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  1. In November, with the first snowstorm of the year about to descend and despite considerable trepidation, the ToolMaster and I set off for a two-hour drive into the Canadian countryside. Our mission? After too many years of felt canine absence, we hoped to adopt a dog found on an internet sales ad. Before you chastise me about feeding into puppy mills and their attendant risks, trust me, I’m aware. All our cats and but one of our past dogs have been rescues. I wrestled with a metric tonne of pre-emptive guilt. But I’d already spent months watching local shelters for a pup that would be a good fit for our home and courtesy of the pandemic, the competition was fierce. Suitable candidates were adopted before we could wrangle an appointment. I’d also spent weeks learning to read subtext in online ads and felt I had a good handle on determining the conscientiousness of amateur breeders. I’d finally found one who said all the right things. Even better, they seemed poised to refuse adoption should we fail their screening process. And so, having successfully battled a malfunctioning GPS and just as the first snowflakes swirled, we turned down a farmyard lane. We’d agreed that if something didn’t feel right about the puppy or her owners, either one of us could exert a veto, no questions asked. Then the pup emerged from the garage. She gave my husband one look before trotting up with a “YaY! NeW peOples!” attitude. She also permitted us to pick her up and roll her on her back and scratch her belly. Despite her attractive mixture of confidence and pliability, we continued with our research. We met her parents, who lived onsite. Saw the tidy and well-kept garage workshop in which she’d been raised. The legit vet record. The good quality kibble she’d been fed. We observed her interactions with the farmyard cats—important since we have two feline overlords—and the family, including their three very active children. Everything on their end screamed of professionalism and caring, right down to the preprinted contract awaiting our signatures. As you no doubt have guessed, we had found our new companion. (If you’d like to meet her, scroll to the end of this post for a brief introduction.) The weeks since Betty’s arrival have passed in a blur. But when I’m not taking her out to the bathroom or working on training or snuggling with her before the TV, I’ve done some reflecting. This process has changed me, and it’s already altered how I approach my writing journey. Before I share exactly how and why, let me disclose my relative ignorance about dogs and dog training. Past successes as an owner were largely due to sweet natures of the animals we adopted rather than my skill set. Take anything you read here with a blood-pressure-threatening dose of sea salt. That said, what I’ve learned from Betty is to… 1. Begin by matching the raw materials to the job. My daughter and son-in-law own a Belgian Malinois/German Shepherd cross. There’s a reason they are often used as police dogs and known as land sharks or maligators in their puppyhood. Raya’s prey drive means my daughter has worked hard to train the nippiness out of her. She cohabits well with their cats, yet I’d never trust her around mine. I love her, admire her smarts and athleticism, and find her occasionally intimidating—exactly as befits her breed. I would not recommend you buy a stove with this design if your home shelters large dogs or small people. Nippiness isn’t Betty’s issue. Her grandfather was a champion bird dog. On the rare occasion she confuses your hand for a toy, she has a soft mouth. But her back legs are comprised of springs, meaning that her instinctive greeting manners are atrocious. We’re already dealing with counter-surfing. In fact, if we hadn’t grown wise to her proclivities and locked the burner dials on the front of stove—seriously, what were you thinking, oh foolish design engineer?—she’d have already burned down my house. This illustrates that to a certain extent you can shape nature, but it’s far easier to begin with a dog whose breeding matches your desires. I wouldn’t expect Raya to greet a mail carrier with a butt wiggle and leaps of joy. Nor would I expect Betty to function as a guard dog. That wouldn’t be fair to either of them, and we’d all be doomed to frustration and disappointment. Similarly, it’s unlikely I’ll ever write a work of towering literary fiction. My voice is too snarky, my sensibilities too pragmatic, my story interests too commercial. That doesn’t mean I can’t experiment and learn and grow and perhaps stumble into success in that lane of fiction, but seriously, what are the chances? And at what cost, especially when I can write in genres that reflect my natural strengths? While I’m at it, why not be picky about the writing projects I choose to develop? Better to begin with a higher-concept idea than attempt to turn a quiet book about quiet people doing quiet things into a commercial success. 2. Hire experts if you can afford it. Both the ToolMaster and I tend to have a DIY mentality. We enjoy the process of learning and like wrestling with novel problems. Given enough time and effort and the online resources available, I’d like to think we’d have found eventual success with Betty. But training a puppy is similar to raising a child in that it can expose hidden values conflicts. Soon, not only are you dealing with a puddle of piddle, but you’re navigating heated disagreements on how to prevent them. Happily, we weren’t too proud to seek a qualified arbiter. My daughter recommended a local trainer with impressive credentials and we were comfortable with her philosophy and methods. She was expensive, but worth every penny if only for one single nugget she imparted: in order to get Betty to sleep in past 6 a.m., we were to shift her feeding times to noon, 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. After three weeks of exhaustion, peeps—three solid weeks!—Kristen’s advice worked the first time. Similarly, if you’re not making progress with your writing, consider borrowing the smartest and most educated brain you can access. Depending upon the issue, this might mean hiring a book coach, a developmental editor, cover artist, etc. If you’re on a modest budget, perhaps you can bolster your skills with a book or course tailored to your specific problem. If you aren’t in a position to pay outright, perhaps you can make a material trade. A critique for a critique, or similar. Whatever the case, don’t let pride prevent you from accessing the resources to move forward. 3. Value incremental change, mindset, and persistence. In the writing life, how do you talk to yourself about fallow periods or times of relatively low productivity? Do you call yourself lazy or unmotivated? Compare yourself to others? I need look no further than my own psyche or the comment section in Therese Walsh’s recent impassioned post to know how cruel we writers can be to ourselves. But there’s nothing like working with a puppy to see how unnecessary and unproductive those impulses are. Kristen explained her training paradigm this way: When you combine ability + motivation + clear communication, you can expect to see the desired behavior. If the result is what you asked for, you immediately mark the behavior to let the pup know they are on the right track, using a clicker or word like “yes.” Then you administer a positive reward. (In behavior training, “positive” means an assertive action whereas “negative” means a lack of action.) For most dogs that will mean they get a treat reward, but it’s basically access to whatever they value. For ones not motivated by food, for instance, they might get to play with a desired toy. For another, it might be a trip to the neighborhood pee tree. If the result isn’t what you asked for, you don’t administer positive punishment, like a rebuke or scold or dragging the dog to their kennel. The response is negative punishment, which she describes as “no cookie/try again.” (“Negative”, in this case, isn’t as bad as it sounds! It’s essentially an absent response.) In short, the philosophy is that you’re either providing a positive reward (good job, here’s the cookie) or negative punishment (no cookie, try again.) Does that make sense? As an example, when Betty greets people with “four on the floor,” she gets a “yes” and is rewarded with pets and treats. When she jumps, the visitors ignore her or even leave repeatedly until she’s had a successful greeting. Then she gets smothered with pets. Time and again, by making small asks of Betty and following with consistent feedback, I’ve seen how remarkably effective these methods are. I mean, I should have trusted Kristen, who routinely trains dogs for TV commercials and shows. Still, to see its application to disparate tasks like nail clipping and harness wearing and the “touch” command is nothing less than inspiring. How does this apply to writing? Well, when I’m in a fallow period, I’ve already discovered the limits of self-shame and castigation in getting myself to return to the page. Of all the many riches Betty has brought to my life—among them, puppy kisses and dog park walks and winter air when I might have chosen to cocoon indoors, not to mention a warm, wiggling body whenever I need a hug—this lesson might be the biggest reward of all. I’m permanently ditching the scolds, peeps, as being unhelpful or counterproductive. Since pee trees hold no value for me, I’m going for the cookie. Care to join me? What have you learned from your furry companions and how might that apply to your writing journey? About Jan O'HaraA former family physician and academic, Jan O'Hara (she/her) left the world of medicine behind to follow her dreams of becoming a writer. She writes love stories that zoom from wackadoodle to heartfelt in six seconds flat: (Opposite of Frozen; Cold and Hottie; Desperate Times, Desperate Pleasures). She also contributed to Author in Progress, a Writer's Digest Book edited by Therese Walsh. Web | Twitter | Facebook | More Posts http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?d=yIl2AUoC8zA http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?d=qj6IDK7rITs http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?i=S_AduGX6hyM:p7tF7jd9cz0:gIN9vFwOqvQ http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?i=S_AduGX6hyM:p7tF7jd9cz0:D7DqB2pKExk [url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  2. Please welcome author and mentor Katey Schultz to WU today! Katey is the author of Flashes of War, which the Daily Beast praised as an “ambitious and fearless” collection, and Still Come Home, a novel, both published by Loyola University Maryland. Honors for her work include North Carolina’s Sir Walter Raleigh Award for Fiction, the Linda Flowers Literary Award, Doris Betts Fiction Prize, Foreword INDIES Book of the Year award, gold and silver medals from the Military Writers Society of America, the Chicago Writers Association Book of the Year award, five Pushcart nominations, a nomination to Best American Short Stories, National Indies Excellence recognition, and writing fellowships in eight states. Katie is the founder of Maximum Impact, a transformative mentoring service for creative writers that has been recognized by both CNBC and the What Works Network. Learn more at KateySchultz.com. Getting off the Hamster Wheel When I was in grad school, I had the luxury of communicating with my advisors every month about craft concerns. When I hit the road for writing residencies and fellowships following graduation, the majority of my support came from mature authors, also in residence. If questions about deep revision or the creative process arose, I usually found an answer just one studio over, and often from someone with the word bestseller in their bio. Depending on others for advice about my next move on the page was good for me, at the time. I had so many other craft issues to deal with that I had to relinquish some of the biggies to the experts. But this dependency wasn’t sustainable and, furthermore, it wasn’t teaching me to be a better writer on my own. Sure, I could sign up for a workshop or attend a conference, but at the end of the day, I still had to face my own drafts and know what to do and how to do it. At a certain point, other people’s suggestions started to suffocate my sense of joy and turned writing into a checklist of feedback applied, and tools used. I’d “made changes” and “fixed stuff” but my writing also felt…well…dead. Where was the sense of discovery? That feeling that what I had to say, mattered? I needed a way to get off the hamster wheel of leaning on others for feedback and find confidence and discernment in my own process. And I needed to be able to do this not just for one story, one essay, or one manuscript…but for the rest of my writing life. Name it Learning how to coach myself is what finally got me off that hamster wheel, and it took almost a decade for me to leap. Where did I land? In a place of confidence and discernment as a writer, with a deep creative practice that could contain both generative bursts and literary restlessness, all while meeting my goals. How? By identifying the invisible, decision-making moments of my creative processes and applying a unique set of reflections and craft skills to help me determine my own, best, next move. You might be wondering: If it’s invisible, how did I fix it? The answer is something every writer can relate to. We can fix something only after we’ve named it. Naming things, after all, is what we do. But it’s not just for our stories and essays, it’s for our internal creative processes, too. When we start to apply thinking to language and apply reflection exercises to our own creativity, we can more expediently discern what to do next on the page, and why. We know how and why stories come to us, and we understand our blind spots. Rather than messing with the muse, we work with what it gives us (knowing our handicaps) and thrive on revising with real stakes and authenticity. All of this translates immediately into confidence, and when you put confidence and discernment together, what do you get? Momentum. Be your own best editor Now, when I sit down to write, it’s just me (imperfect), my motivation (inconsistent), and my foundation (unshakable). When I run into craft concerns, rather than shoot an email to a friend or give up, if I can coach myself by naming the challenge, then reflecting on the decisions I made that brought me to that point. If I can name the decisions, I can then question them, which allows a space for a different decision–perhaps a more effective one–to arise. From there, I can write my way forward and see how this slight pivot feels. If I still don’t feel clear, I know how to leave cues for myself on the page and write past the trouble spot, trusting that I have tools for returning to it later. I don’t have to solve the challenge or make every word perfect before moving on, because I’ve learned to trust that clarity comes in waves. But if we stop writing, or if we think we can’t solve problems without a workshop or a conference, we’ll never experience that deeply private, deeply impactful, sense of momentum. We’ll never coach ourselves. This kind of work is invisible to our readers and publishers, and that’s fine. They read for entertainment and discovery, which is what we want. They don’t need to be able to see the micro-decisions we make along the way. But we need to be able to see them. That’s why being coached in how to coach ourselves is an absolute must when it comes to successfully writing for the long haul. It empowers us to become better writers on our own…not just for one project, but for every project. In more concrete terms, that looks like this: How much backstory is too much? Problem: As a writer, I wonder, how much backstory is too much? Maybe I need to stop what I’m writing now and figure this out. But how do I figure it out? Solution: I have taught myself to pause and take a deep breath in these moments, leaning into the question by asking more questions. This is difficult–we’re not conditioned to get close to the unknown and very few writing workshops teach writers what they actually need to be asking of themselves during these critical, all-too-elusive moments. For instance, I ask myself, What does my character desire, in this moment? How do I know that? Does the reader know that? If not, what object, obstacle, action, or reaction can I add to the page that will make this known? Sometimes, privately reflecting on these questions or freewriting answers to them in a notebook constitutes the end of the writing session for that day and I move on (to do dishes, pick up kids, clock in at work, mow the lawn). Other times, it is the beginning of five new pages. Or, How do I keep my reader from getting disoriented? Problem: As a writer, I wonder, how far afield can I go from my present narrative before the reader gets disoriented? And how long can a flashback be, anyway? Maybe I’ve gone too far. Some of this page isn’t even in a specific bracket of time. Am I allowed to do that? Solution: I make a map of my own story, tracing the narrative and its undercurrents, flashbacks, flash-forwards, and eddies. Sometimes I simply stare at my structure map, consider how it looks and feels, contemplate the balance of scene and summary, then…go to bed. But the next time I open that document, I have the answer to my question about how far afield I can go. I’ll either adjust a structural component, or I’ll keep going forward through time. In either case, I’ve coached myself through this challenge and can skip the workshop hamster wheel and meet my own goals, with confidence. Show up and do the work I’ll always have and need my good writing friends. I’ll always study the work of others to see what I can learn. And at some point in every manuscript, I’ll want to hand it over to a trusted reader for their response. But I’ll also always have to be able to write alone and coach myself from one page to the next. Finally, after a good bit of training, I can really say that I am my own best coach and guide through this process. Above all else, I’m able to write. Simply. Without excuse or obstruction. The only requirement is that I show up and do the work. What do I wake up eager to do most mornings? Exactly that. How are you your own best coach and your own best editor? Where do you still need help? We’d love to hear from you in comments. http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?d=yIl2AUoC8zA http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?d=qj6IDK7rITs http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?i=vybr1oGq1_Y:5oyGnIQagNk:gIN9vFwOqvQ http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?i=vybr1oGq1_Y:5oyGnIQagNk:D7DqB2pKExk [url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  3. “What is interesting here, from a disinterested/objective perspective, is how the unimaginable improbable will become, within a surprisingly short period of time, the imagined probable. How the lurid-freakish becomes, within that period of time, particularly if experienced