostly empty, his fellow TV types crying off because of the growing aversion to crowds and public spaces. He’d downed four solitary pints and then swung by the off licence so he could take the festivities home with him. He felt he was watching his career and life fall apart in slow motion, and every time he had a chance to reverse the course, somehow he did exactly the opposite. Which left him cursing God, the Devil and several named production executives as he fumbled for his lost keys in the near pitch dark and skewered himself on rose thorns. “Here,” said someone, and abruptly the missing items were dangling before his face. He staggered upright, snatching them from the air on the second try, feeling their inarguable cold metal edges pressing into his palm. Crusted with soil from the garden, as though they’d been unearthed from a grave. “What? Right. Thanks,” he blurted out and then looked at the someone and sobered up pretty much immediately. Not literally, of course, biochemistry working as it does, but a savage cocktail of other hormones overrode the worst of the drink because something in him was screaming fight or flight! and, being a sedentary middle-aged TV presenter, he just froze up and did neither. Tall. Freakishly tall. Although as Harry was only five foot eight maybe just ‘very tall.’ Wearing a long coat, like a flasher. Standing weirdly, every part of him held wrong. The legs as though the man was right on the balls of his feet, and then those feet were stretched too long. Sour reek of spoilt milk. Aquiline face with a briar-patch beard and sunken eyes. Filthy, ancient, like a vagrant. Like an icon of a saint unearthed from a dig site. Looked at one way, exactly the sort of disturbed homeless man Harry would cross the street to avoid. Looked at another, an ancient king. The horns. They were ridged like a ram’s, curving back into rook’s nest hair. The roots of them, growing from his temples, were unmissable. “Harry Bodie,” said the thing. Said the delusion, incipient madness, drink-born hallucination. And “No!” shrieked Harry Bodie, dashing for the door. Fumbling the new-reclaimed keys in the lock, waiting for the long, bony hand on his shoulder. Slamming the door behind him loud enough to wake everyone in the building. Trying the door three times to reassure himself it had locked. Not looking out there. Not glancing back as he thundered up the stairs. Not giving himself a moment’s thought. And the window of his flat only faced an alley, and he didn’t look out of it anyway. And Put Away Childish Things is available for pre-order HERE The post AND PUT AWAY CHILDISH THINGS by Adrian Tchaikovsky (COVER REVEAL & EXCERPT) appeared first on The Fantasy Hive. View the full article
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