on a daily, hourly basis, in a familiar and delimited space like a family household, normal. What was accepted as the old normal is soon overcome by the new normal. Eventually then, simply the normal. For all things shift, as if tugged by gravity, to the normal.” Those who are familiar with the work of Joyce Carol Oates will know that she is as much a master of the Weird fiction short story as she is a multi-award-winning literary icon. The Ruins of Contracoeur (2021), her latest collection of short fiction, features longish short stories published between 1999 and 2020 in venues as diverse as Playboy and Red Shift: Extreme Visions of Speculative Fiction (2001). It confirms her as a writer whose engagement with the Weird only grows stronger each year. The six stories in the collection show Oates’ mastery of the form, across grisly body horror, experimental reflection, deep character study and sharp revenge fantasy. Across widely varying tone, from black comedy to utterly chilling, Oates is a writer utterly in command of her voice. Published by the Swan River Press with lush cover art by Meggan Kehrli and a thoughtful and incisive introduction by fellow master of the Weird short story Lisa Tuttle, The Ruins of Contracoeur is essential reading for fans of Oates’ work and a great introduction for the curious. Collection opener ‘Mr. Stickum’ sets the dark and disturbing tone perfectly. The story is told from the point of view of a gang of schoolgirls who discover a child sex trafficking ring operating in their area, and decide to get revenge for all the exploited children by building a trap, the heart of which is the eponymous Mr. Stickum. The story immediately establishes Oates’ incredible command of voice, her ability to place the reader inside her characters’ perspectives. She captures the thrill of these intelligent young woman who, upon learning of the unpleasant reality, work together to solve their problem, a visceral response to the loss of innocence. The story unflinchingly explores the dark secrets hidden away by families and communities, as the girls recognise many of their victims from school or their own relatives. It also displays something that will become a recurring theme throughout the collection – the strength of Oates’ approach to the Weird is the way that she acknowledges the uncanny’s relationship to the mundane. These stories are disturbing because the transgressive and the strange cause a disruption in the characters’ lives, but their lives must continue around this traumatic event, creating a new normality that is unrecognisable compared to their lives before. Oates explores the fallout from trauma in intense, close first person in ‘The Cold’, which explores a woman suffering from the aftermath of a miscarriage who is losing her grip on reality. The story is a powerful exploration of suffocating grief, brave and unflinching. Oates uses the motif of being haunted by a coldness, which echoes H. P. Lovecraft’s ‘Cool Air’ (1928), but where Lovecraft’s story is about defying death, Oates repurposes it to explore the abjection of failed pregnancy. ‘Monstersister’ is a gruesome tale of body horror, in which a girl who absorbed her twin in the womb births her through a growth on the back of her head. Again abjection looms large, with the monstrous sister being literally ejected from the older sister’s body, but then twisted family dynamics lead to the monstrous sister being welcomed into the body of the family whilst the older sister is rejected. It is a visceral and disturbing exploration of the family unit and what it means to not belong, to be cast out. ‘Commencement’ is a slice of pure dark humour in which the self-important pompous rituals of academia hide rituals of a darker, bloodier nature. Oates takes satirical aim at the petty internal politics that shape academia and its obsession with initiations and graduations. The tedium of the graduation ceremony, the self-congratulatory attitude of the honoured guests and the in-fighting amongst the faculty make the whole thing instantly recognisable, and makes the horror interrupting from this familiar setting all the more striking. ‘Redwoods’ is the collection’s most daring and experimental narrative. It tells the tale of a man who, following his death, is left navigating the various possible outcomes of a seemingly trivial encounter with strangers in the redwood forests that winds up being the central hub of his entire life. Oates expertly weaves a tale of lives not lived, regrets and mistakes in an ambitious, non-linear narrative that hops across timelines and contingencies. The story demonstrates Oates’ ability to experiment with narrative form in order to provide a detailed and poignant character study. The longest story in the collection, and the oldest, ‘The Ruins of Contracoeur’ is Oates at her unparalleled best. Like the novels in her classic Gothic Quintet, the story focuses on a troubled family saga, which shades in and out of the fantastic and the horrific until classifying it becomes a futile endeavour. It is the story of a family forced to leave the city in disgrace to take up residence in the ruined country house Cross Hill. As the children slowly become aware of the historical disgrace of their ancestor who originally built the house and the truth about their father’s fall from grace, it becomes clear that Cross Hill is haunted by the family’s history and by more physical apparitions. A taught and beautifully written chronicle of the family’s collective decent into madness and worse, it’s exactly the kind of story that no one else can do as well as Oates. It is a fitting conclusion to the collection, which as a whole serves as a reminder of Oates’ talents and her key place in the worlds of literary and Weird fiction. The post THE RUINS OF CONTRACOEUR AND OTHER PRESENCES by Joyce Carol Oates (BOOK REVIEW) appeared first on The Fantasy Hive. View the full article
  4. Not one person in a hundred knows how to be silent and listen, no, nor even to conceive what such a thing means. Yet, only then can you detect, beyond the fatuous clamour, the silence of which the universe is made. —Samuel Beckett In her December post (“The Hidden—But Crucial—Mad Skill”) Kathryn Craft discussed holding fast to the creative spirit despite the overwhelming difficulties and constant, even essential disappointment one endures in its pursuit. In particular, she provided a quote from Martha Graham that has continued to slosh around inside my head ever since: There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium; and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, not how it compares with other expression. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others. In my own November post (“Why I Am Not Writing”), I noted some of the difficulties I was having getting back into the daily habits required of a novelist. I won’t revisit those here, but in the interim I’ve managed to get back to my desk, only to discover an entirely different difficulty, one I can’t help but imagine I share with a great many of you. I’m speaking of distraction. After five years of daily dread and doomscrolling, scratching the FOMO itch (Fear Of Missing Out) by constantly checking the news, I’ve found that I’ve developed the very bad habit of letting my attention swing like a weather vane with every stray thought. This has only become more evident as I’ve tried to focus on writing. Joyce Carol Oates considers interruption a writer’s greatest nemesis. How unsettling, in my case, to realize the enemy lies within. Following the advice of the Israeli historian-philosopher Yuval Noah Harari, I’ve returned to meditation, hoping to get a grip on this. But as anyone who meditates knows, it ain’t as easy as it looks. There is quite possibly nothing more difficult for a flibbertigibbet like me than to sit still. Even when I do, it’s not as though tranquility magically descends. The Buddhists have a saying: the mind is a monkey. My mind is a whole forest full of them, chattering away in the trees. Once, when we were in the car together, my late wife remarked that she could literally hear me thinking. “You have a very noisy brain.” The constant flux of mental floaters we think of as consciousness—our thoughts, our worries, our plans, our fears—distracts from the deeper awareness Samuel Beckett talks about in the quote that opens this post, an awareness that requires silence. To be creative, ironically, being conscious isn’t enough. We need to sink into something deeper. And as the Martha Graham quote suggests, the perfectionist need to be good, to do the job well, only impedes our ability to find that deeper, quieter place. That realization has been particularly helpful in getting my focus back. For even when I manage to ignore the constant urges to check my email or Twitter or Facebook, or resist worrying about all I have to do before we move cross-country at the end of March—or succumb to any of the other digressive impulses that arise in my mind, like earworms—the doubts about the worth of what I’m doing, its quality, its merit, rise up as but one more level of distraction. I’m taking heart in the fact that, little by little, the words are coming. As for their worth—that’s why the gods invented revision. What has proven most distracting for you of late? What tactics do you use to “keep your butt in the chair”? What’s proven most helpful? What hasn’t? About David CorbettDavid Corbett (he/him) is the author of six novels: The Devil’s Redhead, Done for a Dime, Blood of Paradise, Do They Know I’m Running?, The Mercy of the Night, and The Long-Lost Love Letters of Doc Holliday. His short fiction and poetry have appeared in a broad array of magazines and anthologies, with pieces twice selected for Best American Mystery Stories, and his non-fiction has appeared in numerous venues, including the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Narrative, Zyzzyva, MovieMaker, The Writer, and Writer’s Digest (where he is a contributing editor). He has taught through the UCLA Extension’s Writers’ Program, Book Passage, LitReactor, 826 Valencia, The Grotto in San Francisco, and at numerous writing conferences across the US, Canada, and Mexico. In January 2013 Penguin published his textbook on the craft of characterization, The Art of Character, and Writer’s Digest will publish his follow-up, The Compass of Character, in October 2019. Web | Twitter | Facebook | More Posts http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?d=yIl2AUoC8zA http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?d=qj6IDK7rITs http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?i=IZmX6fDgr-0:L7GtJceDa4g:gIN9vFwOqvQ http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?i=IZmX6fDgr-0:L7GtJceDa4g:D7DqB2pKExk [url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  5. As some of you may know I am currently undertaking a creative writing PhD with the catchy title Navigating the mystery of future geographies in climate change fiction. This involves reading and watching a lot of climate change fiction (cli-fi) and the Fantasy-Hive have kindly given me space for a (very) occasional series of articles where I can share my thoughts and observations. This time, I’ve turned my attention to the excellent recent Netflix release, Adam McKay’s Don’t Look Up. Nearly two decades ago the iconic The Day After Tomorrow (TDAT) first brought a cinematic lens to bear on the developing field of climate change fiction (cli-fi). In Don’t Look Up (DLU), Hollywood has taken another paradigm shifting lurch forward in the representation of the impending climate catastrophe and humanity’s stumbling response to it. As with TDAT, DLU telescopes the decades long challenge of the climate crisis into a timescale that satiates audiences’ craving for narrative immediacy. While TDAT compressed its flipping of the world’s climate past an irreversible tipping point into a three-day white-out in the Northern Hemisphere, DLU uses an impending extinction level event of a comet impact in six months as an allegory for climate change. Both films share some features, not least the political resistance to accepting the reality of the threat. However, DLU has absorbed and portrays many of the additional issues that have faced those pressing for climate action in the 18 years since TDAT first got people talking. While critics have decried DLU for an alleged misfiring message that patronises and alienates its audience, those critics should perhaps remember, they are not the film’s target audience. Every protest movement attracts resistance from its contemporary establishment which feels protest is only acceptable if it comes in a form that offends no-one, changes nothing and so can be comfortably ignored. DLU’s greatest offence is perhaps that people are watching it and talking about it and about climate change from a new perspective. There is much that the film does right and to great comic effect even if – given the contemporary experience of a fact-denying, evidence-free, political and epidemiological dystopia – DLU tends to draw more smiles of grim recognition than outright belly laughs. In parts, it is just too real to be funny. However, despite its many brilliances there are constraints of form and plot which mean some key issues still evade DLU’s withering satire. I’d like to consider what the film does well and also where it still falls short of the admittedly impossible task of depicting the totality and complexity of the unfolding climate crisis. Through its scientific protagonists, Randall Mindy and Kate Dibiaski, the film accurately holds up the naïve inarticulacy of science in the media maelstrom and how this contributes to the scientific consensus being side-lined. The gawky awkwardness of the unsavvy pair extends even to their appearances with Dibiaski’s self-cut fringe and Mindy’s shaggy beard. Media platforms that crave pithy certainties from heroic individual celebrity scientists in simple two-sided presentations, struggle to deliver the reality of the dull rigour of scientific method and peer-reviewed findings. Danger also becomes hard to sell because our present lifestyle feels so comfortable and permanent that we can’t readily comprehend its vulnerability to climate change. The media, at the very heart of the “we’re OK” delusion, as depicted in DLU by default works on a “but it’ll all be all right in the end” setting. You would think that the tumult of the pandemic would have shattered that illusion and exposed us to the real risks of deep and unavoidable societal change. However, the pandemic has instead seen a rehearsal of exactly the same science resistance, misinformation and inept political response that the climate crisis has encountered. Covid is a mock exam for the climate crisis and we are failing it badly. Some anti-lockdown groupings are now looking to pivot to a similar “save the economy” based anti-climate change action agenda. The parallels between our faltering hamstrung responses both to Covid and to climate change are shocking but far from accidental. When the president’s son and chief of staff Jason Orlean makes a reference to “our scientists” – the film highlights how the natural caution of the majority of the scientific community is used against it. Naomi Oreskes and Erik M Conway in Merchants of Doubt chronicled how superannuated or fringe scientists are invited and funded to deliver authoritative pronouncements that deviate from the consensus or are on areas way out of their area of expertise. Strident but un-peer reviewed pronouncements can travel twice around the world before the scientific consensus has got its boots on. In DLU the positional authority of the head of NASA gives weight to her pronouncements, but it turns out that her scientific area of expertise is not in Astronomy. In the climate and the covid crises superficially authoritative but experientially misplaced “experts” have been repeatedly deployed not to disprove the scientific consensus, but simply to sow doubt and confusion for the public. They present an illusion of a credible alternative science narrative that panders to and supports our powerful desire to “carry on as normal.” Paranoia, gullibility and a predilection for conspiracy theories feeds off that bait of “doubt and uncertainty” like a shoal of piranhas. That confusion is enough to prevent action. It is enough to help sustain the unsustainable status quo, and sustaining the status quo has been the commercial imperative since the tobacco industry first sought to bury the health risks of smoking. This play repeated in several environmental and health crises since, is seen also with covid. In the Great Barrington Declaration, the flawed concept of herd immunity was trumpeted under the sponsorship of a right wing libertarian think tank. The superannuated scientists involved espousing fringe views based on shoddy research were serving political agendas for political and commercial masters. Oreskes and Conway highlighted how the cadre of rent-an-expert scientists moved seamlessly from one issue they knew little about to another through the last decades of the twentieth century. DLU illustrates this recycling of cherry picked “experts” when the Head of NASA forced at one point to resign in disgrace as the scapegoat for the administration’s culpable inactivity, nonetheless reappears later in the film rehabilitated and readmitted to the corridors of power and influence. The film also skewers the political and media fuelled faith in technological solutions and the fantasy of the hero entrepreneur. Rebecca Willis in Too Hot to Handle; the Democratic challenge of climate change, pointed out how we are led to believe that technology will solve climate change. It’s like believing that we don’t need to press the brakes on a bus careering towards a cliff-edge because we trust the entrepreneur on the back seat to design and install some operational wings. In the character of Peter Isherwood, DLU combines aspects of Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs into a persona physically resembling Andy Warhol. This composite entrepreneur with his incredibly complex plan of comet fragmentation, mining and exploitation is a cypher for all the greenwashing promises of the climate crisis sceptics – the contention that carbon-capture or atmospheric seeding can enable us to continue gorging our society on fossil fuels without consequence. The ultimate mechanism of failure of Isherwood’s “plan A” illustrates how the problem is not the invalidity of an individual concept, but the impossibility of upscaling it to the required level of scope and reliability. For those of us living in Northern Ireland, this almost religious invocation of technology by politicians with no relevant expertise or understanding sounds horribly familiar. For years we were told that technology would provide “alternative arrangements” that would avoid the Brexit inevitability of a customs border either in the Irish sea or on the island of Ireland. Again, the parallels between that fallacious Brexit faith in technology, and the equally dubious Climate crisis trust in technology are not a matter of simple coincidence. With its portrayal of a Trumpian brand of American politics, through President Janie Orlean, DLU highlights the twin difficulties Climate Change faces in gaining the necessary political traction to instigate action, those of political timescales and political funding. In a world driven by febrile social media activity, where the way to avoid the consequences of last week’s scandal is to bury it under next week’s even greater scandal, DLU highlights how the duration of political concentration has shrunk even shorter than the usual length of an electoral cycle. Instead, politics on both sides of the Atlantic, has shrivelled down to the micro-timescales of political media management which are the exact antithesis of the scale and length of vision needed to address the climate catastrophe. President Orlean switches between rejecting and then embracing the reality of the comet threat, but in both decisions is driven by purely domestic considerations of political survival. (One might wonder how far the UK covid strategy is driven by the current prime minister’s need to satisfy rebellious Tory back benchers and preserve his personal position rather than safeguard public health.) However, the next twist in DLU’s plot reflects the other invidious factor influencing contemporary political decision making. The entrepreneurial Isherwood, through his generous funding of Orlean’s party, is given a totally unjustified access to and influence over the political decision-making process. This leads to the abandonment of one plan to save the earth in favour of another riskier one of Isherwood’s design that promises untold wealth from the “mined” comet. Throughout the pandemic in the UK we have seen highly profitable contracts given, without due diligence, to risky ventures that happen to have links with and/or be donors to the Tory party. The way that DLU highlights how the wealthy seek to exploit a crisis to profit and become even more wealthy rings far too painfully true. We see too the impact of the way Joe Manchin has been funded and supported by the fossil fuel industry in how he has obstructed the relatively modest steps to address climate change proposed by his democratic party president. It is ironic that those who praise the efficiency of the private sector in allocating its funds to secure the best commercial outcomes, somehow think those same organisations’ investment in politicians and political activity is a purely philanthropic gesture with no expectation of enhancing their own position through political leverage and power. Through Isherwood’s intervention, DLU also highlights how the narrative of catastrophe can be manipulated by those who seek to personally profit from it. Imminent disaster is rebranded as economic opportunity. In The Green Market Revolution, foreworded by the deeply disingenuous Daniel Hannan, a battery of right-wing libertarian essayists try to suggest how the Free Market can not only solve the environmental challenges but bring profits to all. It is ironic that arch-Brexiteer Hannan in his foreword talks about the clean rivers we were (at the time) enjoying in the UK, as though these were a consequence of a benevolent free market, and yet through the “freedoms” his Brexit has won these rivers are now clogged with human sewage. DLU, with our protagonists meeting apathy and resistance from people deluded into believing the comet will bring them jobs, sharply pinpoints the current climate crisis pivot that the Green Market Revolution epitomises. The shift is now from denying climate change is happening to accepting it but insisting that raw unregulated capitalism is best placed to protect us by capitalising on it to the benefit of everybody. Thus, these first shoots of the “climate change could be a good thing” narrative are beginning to force their way into the public domain, testing the waters of public opinion and softening people up for unspeakable. What we have seen in public pronouncements by right-wing libertarians on many issues appear to be deliberate attempts to stress the Overton window with outrageous statements beyond the pale of acceptability. Such pronouncements may not move the window all the way, but they provide a jolt to it and the window settles in a new and slightly more extreme position. Through the pandemic we have been “jolted” from seeing 20,000 UK deaths as a worst-case scenario, to 150,000 deaths being normalised. We have gone from clapping (but not improving the pay) of NHS workers to demonising them as lazy idle buggers taking holidays in a pandemic, and accepting as valid opinion leader articles that argue “is it worth saving the NHS?” DLU’s portrayal of how people can be manipulated into believing they might benefit from a disastrous comet is not too far from the truth in the insidious twisting of opinion by those who really could (and do) profit from disaster. There is, of course, one last thing that the film does brilliantly and that is in the design of its title. Humanity seems to have a psychological preference for accepting simple lies over complex truths, for believing in salvation through individual heroes of an entrepreneurial elite rather than social and political collaboration in a global team effort, for trusting statements of immediate and unwavering certainty rather than the iterative processes by which science refines, corrects and improves its understanding of what is happening. As with many academic fields, scientific conclusions cannot be reduced to the pithy three word slogans so beloved of modern politics – the emotive but misleading power of “Get Brexit Done,” the simplicity of “Build Back Better,” or – more hopefully perhaps “Security, Prosperity, Respect.” In the tradition of simple lies Trumping complex truths, the absurdity of climate crisis denial is epitomised in the film’s catastrophe denying movement and its three-word slogan “Don’t Look Up” that encapsulates the wilful blindness of populism. However, there are things the film didn’t do so well – or couldn’t do so well. Within the comet allegory, an external natural event over which we have no control, there is no direct parallel to be drawn with the self-inflicted catastrophe of the climate crisis. The comet is not the fossil fuel industry and it has no lobbyists to argue on its behalf. The industries that created the climate crisis have at their disposal substantial reserves of wealth, influence and motivation to seek any means possible to enable them to continue doing the damage. It is incredible that reports suggest 2022 may see the highest ever coal consumption. The largest lobby group at Glasgow’s climate conference was the fossil industry, which still receives millions of dollars a day of subsidy and continues to have far greater access to and apparent sympathy from ministers than the renewable energy industry. There is no analogue in DLU for the way those who caused the crisis continue to have too loud a voice in how to resolve it. Also, the crisis of a comet that is an undeniable agent of change cannot easily convey the forces of conservatism controlling much of the media. The proponents of conservatism (small government and supply side reform aka deregulation and removal of social and workplace safety nets), delivering their messages through shady but well funded think tanks, have secured unjustified access to political influence and presentation in the media as “independent expert voices.” (My favourite is the Taxpayers’ alliance, a self-professed grass roots organisation which has been strangely silent on the squandering of billions of UK taxpayers’ money on arguably corrupt crony contracts). Conservatism, in its extreme libertarian form, seeks to preserve, profit from and indeed increase global inequality. Poverty is policy. Keeping people poor keeps them fearful and easily duped into scapegoating and demonising others even poorer and more desperate than themselves. Such libertarian voices present themselves as champions of the everyman and cynically frame measures of public or environmental health and safety as attacks on individual freedoms and prosperity, yet they are anything but everyman, and their astro-turfed grass roots organisations have anything but the public interest at heart. There is no simple allegory that DLU can harness to illustrate the invidious libertarian influence on the debate. The billionaire editorial control of the media is not depicted in the film. Instead, the TV presenters are seen as entirely their own agents delivering deliberately light entertainment, rather than promoting someone else’s agenda of duplicitous lies be it climate change denial, anti-vax messages, allegations of electoral fraud, or the patently absurd suggestion that Brexit was ever a good idea, and that Boris Johnson is anything other than a lying charlatan. It may seem extreme, but these ideas have a common foundation in an outright libertarian agenda where the commercial influence of a transnational elite is used to override the interests and independence of what were always fragile democracies. It’s an agenda set out in The Sovereign Individual by William Rees-Mogg (Jacob’s father) and building on the notion of heroic individualist capitalism depicted in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, a deeply flawed vision of how government regulation fetters capitalism’s true potential for improving the lot of everyone, or at least those who deserve to have their lot improved. You don’t have to scratch too deeply into modern political discourse to find the libertarian ideal of a deregulated dystopia where the property accumulating ultra-wealthy profit from the indentured service of people sold a lie of freedom with a side serving of hate, while not realising that everything of real value has been taken from them. In short, a vision of global capitalism in its final tyrannical form. We can already see that Brexit libertarians, the covid deniers, the lockdown sceptics are poised to pivot to attacking climate change with exactly the same tried and tested fear-mongering messages of economic damage and loss of individual freedoms. The same people who pushed the lies that smoking doesn’t cause lung cancer, fossil fuels don’t cause acid rain, passive smoking isn’t a health risk, climate change isn’t real, masks/vaccines/lockdowns don’t work are now poised to tell us that climate change is real but only they can solve it. As James Doohan as Star Trek’s Scotty once (nearly) said, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me eight or more times, shame on me.” These visions profit from what seems to be a weakness of our species, that we are ill-suited to coping with the complexity of the world we have created and the dangers we have caused. We see this in our preference for individual led stories, we need an everyman to guide us through the narrative, we do not have a hive mind. The news media understand this and frame their stories around individual icons to stimulate our empathy and engagement. But the challenge for all of us in cli-fi, be it film or books, is to break out of the bonds of realist literature and effectively convey the epic scale of the global catastrophe we face. It is what I like to describe as the Tardis conundrum, to tell a story that – through its individual focus – appears small on the outside but – in the extent of the themes it covers – is much bigger on the inside. Don’t Look Up is a painfully sharp offering that aims to resolve this paradox. Yet it has also attracted the kind of criticism that every progressive voice faces. You are protesting too rudely, you are protesting too much, you are upsetting the people you need to enlist. The impact of cli-fi in film and literature remains uncertain. Schneider-Mayerson’s studies of readers’ responses to cli-fi suggests that they are unpredictable and that any shifts of attitude towards climate change are small and fragile. Portrayals of dystopian futures like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (is it even cli-fi?) are criticised for engendering feelings of hopelessness and depression rather than political and individual engagement in the issues. The question remains, how does cli-fi best stimulate action? In particular, how does it stimulate action that goes beyond the deliberate distractions of personal responsibility and on into demands for wider political action and corporate accountability? A classic climate denial tactic is to launch accusations of individual hypocrisy “Did you use a car to get to the studio today?” within a wider strategy of putting the scientists and the activists constantly on the defensive. This shouting “squirrel” type of deflection leads us away from the imperative that governments must take national action and global corporations must be held to account. The fossil fuels must stay in the ground. Subsidies to fossil fuel companies must end. Climate damaging companies must not be supported in managing their image through greenwashing activities, sponsoring public works, and buying politicians. Protest that does not make people uncomfortable is not doing its job, and it is shocking how there are people in power who have benefited from the protests of previous generations yet are still poised to stifle and supress the power to protest for the current generation. No film can encompass the totality of climate change and the problems of the compromised political, media and commercial responses to the threat, but Don’t Look Up is the best effort yet. While it may not directly stimulate the action we need, it has at least stimulated the precursor to action – People are talking about it. The post DON’T LOOK UP directed by Adam McKay – THE UNSEEN ACADEMIC appeared first on The Fantasy Hive. View the full article
  6. photo adapted / Horia Varlan or…The Curious Case of the Constipated Elephant Have you ever been reading a book and out of the blue, some problem arises that you just don’t care about? I have, starting with my own first novel-length manuscript. A misleading tenet had guided my novel-writing journey: “Conflict is story.” Turns out that wasn’t quite specific enough. Story works best when it develops a certain kind of conflict, and mine included everything but a constipated elephant. (Or perhaps I should say, “A constipated elephant!!”, since we all know that exclamation marks can ramp up the tension when we doubt our storytelling abilities.) As if ripped from the pages of some other book, a problem that feels irrelevant will stand between your reader and the further progression of the tale you thought you were writing. So how do you know if you’re choosing conflict that’s relevant? Guard your story’s identity Aligning your novel’s key structures will help you stay on track. Decide on a premise. Writers use the word “premise” in varying ways, but for me, premise speaks to purpose. Premise defines the kind of story you are writing by evoking your protagonist’s arc of inner change. A premise is kind of like a moral, but not as didactic—it is your story’s raison d’etre. Its point. Writing out your premise with an action word that suggests story movement will be invaluable to you. For instance, your character’s belief about something at the outset will lead to believable change regarding that belief. The premise of the previous paragraph is, “Knowing what kind of story you are telling leads to your ability to state its premise.” The premise of this essay is, “Studying story structure leads to an understanding of relevant conflict.” [Kathryn, you should tell us a constipated elephant anecdote here, just for kicks! No, I should not.] Inciting incident. While you might hook readers on the opening page with a bridging conflict (Will Dot’s de-iced plane be able to take off safely from Logan International in this snow squall?), it is the inciting incident that changes everything in your protagonist’s life and tips her into the story. In the example I’ll build, that incident is the sudden death of Dot’s husband, just three weeks before the Kilimanjaro trip meant to commemorate the 40th anniversary of their first climb, when they met and fell in love. At first she thinks she should cancel. Why bother? The trip will only remind her of all she’s lost, and she’s probably too old to pull it off anyway. But when a nor’easter is forecasted to bring a foot of snow to Boston, Dot is reminded of when she almost declined the offer of a dream job which would require a winter move to Boston years ago, and she hears her husband’s ever-buoyant voice saying, “You’re not going to let a little snow stop us, are you?” So she keeps the reservation to Tanzania. This inciting incident raises a story goal for the protagonist (to survive the climb and restore her spirit), and a story question for the reader (in light of her husband’s loss, will Dot be able to finish the climb up Kilimanjaro at age 60, and revive her broken spirit?). The reader will keep this question in her mind, constantly assessing Dot’s progress. Note the specificity of this inciting incident: if the climb hadn’t already been scheduled at the time of the husband’s death, the reader wouldn’t have linked the two; this linkage will be crucial to sustaining reader interest in the climb. The quick look back is important too, as we realize how Dot benefitted from her husband’s influence. [But the constipated elephant story is really funny, and the story is set in Africa—can’t I throw it in? Not all stories set in Africa have elephants, especially considering their dwindling populations. This event must earn its way in.] Orchestrate your character set. Your story should focus on the attainment of your protagonist’s goal. The other characters are present to support or obstruct that goal in a way that will either directly or tangentially tie in to the premise. Let’s say our Kilimanjaro story has the premise, “Perseverance leads to success.” Perhaps Dot’s lifelong friend takes her husband’s seat on the plane, but she decides halfway up that the trip is too hard, too long, and too dangerous, and so she turns back. Dot has lost her emotional support. What will she do? This is a good, relevant complication. Surmounting it will no doubt result in a turning point on Dot’s emotional journey. Another well-orchestrated character might be a local teen who was shunned because of a birth defect. He finds out about this climb, and is so determined to go along that he surmounts a language barrier in order to convince Dot to let him come, because he must prove he’s as much a man as any other in his Tanzanian village, where until now he’s been made to cook with the women. His keen desire and personal stakes make him a great addition. [Ooh—how about our protagonist carries on, only to find that an elephant has also wandered up the mountain, and because it has altitude sickness, it is constipated!!! Sorry, the exclamation marks still don’t convince me. Our Dot has not persevered up this mountain so she can find an elephant.] Use this key to relevancy Scene by scene, you achieve true, relevant conflict when each member of your supporting cast has a personal goal that 1) intersects with the protagonist’s achievement of her goal, and 2) either directly or tangentially ties in with the premise. Such conflict will then arise organically, and result in emotional turning points for your protagonist that keep him or her moving toward a satisfying, relevant ending. To illustrate this, let’s throw in some bad guys—some poachers after an endangered snow leopard. Good conflict—but is it relevant? That depends. It’s relevant if our protagonist gets in their way and is wounded, and in addition to figuring out how to get these creeps out of her way (I’d involve the teen who wants to prove himself a man here), Dot must decide whether to keep going given all the new obstacles. It’s much less relevant if Dot is able to shoo the hunters away easily, because this has not supported your premise. These hunters must be highly motivated to want this leopard in order to tie in with the “Perseverance leads to success” premise, and they don’t care who is in their way (maybe one of them desperately needs the money from the leopard’s hide to pay for medical care for his newborn son—see the orchestration? Our teen has already foreshadowed that medical care is hard to get. And isn’t it more interesting when antagonists are fully rounded humans?). The result: Our protagonist, it would seem, has an even bigger fight on her hand than she realized. That’s always good. [But the elephant…] All right already! Over the years, the protagonist made friends with a man who keeps a small breeding center for endangered animals at the base of the mountain. Dot wants to get going up the mountain before the weather changes, but her friend, who was going to come along, can’t leave yet—he’s been caring for a pregnant but very constipated elephant, who now refuses to eat, and he doesn’t want to leave until her survival is ensured. He ramps up his efforts, trying every homeopathic trick in the book, while Dot watches the skies. And finally—perseverance leads to success. You can tell your funny anecdote without fear of an editor’s red pen, because through its tie to both premise and a complication arising naturally from the intersecting goals of your well-orchestrated characters, the elephant’s constipation has gained relevance as a bona fide plot event. Follow these steps and your manuscript will gain story integrity while pointing your protagonist—and your reader—through relevant plot conflict and toward a satisfying ending. *This lays the foundation of a discussion of premise that I’ll build on next month, so stop back! Let’s honor our mistakes through the lessons they taught us. Have you ever caught yourself attempting to ramp up conflict in your novels with plot that ends up feeling irrelevant? Could you solve the issue by deletion or reworking, or is that novel in a drawer just like my first one? About Kathryn CraftKathryn Craft (she/her) is the author of two novels from Sourcebooks, The Art of Falling and The Far End of Happy. A freelance developmental editor at Writing-Partner.com since 2006, Kathryn also teaches in Drexel University’s MFA program and runs a year-long, small-group mentorship program, Your Novel Year. Learn more on Kathryn's website. Web | Twitter | Facebook | More Posts http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?d=yIl2AUoC8zA http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?d=qj6IDK7rITs http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?i=qipKxJQtul8:oF7Tv45uLJg:gIN9vFwOqvQ http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?i=qipKxJQtul8:oF7Tv45uLJg:D7DqB2pKExk [url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  7. If there’s anything good about a creative slump, it’s the extra time it provides for reading. When I’m working hard on a manuscript my recreational reading goes down in both volume and seriousness. But over the past year I’ve done very little writing – the dire world situation has caused a shutdown of creativity, not only for me, but for many of my writer friends. I salute those who’ve managed to continue regardless. A crisis like the pandemic may lead us to feel that our world is shrinking, and with it our opportunities. Those may be small opportunities – the ability to walk the dog whenever you like, without masking up – or big ones, such as international travel for study or employment. It’s near-impossible to make plans. It can be hard to maintain hope. That, too, can be smaller or larger scale: the hope that you may be reunited with a beloved family member, or the hope that world leaders will unite to solve the problems facing humankind. During my fallow time as a writer I’ve done a lot of reading, and I’ve rediscovered the power of good fiction to lift us out of our everyday woes and open us up to wider perspectives of the world and the human condition. When reading the brilliant novel The Overstory by Richard Powers, I was reminded how effective a well-told story can be to convey a message – many times more so than hammering that message home in a political rant or endlessly re-stating it to an audience or readership whose attention was long ago lost. Story provides a powerful and subtle way to make a point. The Overstory is a highly imaginative, beautifully written novel about climate change and the role of trees. It’s also a skilful interweaving of several story threads whose characters we can relate to and care about. It is both entertainment and message. While conveying the terrifying truth about the way humankind is destroying the planet, this novel leaves the reader with a feeling of hope. Yes, maybe we can do something about this. Yes, it is worthwhile to keep on trying. There are good people out there making a difference, and we can be among them. As I mentioned in a WU post a few years ago, I dislike stories that end with no note of hope or learning. I don’t mean a happy ever after; for that to occur in every single novel would be unrealistic. But I like at least one character to come out of the story a little wiser, a little more compassionate, a little more positive. A little kinder, a little more courageous. Those are the qualities we need to go on moving forward as human beings. That element of hope can be built into almost any kind of fiction, though I recognise that horror writers may find it more of a challenge. And it can be done with the most delicate of touches. I’ve just finished reading Anxious People by Fredrik Backman, a curious puzzle of a novel, at times hilarious, sad, thought-provoking and insightful. The characters are (mostly) people with whom you would not wish to be trapped in a hostage situation (this is a novel about a hostage situation.) At times I wondered where on earth this story was going, but I continued to read with fascination. Towards the end you start to see changes in the characters and in the way they relate to one another. Subtle, small changes. You realise these are not caricatures but real people. You start to see those qualities I mentioned: compassion, kindness, wisdom. So, even in what is essentially a comic novel, the message is quite profound: recognise your fellow human beings as individuals, worthy despite their flaws. That chimes perfectly with my belief that, when writing, you should try to see your characters that way. Get to know them from the inside out. What makes them act as they do? What governs their choices? What has shaped them up to this point? They may do bad things, make disastrous decisions. But anyone can grow and learn. Anyone can take the first step toward redemption. The novels that have meant most to me during this strange time of reading and not writing are those notable for themes of redemption, learning and hope: stories of people scarred by dark times or living through such times; humans helping one another to endure and to heal. In earlier posts I’ve mentioned two novels built around the way books and reading can strengthen communities and help people get through tough times. One is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, set in England immediately after World War II, but often going back to the wartime occupation of Guernsey by the Germans and the dire impact that had on the local people. It’s about how the love of reading can be a lamp in the darkest times. Then there’s Among Others by Jo Walton, an urban fantasy for YA which is also a great read for adults. In this novel, an alienated young woman finds her tribe and her courage through the love of science fiction and fantasy. If we’re struggling with that shut-in, caged bird feeling that comes with pandemic times, a good read would be A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. In this story, the protagonist is under indefinite house arrest after the toppling of the Czarist regime in Russia, and the greater part of the substantial novel has a single setting: a luxury hotel in central Moscow, which happens to be where our character lives. As his physical borders shrink and tighten, the protagonist continues to live a remarkably full life. He is a teller of stories, a great listener and observer, and sees far more than what is before his eyes. His kindness and imagination enrich not only his own life but the lives of those he encounters. For a powerful story of human frailty, human courage and hard choices, you can’t go past the same author’s new novel, The Lincoln Highway, surely destined to become an American classic. A recent discovery for me was the critically praised Still Life by Sarah Winman. A chance meeting between a damaged soldier and an art historian in wartime Italy shapes a young man’s life for the next forty years. Although it contains personal tragedy and disaster, this story retains a note of hope, along with a recognition of beauty and its power to sustain and heal us, whether that is the beauty of nature, the inspiring message of great art, friendship, or simple acts of kindness. A Year of Marvellous Ways by the same author is another tale of hope and wonder, and of broken people helping one another heal. Who wouldn’t love a central character in her eighties who goes nude bathing by moonlight? In my own fiction, I set out to tell a story. There may be magic, adventure, uncanny beings, remarkable happenings. But above all I write about individuals, often flawed or hurt people, who somehow manage to survive and become better human beings, or at least to take the first step on that journey. It can’t happen without hope. I don’t set out to convey a message when I write, but the message creeps in anyway, because it’s fundamental to my thinking. Writers, is there an underlying message in your fiction? What role does that play in the way you craft the story and characters? Readers, in hard times do you read for comfort, distraction, reassurance, or sheer escapism? Which books and authors have lifted your spirits? Image credit: Photo 115177001 / Sunrise Water © Artjuli933 | Dreamstime.com About Juliet MarillierJuliet Marillier has written twenty-four novels for adults and young adults and two collections of short fiction. Her works of historical fantasy have been published around the world and have won numerous awards. Juliet's most recent series was Warrior Bards, of which the third and final book, A Song of Flight, was published in August/September 2021. Her collection of reimagined fairy tales, Mother Thorn and Other Tales of Courage and Kindness, had its trade release in early 2022. Mother Thorn is illustrated by Kathleen Jennings and published by Serenity Press. When not writing, Juliet looks after a small crew of rescue dogs. Web | Facebook | Instagram | More Posts http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?d=yIl2AUoC8zA http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?d=qj6IDK7rITs http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?i=PvUK8YIjDR0:Jr0JptZ5yhw:gIN9vFwOqvQ http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?i=PvUK8YIjDR0:Jr0JptZ5yhw:D7DqB2pKExk [url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  8. Sue Lynn Tan writes fantasy inspired by the myths and legends she fell in love with as a child. Born in Malaysia, she studied in London and France, before settling in Hong Kong with her family. Her love for stories began with a gift from her father, a compilation of fairytales from around the world, and she spent much of her childhood lost in magical worlds. When not writing or reading, she can be found exploring the hills, lakes and temples around her home. Welcome to the Hive, Sue Lynn. Let’s start with the basics: tell us a little bit about Daughter of the Moon Goddess – why should readers check it out? Thank you so much for having me! Daughter of the Moon Goddess is a fantasy of immortals, magic, and love, inspired by the legend of Chang’e, the Chinese moon goddess—in which a young woman’s quest to free her mother pits her against the most powerful immortal in the realm. There is romance, adventure, and dragons, one of my favourite mythical creatures. Tell us a little something about your writing process – do you have a certain method? Do you find music helps? Give us a glimpse into your world! I write an initial draft to make sure the key plot points are there, then I tend to follow my instincts—the characters evolving, as the story develops. I work anywhere I can set my laptop on, and which is relatively peaceful. Music helps me get into a particular mood, though I generally prefer writing in silence, whether early in the morning or late at night. What inspired you to write a retelling of the mythological moon goddess Chang’e? What first drew you to this tale? The legend of Chang’e is one of my favourite myths, often retold during the annual Mid-Autumn festival. Chang’e was married to the archer Houyi, who shot the nine suns destroying the mortal world. He was gifted an elixir which would grant him immortality but did not take it, as he wanted to remain with his wife. Yet Chang’e drank it instead, becoming immortal and flying to the moon. Her story fascinated me, though I was also saddened by her tragic separation from her husband. I often wondered whether Chang’e had another reason for doing so, and it was this idea which inspired Daughter of the Moon Goddess. It’s such a great story to tell, Sue Lynn. What (or who) are your most significant fantasy/sci-fi influences? Are there any creators whom you dream of working with someday? I will happily read anything by Madeline Miller, Holly Black, and Stephanie Garber. I also love the works of S.A. Chakraborty, Shelley Parker-Chan, and Andrea Stewart, and it would be an honour to work with any of them. Ahh we’re big fans of SA Chakraborty and Andrea Stewart too. We see such varying opinions from authors when it comes to the time of editing their books. How have you found the editing process? Enjoyable, stressful or satisfying? I like editing. There is a satisfaction to going through the manuscript again and refining it, trying to imagine how it can be made better—although that also depends on whether you’re looking at it for the second or sixth time! Deadlines also impact how stressful the experience can be and if time allows, my preference is to have enough time to be able to step back and think about the story. US cover We always appreciate a beautiful book cover, and both your US and UK covers are stunning! How involved in the process were you? Was there a particular aesthetic you hoped they’d portray? I’m so glad you like them! My dream cover was one which reflected the beauty of the world Daughter of the Moon Goddess is set in, a realm of enchantment and peril. I was fortunate to be involved in the process and to have such amazing artists illustrate the covers—Kuri Huang for the US cover, and Jason Chuang for the UK cover—and I could not be more grateful to them for their incredible work. Can you tell us a bit more about your characters? Was Xingyin an easy main protagonist to develop or did you come across any stumbling blocks? Do you have a favourite type of character you enjoy writing? Xingyin has been described as “flawed but full of heart”, and she is intelligent, resilient, and hopeful. She knows her own self-worth, is passionate about her endeavours, and though she can be reckless, she also grows from her mistakes. While she has her own principles, she is also not afraid to bend the rules to make her way. I loved writing her, and though this may sound a little strange, I found myself inspired by her, too. It’s amazing when a character impacts you so deeply whilst you’re writing their scenes. As Daughter of the Moon Goddess is my debut, I am still learning about the types of characters I enjoy writing. My preferences right now veer toward characters who are the “underdog”, who don’t have all the answers, who stumble and fall, yet persevere. I also like those with a shade of grey to them, not wholly good or bad, but flawed as in real life. The world shifts, and you find yourself with an extra day on your hands during which you’re not allowed to write. How do you choose to spend the day? It’s been a really busy few months with editing the sequel, and the release for Daughter of the Moon Goddess—and work has kept me at home most days. If I have some time where I don’t have to write or work, I would love to spend it outdoors with my family and friends. One of our favourite questions here on the Fantasy Hive: which fantastical creature would you ride into battle and why? A phoenix! I was thinking about a dragon at first, but Chinese dragons typically don’t have wings and I might feel a little vulnerable flying on one—whereas a phoenix has wings which feels a little safer, or at least would provide something to clutch on to. I don’t think I’d survive long on either, though. You’d probably need to befriend a phoenix first, they seem quite feisty! Tell us about a book you love. Any hidden gems? I tend to read mainly fantasy books – both Adult and YA – with a preference for character-driven stories, and I also enjoy a good romance. Some stories I have read and loved recently include Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan, The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid and Once Upon a Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber. Are you planning anything fun to celebrate your new release? Do you have any upcoming virtual events our readers may be interested in? I plan on doing something where I live, though sadly my mother and sister won’t be here due to covid travel restrictions. There are some virtual events lined up and I generally update these on my Instagram. You can find Sue Lynn on Instagram HERE Finally, what is the one thing you hope readers take away from your writing? My favourite stories growing up were set in worlds which I wished were real, with characters I wanted to meet. I hope Daughter of the Moon Goddess will sweep readers away for a few hours to a realm of wonder and beauty, though one, rife with danger, too. And I hope some readers will find Xingyin’s journey empowering, one of resilience, courage, and of hope. That’s wonderful, thank you so much for joining us, Sue Lynn. Daughter of the Moon Goddess is out from Harper Voyager on 20th January 2022. It is available for pre-order – find your favourite retailer HERE The post AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT – Sue Lynn Tan (DAUGHTER OF THE MOON GODDESS) appeared first on The Fantasy Hive. View the full article
  9. A troubled teenage boy takes a claw hammer to the dry wall in the family’s living room. His reasoning is that he’s looking for the source of a drip. He knows there are pipes running through this wall, but he also knows they carry gas, not water, and so are unlikely to drip. His parents are visiting his grandmother. He didn’t go because he argued that grandma was “boring” and “dumb,” and his mother and father, tired from so many such arguments, relented and let him stay home. He soon has a substantial hole in the wall, and his boots are grinding the crumbled plaster into the polished wooden floor. I had to discuss this scene with the author as part of our ongoing editing and coaching program. I know that much of this person’s story is based on real events in his life, but he’s not writing “yet another misery memoir,” as he puts it. He wants to use techniques from fiction writing to give his narrative more of a structure and to introduce elements that he feels will make his point stronger. This is autobiographical fiction, more commonly known as autofiction, and made popular in recent years with writers such as Rachel Cusk, Marguerite Duras and Karl Ove Knausgård. In an article for The Guardian newspaper, the author Nina Bouraoui described autofiction by saying that, “It may not be the absolute truth the author is telling, but it is her truth as she lived and experienced it.” A version of truth Not everyone is positive about the rise of autofiction. It is seen as the literary equivalent to a selfie Snapchat with filters, more evidence of increasing self-obsession rather than a genuine art form. But even memoir has struggled to be taken seriously as a genre, as the authors—especially if they are women—can be judged more for their experiences than for their writing. And yet real life stories, or story based on real events, whether books or movies, have mass appeal, as publishers and Hollywood producers are aware. Could somebody really have lived through all these events in their life and survived, we wonder. And not only to survive but to still have the determination and persistence it takes to write several thousand words while reliving the experiences all over again. Who wouldn’t be impressed? How much fiction enters into these stories varies widely. I worked with one author who wrote about her time as a teenage runaway in the context of a zombie apocalypse because that’s how she experienced it—everywhere she turned there was another predator wanting another piece of her. The conceit worked perfectly as a real-life zombie story. Working with these authors takes on another dynamic too. When I’m editing fiction, I can be clear that I am talking about the words on the page. Any criticism is not personal but purely about the work. In that way, both the editor and the author can take some distance from anything that might have happened in the real world and objectively discuss the content of the novel, even if they are writing—as we are so often told—what they know. The need for compassion With autofiction, it’s a little different. It takes a touch more sensitivity along with a willingness from both the author and editor to be completely truthful throughout the process. In the case of the teenager who took a claw hammer to the living room wall, I was aware that this was likely to be something directly from the author’s life. Or he’d at least done something similar. In the context of the story, it comes straight out of the blue. It is the boy’s first act of teenage rebellion. It comes across in the story as—and I’ve spoken to the author about this so I know he won’t mind me using the word—bizarre. But I have to be careful because I don’t want to judge the actions from his youth. Instead, we have to discuss the actions of the character in the scene as appearing bizarre. When I said this to the author, he laughed. “Yes,” he said, “it was bizarre at the time too.” It would be so easy for me to ask more about that time. Did you really do this? Was the damage as bad as you describe? Did your parents react in this way? But I don’t feel that this is any of my business, and so we both have to bring the discussion back to those words on the page. Shared experiences Each autofiction author I work with (and I’ve worked with an increasing amount over the last five years or so) is, of course, different. Some are willing to discuss the actual events in their past to help me understand their intention and get advice on how to tackle certain incidents. For me, personally, this can raise questions about how much of my own life I should share. The rational answer is: as little as possible. They’re not working with me to hear about my life. But sometimes they can describe an situation that I might have some experience with too. This happened recently with an author who had traced her biological parents as an adult after being adopted as a baby, something I too have gone through. It felt odd and even slightly dishonest of me not to share my own experience. I felt the author should know so that she could be aware that my advice might also be clouded by my own experience. The other side of that is with author’s whose experiences are far removed from my own. One guy I work with is in prison. I don’t know how long he’s been there. I don’t know why he’s there. I’ve never asked. Again, it’s none of my business. I’m only concerned with what he’s written. But it’s a first-person piece about a guy who was wrongly convicted of murder and what happens to him, psychologically and physically, as he goes through the prison system. It’s hard not to wonder how close to the truth this is, especially when he will quite often explain how a particular routine or situation usually works in prison, in real life, which can then lead quite naturally into the (often harrowing) scenario described in the story. At these points, he’ll usually say something like, “I’m talking about the book now.” This only works because we set out some boundaries at the start and developed them as time went on. We both agreed to make clear distinctions when talking about the story or real life and that, for both our sakes, we’d still repeat the fact that we are talking about the story and not judging any moment of someone’s life. I find this fascinating work as it makes me aware of this distinction between fiction and reality and between the author and their work. Any criticism (and I always try to heed my own advice) has to be about the writing and never about the writer, even when it comes to the choice of a single word over another. I never say, “You should change this to a more active verb,” but rather something more like, “A more active verb here could add momentum to the narrative.” It’s about the word or the scene or the chapter not the individual. How do you adapt scenes from your own life into your fiction? For those who write memoirs, how do you incorporate aspects of fiction into the story? Or do you keep it to the facts? About Jim DempseyJim Dempsey (he/him) is a book editor who specializes in detailed analysis and editing of novel manuscripts through his company, Novel Gazing. He has worked as an editor for more than 20 years. He has a master’s degree in creative writing and is a professional member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading and is a trustee of the Arkbound Foundation. Jim is fascinated by the similarities between fiction and psychotherapy, since both investigate the human condition, the things that make us uniquely human. He explores this at The Fiction Therapist website. If you have a specific concern with your novel, send an email to jim [at] thefictiontherapist.com, or visit the website to ask for a free sample edit. You can follow Jim on Instagram @the_fiction_therapist. Web | Twitter | More Posts http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?d=yIl2AUoC8zA http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?d=qj6IDK7rITs http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?i=Clhop62SjPU:liihbEesrDA:gIN9vFwOqvQ http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?i=Clhop62SjPU:liihbEesrDA:D7DqB2pKExk [url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  10. Today, we welcome Ron Walters to the Hive, who has a guest post for us on writing and parenting! Ron’s debut novel Deep Dive is out this week from Angry Robot – you can order your copy HERE Still reeling from the failure of his last project, videogame developer Peter Banuk is working hard to ensure his next game doesn’t meet the same fate. He desperately needs a win, not only to save his struggling company, but to justify the time he’s spent away from his wife and daughters. So when Peter’s tech-genius partner offers him the chance to beta-test a new state-of-the-art virtual reality headset, he jumps at it. But something goes wrong during the trial, and Peter wakes to find himself trapped in an eerily familiar world where his children no longer exist. As the lines between the real and virtual worlds begin to blur, Peter is forced to reckon with what truly matters to him. But can he escape his virtual prison before he loses his family forever? I wrote my first novel when my oldest daughter was six months old. She napped fairly regularly, an hour in the morning, an hour in the afternoon. As soon as I was mostly sure she was asleep I’d race downstairs and start typing. After a while her naptime shifted to a three-hour stretch in the afternoon, which did wonders for my productivity. But then her sister was born. Unlike my eldest, my youngest child did not find naptime much to her liking, which meant my writing routine became random and incremental. I kept at it, though, fitting words into whatever spaces I could carve out between home life, play dates, ballet lessons, and gymnastics classes. I wrote everywhere and everywhen, before sunrise and after bedtime, in cars, on bleachers, typing on my laptop or thumbing in the notes app on my phone, which was great for prolonged trips to the bathroom until one or both of my girls inevitably barged in because kids have no respect for boundaries. That said, there was always a certain amount of guilt that came into play whenever I let the girls watch a movie so I could try and cram in some extra writing time, or when my wife came home from work and took over parenting duties so that I could sit down and write after a particularly frenetic day. As the girls got older and more self-sufficient I was able to sneak in more writing sessions, whether with headphones on in the same room where they were playing or in the next room over, ears primed for the first hint of a fight, injury, or, even more unsettling, sudden silence. And yet the guilt was always there, an all too real aspect of the fictional worlds I was building. Ironically, that guilt is what inspired my debut novel, Deep Dive. The book’s main character, Peter, is a struggling video game developer whose desire for success has caused him to become an absentee husband and father. He loves his family but spends more time at work than he does at home, fully convinced that if he can turn his new game into a win after the previous project flopped, he’ll finally be able to relax. What happens instead is that he beta tests an experimental VR headset, which backfires spectacularly and traps him in a world that’s eerily similar to his own save for the fact that his daughters no longer exist. The book is obviously fictional, but there’s a fair amount of autobiographical angst running through its pages. My daughters are both in school now, and I have the house to myself for part of the day when I’m not substituting at the high school where my wife teaches, so writing isn’t quite the guilty juggling act it used to be. Still, there are plenty of afternoons and weekends when I make the conscious choice to write rather than spend time with my family. Becoming a published author with actual deadlines and responsibilities has somewhat mitigated the guilt I feel when I hole up inside my head while my wife and kids are elsewhere in the house, but I don’t think it will ever fully disappear. I suppose in some ways that’s good, because it acts like an anchor that keeps me from drifting too far into fictional seas. My days as a stay-at-home dad might be behind me, but those early years taught me a very valuable lesson that is as constant a companion as that background buzz of guilt: If you want to write, you have to write, no matter where you are or how much time you have. I’m not necessarily saying you have to write every day, although when I’m actively engaged in a project that’s what I tend to do. My point is more along the lines of the fact that five minutes of writing is better than no minutes of writing, and single sentences written here and there will eventually add up to an entire book. Being forced to fit in writing when I first started out made me learn how to take advantage of every free moment and locale rather than relying on a set writing schedule or dedicated writing space. I always have my phone with me, and if I remember I’ll dump a chapter into Google Drive so I can work on it wherever I am. I also lug my laptop with me when I know I’ll have downtime somewhere, or if I’m waiting for the girls to finish up afterschool activities. Strangely, the days when I wind up having a full six hours of alone time with nothing to do but write are actually the hardest for me to stay on task. Granted, those six hours usually involve other non-writing things like running errands and walking the dogs and taking care of any number of other planned or unexpected events like a sick kid or last-minute cookies for a classroom party we found out about the night before. The interruptions can be frustrating, but they’re also beneficial, because they break up my writing time into smaller bits, which is what my brain is used to now. In a lot of ways I’m actually more productive word-wise over the course of, say, three or four half-hour or hour-long writing sprints spread throughout the day than I am with three or four full uninterrupted hours. None of this is the image how I thought a professional writer was meant to work, but such is life when you’re a parent who wants to be an author. You make do with the time you’re given and do your best to accept that some days are going to be more or less productive than others. The routine will invariably change, but the words will always be there, patiently waiting for you to find your winding way to them. Ron Walters is a former journalist, college registrar, and stay-at-home dad who writes science fiction and fantasy for all ages. A native of Savannah, GA, he currently lives in Germany with his wife, two daughters, and two rescue dogs. When he’s not writing he works as a substitute high school teacher, plays video games, and does his best to ignore the judgmental looks his dogs give him for not walking them more often. The post The Writing Life of a Parent – GUEST POST by Ron Walters (DEEP DIVE) appeared first on The Fantasy Hive. View the full article
  11. It’s a new year, and a new occasion to have another look at a fascinating topic. Almost ten years ago to the day, I wrote a piece for Writer Unboxed about book covers, so I thought this was the perfect time to muse again on the topic! And I thought I’d do that primarily through pictures, as befits the theme, in fact. Like I wrote in that piece back in 2012, people do judge a book by its cover. A good cover makes you want to pick the book up, of course, and gives you that important first impression. And that goes not only for print but for eBooks and audiobooks. Now, we might all be able to quickly recognize a bad cover, and there are many fun sites that collect together particularly hilariously horrendous examples of these. But what actually makes a good cover is hard to pinpoint exactly. What works in one genre may not necessarily work in another, and what works in one market is likely not to work in another. This is especially so when you have editions of the same book—especially novels–in different languages, and often there’s a different cover, and sometimes a title change as well. For example with my YA romantic thriller Three Wishes, (written under the pen-name of Isabelle Merlin), of five different editions(see pic) two(the English-language one and the Polish-language one) had the same cover and same title; the Indonesian-language one(middle one in the first row) had a different cover but the same title(interestingly enough, the title stayed in English, though the rest of the book didn’t); and the French-language and German-language ones had both different covers AND different titles (and each very different from each other, too!). For each edition, the publisher was looking at their market and what would work for them. So they will often focus on aspects of the story which may have particular appeal for their audience: for instance, in the case of the French edition, the love triangle is most forcefully brought out; in the German edition, it’s the mystery and enchantment; in the other three, it’s wish-fulfillment and French elements that dominate. The novel itself has all those things within it, but also a slightly spooky, Gothic aspect that’s not really brought out in any of the covers, aside perhaps from the German one. Comparing covers of the same book across time too is an interesting exercise: just have a look at the various covers for Agatha Christie’s great classic, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, which I have inserted below. The first collection consists of covers from 1926 (date the book was first published) to the 1970’s; the second features much more recent covers, and the third is of two contrasting recent editions: a paperback edition (published in December 2021), and a lovely illustrated hardcover Folio edition. By the way, this is just a small selection of the many covers of this book that have been created for the English-language market since 1926. (And that’s not even looking at editions in other languages!) It’s really interesting to see the shift in colors, fonts, and what designers have chosen or been briefed to feature: the earlier ones focus on people, the later ones shifting away to landscape, objects or just decorative graphics, and then very recently a return to people, even if in silhouette. The look too changes: from illustrative to brash to classy and everything in between. To my mind, it represents a fascinating little snapshot of not only book design fashions over the decades, but also the Zeitgeist and social atmosphere of each period covers were created in. What do you think? Which of the Christie covers work for you? And what about the covers of Three Wishes? And finally, what’s your experiences with book covers—good or bad? If you have particular examples of covers to share, do consider linking to them in your comment: I’d love to see them! About Sophie MassonBorn in Indonesia of French parents, and brought up in France and Australia, Sophie Masson is the multi-award-winning and internationally-published author of over 70 books, mainly for children and young adults. A bilingual French and English speaker, she has a PhD in creative practice and in 2019 received an AM award in the Order of Australia honours list for her services to literature. Web | Twitter | Facebook | More Posts http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?d=yIl2AUoC8zA http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?d=qj6IDK7rITs http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?i=I_FiIKNGVeM:btB_p7HE0es:gIN9vFwOqvQ http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?i=I_FiIKNGVeM:btB_p7HE0es:D7DqB2pKExk [url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  12. We’re so pleased to bring you a Take Five interview with WU contributor and author Diana Giovinazzo! Diana’s latest novel, Antoinette’s Sister, publishes this month. She’s here to tell us about it, what the book taught her as a writer, and more! Q: What’s the premise of your new book? A: Antoinette’s Sister is the story of Maria Carolina Charlotte, a Habsburg archduchess, Queen of the kingdom of The Two Sicilies, and the beloved sister of Marie Antoinette. Maria Carolina was thrust into a marriage in a Kingdom that was beyond anything her controlling mother could have prepared her for. But with the onset of the French Revolution, she risks it all when her sister is murdered, and the threat of invasion by Napoleon looms. Q: What would you like people to know about the story itself? A: There are many things that I would love for people to take with them from the story, from the fact that there was a whole country called The Kingdom of The Two Sicilies that existed prior to 1860 that played a major role in Italian history and culture. Likewise, Maria Carolina is a woman who has not only been overlooked by history, but there were so many things that she did for her country from legal reforms, to restoring buildings, and even planting southern Italy’s beloved olive trees. She was responsible for bringing coffee to Naples! Q: What do your characters have to overcome in this story? What challenge do you set before them? A: Often, we think of Queens as being these all-powerful women, when really, they had just as much if not less autonomy than everyone else. Maria Carolina is faced with a constantly changing world, her beliefs of divine right are challenged by the new enlightenment philosophy and the concept of democracy. Likewise, what does it look like when one’s patriotic duty is to cater to the whims of a King, especially one as immature as her husband Ferdinand? Maria Carolina had to fight for her power within a patriarchal society. She was always torn between her ambition, motherhood, and putting the good of the country over her own family. Q: What unique challenges did this book pose for you, if any? A: Sometimes our challenges aren’t always from the writing itself. I started this book literally two weeks before lockdown so there were times when I had to lock myself in my office and not pay attention to the news or anything else so that I could focus on the story. In some ways that was a saving grace because I didn’t get as stir crazy as others. In other ways, it was a lesson in discipline in order to finish the book. When I was in the midst of editing my best friend had been informed that her cancer was terminal which presented a whole new set of challenges in writing through grief and learning if I could write regardless of the challenges I faced. Q: What has been the most rewarding aspect of having written this book? A: There was a meme that went around the internet at the start of the pandemic saying something to the effect of “William Shakespeare wrote King Lear during a pandemic, what can you do with this time?” For some reason, I took it as a personal challenge and spent the pandemic writing my second novel. For me, being able to turn a bit of history into art in the midst of a global pandemic is incredibly rewarding. Readers, you can learn more about Antoinette’s Sister on Diana’s website and by exploring the preview below. Write–and read–on! About Writer Unboxed began as a collaboration between Therese Walsh and Kathleen Bolton in 2006. Since then the site has grown to include ~50 regular contributors--including bestselling authors and industry leaders--and frequent guests. In 2014, the first Writer Unboxed UnConference (part UNtraditional conference, part intensive craft event, part networking affair) was held in Salem, MA. Learn more about our 2019 event, ESCAPE TO WuNDERLAND, on Eventbrite. In 2016, the Writer Unboxed team published a book with Writer's Digest. AUTHOR IN PROGRESS: A No-Holds-Barred Guide to What It Really Takes to Get Published has been well-received by readers who seek help in overcoming the hurdles faced at every step of the novel-writing process--from setting goals, researching, and drafting to giving and receiving critiques, polishing prose, and seeking publication. James Scott Bell has said of the guide, "Nourishment for the writer's soul and motivation for the writer's heart." You can follow Writer Unboxed on Twitter, and join our thriving Facebook community. Twitter | Facebook | More Posts http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?d=yIl2AUoC8zA http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?d=qj6IDK7rITs http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?i=U85bYPJ9c9k:qM4U73D2vW4:gIN9vFwOqvQ http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?i=U85bYPJ9c9k:qM4U73D2vW4:D7DqB2pKExk [url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  13. Time changes all things. This is a fact irrefutable. It is not the browning of the leaves or the hatching of the salamanders that marks the season’s turn, it is that old bastard time, dragging us ever on. It crumbles your towers and mildews your books and makes once virile adventurers fit for little more than circular conversations regarding the weather. All changes. All fades. All but me. Ulesorin is here. Ulesorin shall be here evermore, when the stars blink shut and the cosmos herself falls asleep Ulesorin shall be there to blow out the candles and wish her a sweet repose. Yet even for I, all things do not continue unchanged. To whit, I must make a confession to you, dear readers. The terms of my “community service” have come to their end. Despite the machinations of my draconic ex-wife, my thoroughly incompetent kobold lawyers and a judge that I may or may not have polymorphed into some sort of marsupial as a party trick at a Longest Night celebration once upon a time. I did turn him back, eventually. When it stopped getting laughs. Admittedly, we had all imbibed rather a lot by that point in the evening so his time among the small and furry may have stretched to an afterparty or two. He was human again within the week with quite a story to tell. It hardly seems fair to carry a grudge after that. Regardless, the point that I am ambling towards is this; I am no longer legally obliged to reply to your letters. Indeed, I have not been under such a geas for several months now, though admittedly, I was not entirely aware of my newfound freedom until now. What matters this to you, down among the sod and filth? Only this. Know now, that when I grant you my boundless wisdom it is out of kindness rather than obligation. And that any further requests for lewd representations of my likeness in your “DMs” are liable to end in your sudden transformation into something entirely less savoury than my marsupial acquaintance suffered. *** We did a team bonding exercise at my new work: 2 truths and a lie. I accidentally revealed that I had suggested that forging The One Ring was a good idea in the first place and the whole team think I’m dubious. What would you recommend? *** Dear Correspondent, Apparently, manners have not reached your part of the multiverse as of yet. When you are begging for the assistance of greater powers, one introduces oneself. As I am lacking your name, I cannot accurately scry upon your exact position within your new adventuring company. However, I feel it is safe to assume that you are in some sort of management position, given your desire to yoke the will of others to your own. As such, you might do well to thrive upon your newfound dubious status. Perhaps swap out your typical accoutrements for something made of spiky black metal. Respond to all questioning with ominous statements of doom. If you cannot win their trust by appearing in the guise of a kindly older gentleman with a walking stick and beard, then you can rule with an iron fist. Lording it over all of them by striking terror into their hearts. If you are not certain how best to achieve this, I would suggest looking to the HR department of wheresoever you have found yourself and mimicking their style of address. Ogres provoke less fear. If you insist upon back-stepping along the path from a dark domain of your own, then might I suggest that you reframe your original argument as being against the existing hierarchical systems at work within Middle Earth, so that your proposed use of such an atrocious piece of jewellery might instead be interpreted as an attempt to liberate serfs from their unjust conditions. Serfs lap that sort of rhetoric up. *** Email your problems to thefantasyhive@gmail.com with the subject: Ask the Wizard. Or leave a comment below. Having relationship issues? Need career advice? You name it, our ‘Agony Ant’ can help!* *Disclaimer: All answers are provided for entertainment purposes only. It may not be in your best interests to follow advice provided by a 1794-year-old man who thinks that his divorce from a dragon only went bad because he employed kobolds as his legal team. The post ASK THE WIZARD – Ring in the New Year appeared first on The Fantasy Hive. View the full article
  14. Oceanside, CA My last post for WU (Where I Should Be, A Writer’s Sense of Place) dealt with the importance of PLACE in our work, while focusing on my growing up in Chicago—the houses, vegetation, traffic, people—because place influences much of who we are. No one can write a memoir without place becoming a major character. Think: Black Boy, All Creatures Great and Small, Born a Crime. These works rely on references to the author’s birth and living place, the experience of local mores, even the streets where he or she walked and lived. But place also plays a powerful role in fiction, orienting readers and pulling them into story. Some authors are masters at this. And even though Joan Didion writes nonfiction, I’ll later examine her evocative work to get your creative place juices flowing. ACTION! Think of place as the establishing shot in a film, or the curtain rising to reveal a stage setting. Like these visual introductions, our written beginnings should gradually unfold, using the tools of dialogue and description to orient the reader to place as well as character. All readers want a solid beginning. They want to be drawn in. But not all novels immediately establish place, preferring to allow us to be privy to the MC’s thoughts or a story problem that will steadily expand. That can work well, but if readers are not grounded in where this person is–certainly not latitude and longitude, but to a place that allows visualization–we might lose them to questioning or even impatience. Place, as well as the topics that are part of your storyline, can stimulate a reader’s excitement and attraction. First, consider how to orient the reader, because as they begin reading your work, they will unconsciously pull from memory the images that will aid them in entering the world you are creating, the place where you are taking them. Take, for example, the first lines from a chapter in my WIP: Jude wrung out her mop, the floor of the sterile hallway now shining like glass from one end to the other, clean, smooth. But for how long? One of those nurses had just run through, and later there was sure to be some bed heading to a delivery room, another to the OR, blood dripping from a sheet, from a body, some woman screaming like she’s about to die. Easy. We’re in a hospital. If you read on, the visuals open up, drawing the reader further into the story, underlining how place is important, the hospital acting as a character that moves the plot forward. Place enhances our work, allowing the reader to bring memory, feelings, and past experiences (negative and positive) to the page. And notice, the word hospital did not appear in the above selection. Place opens the reader’s eyes to the usual, but pulls the reader in more and more when events and characters living and moving within that place are not usual, are beyond normal, are the amazing creations of your imagination. NOW: SOME BACKSTORY I’m guessing that a story or novel you are working on, or one that has already been published, pulled some of its elements from your experience of place—which can be damn stimulating. I’m fortunate to have lived in three different states but, even if you have remained in the same place your entire life, how different your life has been from the lives of others and from mine. Illinois is flat, flat. As a child, I knew that might be a detriment, as if flatness could somehow become a joke. The idea became accentuated when my mother treated me and my brothers to the trip of a lifetime: California. We traveled on the California Zephyr from Chicago to San Francisco. Our train crossed through the flat plains of Nebraska, then the Rocky Mountains (real mountains, not hills), Salt Lake City (where they washed our train), and on to San Francisco—home to trolley cars, the ocean, the harbor, those steep streets. Weeks later, after visiting the Grand Canyon, we headed home, this time on the El Capitan that runs between Santa Fe, New Mexico and Chicago. On that train, a girl my age proclaimed she was from a place that sounded more glamorous than the flat plains of Chicago. I responded that I lived near the “hills and the flats,” (a truly fourth grade answer), though not a total lie. My home, Beverly Hills, Chicago, is called “hills” for the following geographical reason (via encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org): High bedrock under the retreating glaciers left the most prominent feature in the area, the Blue Island Ridge in South Chicago, a 6-mile-by-1-mile table of land that sits 25 to 50 feet above the adjacent flatland. Residents often identify their community as “Beverly Hills,” a reference to that glacial ridge just west of Longwood Drive, the highest point in Chicago. THEN: OTHER PLACES OF BEING, LIVING After our many years in Chicago, my husband and I lived in Iowa (more hills dug out by glaciers) and then California, where in Westlake Village I could see the foot of a mountain from my window. But how does one gravitate to a new place? In real life, it can be family or wanderlust. In fiction, it’s your choice. Moving, visiting new places and/or reading about them sparks creativity. Though I often sang during car trips while exploring the eastern seaboard, there was always a notebook to jot down descriptions of place, the turn of phrase I’d heard at our last stop, something new or different to me that defined that particular place: Massachusetts, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Nevada… And California. I will always love California; there is no other place like it. And as writers and readers we are blessed with Joan Didion’s evocative pictures of the sunshine state as well as other parts of America that she captured in her books Slouching Toward Bethlehem, Play It As It Lays, The Year of Magical Thinking and Blue Nights–the last two volumes being Didion’s attempts to understand the death of her husband and later the death of her daughter, all while using her poetic language to keep California and New York City fresh in our minds. For Didion underlines that place colors the lives we live. Thus, if you need some insight into how to incorporate place in your work, read her, read about things so California: the Santa Ana Winds. You’ll feel them blowing in this passage: There is something uneasy in the Los Angeles air this afternoon, some unnatural stillness, some tension. What it means is that tonight a Santa Ana will begin to blow, a hot wind from the northeast whining down through the Cajon and San Gorgonio Passes, blowing up sand storms out along Route 66, drying the hills and the nerves to flash point. For a few days now, we will see smoke back in the canyons, hear sirens in the night. I have neither heard nor read that a Santa Ana is due, but I know it, and almost everyone I have seen today knows it too. We know it because we feel it. The baby frets. The maid sulks.…To live with the Santa Ana is to accept, consciously or unconsciously, a deeply mechanistic view of human behavior. Yes, California is wind, also fires, earthquakes, and sunshine, ever present. It lifts your spirits, though there is June gloom that eventually gives way to a blue sky and dry soft breezes. And there are pepper trees, jacaranda trees, roses everywhere. Some people say the roses help hold back the fires. We packed up our car three times while living in California, completely vacating our home only once, not knowing as we drove away if it would soon be engulfed in flames or if we would find it whole and dappled with sunlight the following morning. That’s not fiction; it does present a powerful story element. But wherever people live, they adjust. About California, Didion writes: Los Angeles weather is the weather of catastrophe, of apocalypse, and, just as the reliably long and bitter winters of New England determine the way life is lived there, so the violence and the unpredictability of the Santa Ana affect the entire quality of life in Los Angeles, accentuate its impermanence, its unreliability. The wind shows us how close to the edge we are. California is fire and wind. And as Edward Albee once wrote: There is science, logic, reason; there is thought verified by experience. And then there is California. FINAL THOUGHT I’m certain all of you, no matter where you have lived or now live, are vessels of stories that spring from place. That, when you write, some of your work is set in places you know and some in places you have imagined, creating not only your characters but whole worlds that spring from your imagination. Are these worlds kinder than what you have lived and experienced? No matter how you handle place in your fiction, your created worlds are part of you. Provide them with the power of place. Make us yearn to be there or weep with sorrow when they become a place of terror and fright. Place is powerful and how you use it will make your work live on the page. Writing is very visual for me. When I come back to a work-in-progress, I reread, seeing again the labor hallway or Sarah’s willow tree or the street where the kidnapping takes place. I find it necessary to ground myself in the scene before editing or rewriting. Does picturing place help your creative process? Do you use photos or image boards to take you back to the worlds you are creating? About Beth HaveyA former teacher of English and a labor and delivery RN, Beth Havey attended the Iowa Summer Writing Workshops, working with David Payne and Elizabeth Strout. From 2004-2008, she proofread for Meredith Books and co-authored Miami Ink: Marked for Greatness. In 2015, Foreverland Press published her story collection, A Mother’s Time Capsule. Her work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Better Homes & Gardens, the Des Moines Register, The Nebraska Review and other literary and little magazines. Each week she publishes an essay on her blog, and is a member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. Web | Twitter | Instagram | More Posts http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?d=yIl2AUoC8zA http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?d=qj6IDK7rITs http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?i=TQbX0Et7Jis:MaAmW4-fWn0:gIN9vFwOqvQ http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?i=TQbX0Et7Jis:MaAmW4-fWn0:D7DqB2pKExk [url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  15. “For one night, Kithamar is a city between worlds and between ages. It falls out of its own history, at once the end of something and the beginning of something else.” Age of Ash is the first in a new epic fantasy trilogy by well-known author Daniel Abraham. Despite owning The Dagger and Coin series for years, this is my first foray into Abraham’s novels, and after being utterly enchanted by his prose, I definitely want to read more. Our tale is set in the illustrious city of Kithamar, a city full of beauty, but with a rich history of blood and war, a city where every person has a story to unfold, a city where a sinister secret has long been kept hidden. It is also a city where two thieves from the slums of Longhill become embroiled in a plot of dark magic and deadly political intrigue. We follow Alys and Sammish, both members of a thieving crew, both skilled in their roles of distraction and going unnoticed. Yet what begins as petty thievery soon turns into so much more. When Alys’s brother Darro is murdered, Alys sets on a journey of discovery and revenge, which leads her down some very treacherous paths. Sammish seeing her beloved Alys suffer and struggle under her grief, tries to help her friend in any way she can, but the more she learns the truth about the murder and the multitude of connections surrounding it, she soon realises she has to try to save more than just her friend. The opening to this book reminded me of The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, another fantasy book set in a single city, revolving around a band of thieves. However, whereas Locke Lamora focuses on a heist plot with humorous banter and action filled scenes, Age of Ash is a slow burn character driven story. There are small amounts of action scattered throughout but it is more towards the end where we see the scenes become more intense. Yet Abraham’s characters are full of depth and complexities, loss and pain, they are people trying to survive despite life dealing them a bad hand, and I became deeply immersed in their lives as they unravel. Within the first few chapters Abraham portrays disjointed scenes, moments of our characters’ lives from their memories to their present deeds. At first these do feel disconnected from one another, you’re never quite sure how these separate storylines will converge, but as the novel progresses they all fall into place. Immediately I found Abraham’s prose and imagery to be exquisitely detailed. Each description, each setting, was written with such beauty and finesse, it vividly conjured the images in my mind. The City of Kithamar is stunningly brought to life, a character in its own right that fully lives and breathes. Whether it be the deteriorating slums of Longhill, where the people are on the verge of starving, or the more fanciful harvest festival held in Green Hill, I felt the world seep from the page. Abraham is a writer who knows how to set an atmospheric scene. The book also poignantly explores grief in all its forms. Abraham reflects the way grief is never a singular formulaic response; when we lose someone we hold close to us we lose a part of ourselves, and the way our mind copes with the trauma is different for everyone. Many may say “with time it gets easier”, but for some people it just doesn’t. Throughout Age of Ash, Alys experiences grief in various ways, from denial, to sorrow, to anger and finally to becoming more and more like Darro to keep a part of her brother alive. My heart broke for Alys, the way she would remember Darro’s words, repeating them like a mantra, her fond memories of when he’d look after her when the world abandoned her in the cold, and the way she takes on his mannerisms and begins to live by “what would Darro do?” His death clearly colours her every action, and this to my mind is exactly what grief does. “Everything stood on everything else, until she didn’t know what she was mourning for except all of it. She was overwhelmed by a storm she couldn’t see, but felt it beating at her from every direction.” I loved Alys’s character, her journey is raw and painful, and although many times she sorely needed to realise the downfall she was heading towards, I understood why she couldn’t. Her relationship with her mother is strained, her friendships with others become distant, and instead of building bridges she shatters them and forges new ones, but with the wrong people. “That’s not fair.” “Who gives a shit? Who promised you fair? I didn’t. Fair is good people get treated good, and bad people get the bad. That sound like anyplace you know? I’ve never been there.” As much as this book centers around Alys, it too follows our second main protagonist, Sammish. Oh how I loved precious Sammish. A person so plain she passes unnoticed in a crowd, a girl who can all but become invisible – a pretty handy trick when you’re part of a thieving crew and your job is to sneak the stolen items away before any of your crew members are caught, no? That’s how Sammish’s story begins, but when her narrative leads her down some strange paths, people suddenly take notice. Throughout Sammish desperately wants to help Alys, yet the more Alys changes, the more she descends into darkness, and most importantly the more Sammish discovers about the corruption and dark magic running through Kithamar, she puts her courage to the test. Sammish is a wonderful, heartfelt character, one who may be a thief in order to survive, but she’s the underdog who will use the advantage of the shadows to fight against malevolence. Speaking of malevolent, there is a sinister spirit lurking in Kithamar, a spirit which has been present right back to the time of Kithamar’s creation. I will tread careful waters here as this was a fantastic little twist to the story which I thoroughly enjoyed. However what I can say is that a large part of the story centres around the Daris Brotherhood, the most predominantly practiced religion by the ruling family in Kithamar. Our other main characters, Adomanka and Tregarro, are it’s foremost members and although I wouldn’t class either characters as the “villains” in this story, (their motives are far more complex than that), their powers dabble in the use of dark magic, sacrifices and blood, which I found unnervingly creepy. They are also on the hunt for a knife and young boy of royal blood, two things which they will kill to get. I did find myself wanting some more depth to The Daris Brotherhood, their use of powers and their limitations were never quite fully explained and some parts left me somewhat confused. I feel that this book only touched upon the surface of this though, so I’m eager to discover much more because Abraham definitely has my attention here. Age of Ash is a stunningly written, character driven story, centred on thieves, grief, and dark magic. Abraham certainly knows how to enchant his readers and transport them to the city of Kithamar, a place of beauty and of forbidding secrets. “The world is so much rounder when you have more than just the one life in it.” ARC provided by Nazia at Orbit Books in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for the copy! All quotes used are taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication. Age of Ash is due for release February 2022 The post AGE OF ASH by Daniel Abraham (BOOK REVIEW) appeared first on The Fantasy Hive. View the full article
  16. I run one of those crazy month-long writing challenges and each time I run it, new people join. They come in as nervously excited as any writer embarking on a large, ambitious project. You know what I mean, right? All your pencils are sharpened, you have a new notebook ready, maybe you’ve even set your alarm clock for an hour before you usually get up…this time you’re going to do All The Things, and do them right. You’re giddy and optimistic, but also a little nervous about your ability to sustain the effort. When one of the newest members of our community asked for advice before embarking on their first StoryADay challenge this year, the veterans were quick to answer. It struck me that the five tips they suggested apply to ANY writing project. In fact, they are key to not just completing but also to enjoying a writing push. I wanted to share them with the WU community too. Whether you’re drafting a novel, putting together a memoir, or embarking on a revision project, this article is for you. Our work is done day by day, minute by minute, but writing projects are a long-term process and you’re going to need some tools to keep you moving forward. So, let’s get started with the 5 Fs you absolutely need to give for a happy writing life. Forgiveness We start all projects with high hopes – of course we do! Whatever goals you set for your writing, whether it’s quality or quantity, we all miss the target sometimes. It’s disappointing, but it’s also part of the process. As creative people we work best when we feel safe. That means safe from our own criticism as well as from outside voices. Beating ourselves up for not being ‘better’ (or ‘perfect’) is paralyzing. Promising to forgive ourselves, on the other hand, frees us up to learn about our own process. If you’re frustrated because you’re missing your goals, something in your process isn’t working. That’s OK. Forgive the ‘failures’ and use them as clues to what isn’t working. As a menstruating woman I have learned to pay attention to my energy and creativity as it waxes and wanes throughout my cycle. I know that there’s no point promising I’ll write 1000 words a day every day, because some days the creativity simply won’t come. At other points in my cycle, I’m sprinting to keep up with all the words that flow from my fingers. And there are biological reasons for this. I wasted a lot of energy on berating myself for this roller-coaster approach to creativity. Then I forgave myself (for being human) and learned to plan for it. Likewise, if we forgive our drafts for not being perfect, we learn to accept them as malleable clay from which our best work can emerge. If not, we run the risk of seeing our drafts as finished pots that can only be broken and discarded, not improved. Forgiving our drafts for being imperfect allows us to begin to enjoy the process of re-shaping them – an essential skill if you want more ease and joy in your writing life. Flexibility Along with forgiveness comes flexibility. If our writing process isn’t working, not only do we have to forgive ourselves for having the ‘wrong’ idea, we have to be flexible enough to try one new thing and then another until we find what works for us…at this moment, on this project. And we have to be flexible enough to understand that the process that worked for one project might not be perfect for the next. But if we keep finishing projects, we gather enough evidence and insight about our own writing process to be able to apply those lessons as we flex and bend for the next one. Beyond metaphorical flexibility, we absolutely need to flex our bodies. I grew up in a culture that seemed to embrace the idea that body and mind were separate. You were either bookish or sporty; indoors-y or outdoors-y; a jock or a nerd. Smug behind my glasses and my book, I retreated to armchairs and desk chairs, and ignored the meatsack that carried around my brain. Sadly, that’s not sustainable. We need to stretch and move our bodies because if we don’t, biology starts to catch up with us: tendonitis, aching backs, sore hips…not all of these things are inevitable as we age. Stretching, moving, and building muscle improve our relationship with our keyboards and our creative selves. Everyone has different levels of physical ability, but my plea is not to forget that anything you can do to build on your physical strength and flexibility is not time taken away from writing…it actually prolongs it. And there is abundant evidence that if you can get outside for some of that physical movement, the benefits to your physical and mental health are powerful and real. Food Speaking of mental health, I’m going to make a plea for plant matter, here. I know we writers like to joke about fueling writing jags with caffeine and junk food, but more and more studies are showing that processed food is not just bad for our waistlines but bad for our brains. You don’t have to give up your favorite foods altogether, but making a concerted effort to increase the level of leafy stuff you put in your mouth may make it easier to regulate your moods and access your stores of attention and creativity. Planning ahead and having healthy snacks and meals on hand, is the only way I can make this work, otherwise I’ll always reach for the unhealthier option, so I recommend prepping-ahead, too. And swap a couple of those caffeinated drinks for water, won’t you? People living a westernized lifestyle are, on the whole, chronically dehydrated. I don’t know about you, but as a mom, a writer, a business owner, a wife, and all the other things I am, I don’t need any help getting tired! Pass me my water bottle! Fun Worrying does not lubricate the creative pathways. Even the busiest writer only has a few good hours of effective creativity every day, so make sure you step away from your desk (and your feeling that you ought to be at work), and focus on having some fun. Recent psychological studies show that negative emotions are, for want of a better word, heavy and really do outweigh happy thoughts. If you’ve ever wondered why it seems to take so long to get over an argument or a bad review, this is now scientifically validated: we need five positive experiences to balance out a negative one. This explains why you could have four 5-star reviews, but that 2-star review is the only one you can think about! So, let’s get serious about having fun. I’ve started a thread in my community called “5 Good Things” and I encourage everyone to post fun stuff there, from animal and baby photos to silly videos and bad jokes. I’ve done this NOT because I think writers need another place to procrastinate, but because I want them to have a place to go when they’re feeling low, that is deliberately full of fun and lightness. I encourage them to consume at least 5 good things, before getting back to whatever they were doing before. Plus: seeking out fun tends to mean seeking out the next part of my formula: Friends Yes, yes, I know: you’re an introverted writer and you value your alone-time. In fact, you need alone-time to write. But we are social animals and we also need to surround ourselves with people who understand and value us. Psychologists say that we need 3-5 people in our lives who accept us, to live a good life. You might have lucked out in your family, friend group and choice of life-partner and have those three people built-in. For most of us there may be areas of our life where we could do with a little extra unconditional support. Writing is hard. And it doesn’t often look like what non-writing friends and partners expect it to look like. So I highly recommend seeking out some writing friends to give you that unconditional support in your life. Start here in the Writer Unboxed community, which contains some of the finest writing-humans you could hope to find. But friends who have nothing to do with your writing can also be a great distraction when you’re in the midst of a writing project, so don’t neglect them! Our world is awash in writing advice, much of it focused on the craft and business parts of the gig. I firmly believe that the first step to a productive, creative, fulfilling writing life starts in our own attitudes towards our writing. I hope that this article has given you some ways to tweak your approach with forgiveness, flexibility, food, fun and friends, for a happy writing life. What about you, WU? When you are busy with a writing project, which of these 5 Fs do you let slip? Which one will you work on incorporating next? About Julie DuffyJulie Duffy is the founder and director of the creativity challenge StoryADay.org where she has blogged about the creative life and short stories since 2010. StoryADay is the host of annual short story writing challenges in May and September, year-round writing prompts, articles and community resources for creative inspiration. She regularly talks at writers’ groups and conferences about creativity and writing. Web | Twitter | Facebook | More Posts http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?d=yIl2AUoC8zA http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?d=qj6IDK7rITs http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?i=06wB4RBqx9U:SBc2YCMu-I4:gIN9vFwOqvQ http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?i=06wB4RBqx9U:SBc2YCMu-I4:D7DqB2pKExk [url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  17. Fiction is about us. It captures our condition. It confronts us with our fears. It celebrates our human joys and triumphs. It’s a mirror, a telescope, a microscope, a record and a reminder. In it, we discover what drives us apart and what binds us together. Why, then, do readers seek out fiction which is about anyone but us? Why are we fascinated by ghosts, vampires, superheroes and creatures of all kinds? Why do we delight in tales of anthropomorphized animals, from Aesop to Watership Down? I mean, rabbits? There is the microcosm effect. Animal Farm is a communist collective, where all animals are equal but some are more equal than others. (Especially pigs.) Orwell’s novel has the instructional effect of parable or fable. There is also heightening, which all stories utilize to some degree. We don’t need fiction to merely capture day-to-day life. We have day-to-day life already. We need fiction to elevate and exalt the terrifying adventure of living. We seek out fiction to put us through unusual events and extreme emotional experiences. How do gods, monsters and sentient machines heighten our human experience? They are not human. Why bother with them? It’s partly because we know that they exist, especially within us. We fear them but even more we fear ourselves. We can be overbearing, cruel and cold. We can lack reason and be driven by ego, avarice and lust. We can be mindless, unchecked and destructive. We can be inhuman. History proves it. Science affirms it. The news demonstrates it to us every day. No wonder that we find gods, monsters and sentient machines in our literature. They dwell inside us. Their stories are about us, too. We relate…or do we? The first requirement of fiction like this is to make non-human characters relatable. We have to connect. For fiction writers, the basic principle is twofold: 1) humans in such stories become more monstrous; 2) monsters in such stories become more human. Let’s take look at some examples of this principle in action. The Humanity of Monsters It’s tempting to trace the humanization of monsters back to 1976 and Anne’s Rice’s seminal novel Interview with the Vampire. Certainly, that story marked a turning point in our understanding of vampires. (Did I just write that seriously?) However, in truth monsters have been human for a very long time. We find that even in Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein (1818). After animating a monster made of body parts, and several deaths caused by the monster, its creator Victor Frankenstein seeks solace in the Alps. There on an icy glacier the monster finds him. Frankenstein is horrified at his creation but the monster begs to be heard: I entreat you to hear me, before you give vent to your hatred on my devoted head…Remember, thou hast made me more powerful than thyself; my height is superior to thine; my joints more supple. But I will not be tempted to set myself in opposition to thee…Remember, that I am thy creature: I ought to be thy Adam; but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed. Every where I see bliss, from which I alone am irrevocably excluded. I was benevolent and good; misery made me fiend…Listen to me, Frankenstein… The poor monster wants to be understood. (Well, he also wants a girlfriend.) He feels that he is uniquely singled out for misery. His condition is unearned, and not his fault. At the same time, he feels strong. He feels superior in certain ways to his creator. He believes that he is owed something from Frankenstein. Wait, is this the first horror novel or is this contemporary YA? Is there any teen boy who can’t relate to Frankenstein’s monster, except maybe that the monster is remarkably articulate? The monster commits murders but is desperate for company which he doesn’t get. In the end, weeps over Frankenstein’s dead body. The creature is a monster, true, but he also is fundamentally and understandably human. Aren’t we all? A couple of weeks ago, dual Hugo Awards for Best Novel and Best Series were won by SFF author Martha Wells, for her Murderbot Diaries series of novellas and the first related novel Network Effect (2020). [Disclosure: Martha Wells is a client of my literary agency.] The series concerns a security android who has hacked her own programming and is thus free to ponder her own existence and its meaning. So, what does a sentient machine do with her time? In the opening paragraph of the debut novella All Systems Red (2017), we find out: I could have become a mass murderer after I hacked my governor module, but then I realized I could access the combined feed of entertainment channels carried on the company satellites. It had been well over 35,000 hours or so since then, with still not much murdering, but probably, I don’t know, a little under 35,000 hours of movies, serials, books, plays and music consumed. As a heartless killing machine, I was a terrible failure. Hold on, “Murderbot” (as she refers to herself) is a couch potato? Yep. All she really wants to do is watch soap operas. Okay, how can you not love a violent, mechanical assassin who has a bad TV habit and a self-deprecating sense of humor? The story doesn’t stop there, of course. Murderbot’s job is to protect people, not that easy on an alien planet. Furthermore, she has a history to conceal: a malfunction during which she murdered fifty-seven people. Over time, though, Murderbot discovers new emotions and forms uncomfortable relationships with humans and other artificial intelligences, some of whom she sets free. She also discovers a history of concealed corporate crimes. Murderbot’s universe is grim but she is a heartless killing machine to cheer for. Bringing Gods Down to Earth Essentially, the trick of relatable monsters is to make them in some way good, or at least human and understandable. The same goes for characters who are gods. The Greek pantheon of gods, for example, if you ask me is a bunch of goofballs. Sure, they can throw lightening bolts but they cheat, play tricks and have rivalries that make our own look—hmm, familiar. I marvel that anyone worshipped them. (Okay, I’ll admit that Artemis is hot, if sadly unreachable as parallels my own experience with girls in high school.) Neil Gaimam’s American Gods (2001) is likewise populated with all-too-fallible Old Gods of the past who are not quite up to defeating the New Gods of current American life and technology. A similar approach to gods is taken by Canadian SFF author K.V. Johansen in her gods-walk-the-earth fantasy Blackdog (2011), a nominee for the Sunburst Award, which concerns the fallen goddess Attalissa who has taken the form of a human girl, and who is introduced by several other characters, including one known as Old Lady: In the past, Attalissa had been a true power. A glory to bring folk to their knees, a great mother to them all. When had she fallen away from that? Old Lady didn’t know. Before her time, generations gone. Gods and goddesses rose, and ruled, and fell away to act as nothing more than petty wisewomen and wisemen, as though they lost their will after a few generations of life. That was what all her reading and her study, the travels she had indulged in younger years, had taught her. Gods and goddesses simply…lost interest, like children bored of playing house, of echoing their parents’ strength. Even the Old Great Gods had abdicated all concern for the world and retreated from it. Indeed, it’s hard to find in fiction gods who aren’t humanized, since after all who wants to read novels that will give us an inferiority complex? The higher the mighty the more humorous they can be, as well, as we see in everything from many “Satan’s secretary” story variations to the comedy of Terry Pratchett’s novels, such as the eleventh in his Discworld series, the hilarious and gem-studded Reaper Man (1991): “It was amazing how many friends you could make by being bad at things.” Indeed, especially if you are a god, demon, or are in some other way imbued with inhuman power. The Monstrousness of Humans Somewhat more difficult is the challenge of making human characters monstrous. It’s a task we associate primarily with cooking up antagonists and villains, but what happens when a fiend becomes the protagonist? (“Hero” doesn’t quite fit.) Humbert-Humbert (Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, 1955) has that profile, as does Frederick Clegg, the lonely clerk in John Fowles’s The Collector (1963). The first half of Fowles’s novel is narrated by Clegg, who begins by explaining his obsession with the female student at the Slade School of Art with whom he will abduct and hold prisoner in his basement: I can’t say what it was, the very first time I saw her, I knew she was the only one. Of course I am not mad, I knew it was just a dream and it always would have been if it hadn’t been for the money. [He wins a large sum in a football pool.] I used to have daydreams about her, I used to think of stories where I met her, did things she admired, married her and all that. Nothing nasty, that was never until what I’ll explain later. Of course I am not mad…seriously? Yes, or at least not at first. Clegg is simply a socially awkward guy who is attracted to a girl who’s out of his league. As an abductor and—spoiler alert—killer, he’s really pretty ordinary. In that way he’s similar to Joe Goldberg, the deliciously snide bookstore clerk in Caroline Kepnes’s novel You (2014), who stalks a pretty graduate writing student and eventually even becomes her boyfriend. (That is, before–spoiler alert—killing her.) We like Joe not because he’s creepy but because he’s caustically observant, the smartest and most ruthlessly honest person in the story. So nastily witty is he that we would sort of like to be like him…or, wait…hold on…aren’t we, at times, already just that? Nabokov and Kepnes’s novels ultimately are cautionary tales but they grip because they caution us about ourselves. The opposite of the regular-guy-killer approach is the alienated man strategy, which can be harder for readers to warm to but equally effective. One of the greatest works in Japanese literature, and Japan’s second- best-selling novel of all time, is Osamu Dazai’s No Longer Human (1948). The novel is in the form of the notebooks of a man named Ōba Yōzō, who masks his extreme alienation with a hollow and false jocularity. The first notebook recounts his childhood: I can’t even guess myself what it must be like to live the life of a human being… Good. Right away we have the idea. The opening then recounts his childhood unfamiliarity with trains and his disinterest in eating. …In other words, you might say that I sill have no understanding of what makes human beings tick. My apprehension on discovering that my concept of happiness seemed to be completely at variance with that of everyone else was so great as to make me toss sleeplessly and groan night after night in my bed. It drove me to the brink of lunacy. I wonder if I have actually been happy. People have told me, really more times than I can remember, ever since I was a small boy, how lucky I was, but I have aways felt as if I were suffering in hell. It has seemed to me in fact that those who called me luck were incomparably more fortunate than I. I have sometimes though that I have been burdened with a pack of ten misfortunes, any one of which if borne by my neighbor would be enough to make a murderer of him. I simply don’t understand. Are you getting the feeling that Dazai’s novel is a downer? Sorry to report, there is no positive turn in Ōba Yōzō’s story. He is not changed or redeemed. The author himself took his own life after shortly its publication. Still, the novel is a Japanese classic. If you’re wondering how that can be, I think that one key is contained in that line, I simply don’t understand. The protagonist of this novel—who would surely not survive a flogging by Ray Rhamey here on WU—exhibits the secret strength of all dark protagonists: self-awareness. As I said at the outset, fiction captures our condition. It confronts us with our fears. One of those fears is that we don’t measure up. We’re fooling others and ourselves. We are imposters. Strangers wearing masks. Wanderers in a meaningless wasteland, trying fruitlessly to make sense of a senseless universe. We are Estragon and Vladimir (“Waiting for Godot”, 1953). We are Meursault (The Stranger,1942). We are Lear, driven mad, and Bottom, turned into an ass. What makes our hopeless human condition bearable, even noble, is when we nevertheless struggle and seek to know ourselves. When we are aware of who we are—or even of who we are not—then we even so are somebodies. Placed in a heightened situation, the human who is not human is a monster, yes, but nevertheless can be a hero. Gods, monsters and murderbots…they’re not human but they’re a heck of a lot like us. That being the case, why not write about them? It’s really writing about you and me. Who are your favorite non-human characters…and what makes them all too human after all? About Donald MaassDonald Maass (he/him) is president of the Donald Maass Literary Agency. He has written several highly acclaimed craft books for novelists including The Breakout Novelist, The Fire in Fiction, Writing the Breakout Novel and The Career Novelist. Web | Twitter | Facebook | More Posts http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?d=yIl2AUoC8zA http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?d=qj6IDK7rITs http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?i=m_QTThxYP0U:s3B-4zTHCOY:gIN9vFwOqvQ http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?i=m_QTThxYP0U:s3B-4zTHCOY:D7DqB2pKExk [url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  18. Some of my friends know the whole story, but not many do. I’ve kept details to myself from the start, including the size of my first book deal (major, 2-book) and the expectations of my agent and acquiring editor (also major). In Germany, a thrilling foreign auction fueled all of our hopes. Then the 2008 crash obliterated the global economy, and aside from one other sale that was all the foreign publishers wrote. The splashy Big Five Publisher luncheon that had been scheduled in honor of the book was cancelled (though it had always felt surreal that it had ever been planned). It became clear at some point that my marketing team’s tone had changed—that somewhere along the way we’d moved from genuine excitement to the crossing of fingers to the bracing for a harsh reality, which I now know was probably based upon a clear view of preorders. The book released, but it far from sounded the bell, and then the trickle of disappointment everyone felt turned into a wave. My debut, the one I’d worked on for ~five years, was a sales dud. I spoke about it all with a trusted author-friend, who advised me to fight, question, push—get more PR, something—because the numbers were maddeningly unreal to her when I shared them. I purchased ads and a book tour, and wrote more articles, but nothing seemed to move the needle. And I did speak with folks at my publishing house, to see what–if anything–might be done. Then someone in power delivered a few ominous words that landed like a threat—about the sales threshold that needed to be met for a book to move from hardcover to paperback, about how my book would be published in paperback despite not meeting that threshold only because of the size of my publisher’s debt over my book. About how this was the sort of scenario that killed careers, but wasn’t I “lucky” that I had a two-book deal in order to attempt a recovery. I did not feel lucky. I felt petrified. That feeling amplified when my editor left, my imprint was shuttered, and I was inherited by another imprint–one that was not invested in me or my story. I came to believe, and not without reason, that I was viewed as a tax write-off. Might not surprise you to know that I struggled to write what became my second novel. I battled block, wondered if I’d fail at finishing and have to pay back my advance, and had a great deal of doubt about the worthiness of both my story and myself as an author. But I did finish it–a story about the pursuit of an impossible goal while maintaining hope. It took some astute book clubs for me to recognize the irony of what my subconscious did there. The Moon Sisters was published in hard cover in 2014. It was awarded starred reviews and close to zero marketing dollars. It did not sell well out of the gate, and so a few weeks after it was released my publisher decided not to publish it in paperback. The End. I don’t have anything to be ashamed of, right? I did my job and did it well, said my (genuinely wonderful, 4th) editor, delivering the news. It wasn’t personal; it was just the way it was because of economics. But it did translate into something that felt an awful lot like shame, with a giant dollop of disillusionment that seemed only to become magnified when the book went on to be named on a few ‘best books of the year’ lists. I wanted to push on, write something new right away. I had an idea I loved, an entire outline, and hundreds of index cards. I had the support and encouragement of family and friends. But I stalled out time and again. That something like shame feeling had rooted in me and spread like poison. My editor encouraged me to take a break, and I did do that. But after what seemed a significant stretch of time had passed, I wasn’t able to return to the writing habit–or the story, consistently. Just write, I’d tell myself, one word at a time. Otherwise you’re a hoax. A fraud. These unhelpful messages-to-self did not inspire. In kinder moments, I’d tell myself it was burnout. That I just needed time to recover. Burnout after a big disappointment was human. I was. I did do some things. I set about getting the rights back to my novels. Once I’d accomplished that, I put the paperback for The Moon Sisters out on my own. Julia Whelan and I teamed up to release the audiobook, too, which continues to find new readers. I began another project, and another. But I was only able to push so far before hitting that wall of resistance again. I learned something about myself as weeks turned into months into years: I could live a life that did not involve writing. I’ve heard before that if you can resist the call, then perhaps you shouldn’t be–or fundamentally were not–a writer. But the fact was that not writing didn’t feel anything close to good, even if I could do it. Sometimes it felt like holding back a tide, an effort that actively fractured me from the inside. “Broken things can be repaired” isn’t a particularly unique idea, but “broken things can be repaired in such a way that the final product is yet beautiful” is behind the art form called Kintsugi. And while the term is most often applied to pottery and making repairs with liquid gold, it’s also an idea — a philosophy — that can be applied to a wide range of broken things, including people. When I look at Paige Bradley’s Expansion, today’s featured photo, I feel joy and hope. And it strikes me that maybe this is my first real step toward recovery–to be public here with all my broken parts glued back together, to let you see me with all of the visible battle scars that I usually hide. What I’ve realized these many, many days away from writing is that no one can fix this for me. That guiding light that will drive my drive has to come from within. And if the flame has gone out utterly, it’s up to me to restart it. And I–a child of upstate New York winters–know how to start a fire. (1) Sweep out the wood stove; (2) light a starter or some dried kindling; (3) add thin pieces of wood–easy burners–in a way that allows the air to circulate and the flame to catch on all sides; (4) don’t rush the process, or overwhelm the young fire with more and/or bigger pieces of wood until it can sustain them; (5) protect the flame, which can be easily ruined by bad methods and neglect. I’ve thought deeply on my motivations as I prepare to try again. They have nothing whatsoever to do with the industry, salvaging my career, or proving anything to anyone. Rather, I am motivated here in 2022 to do what I can because I can–and because I can, I must. I must try. I must continue to try. Because knowing that I can do this thing, that it is in fact the best thing I know how to do, and that I am not doing it because I’m afraid to fail or deliver a product that won’t succeed hurts me. That simply can’t continue. So. (1) I’ve put my mountains of notes away–all but a simple stack. My starter (2) is this post; it’s my truth-telling party. I will proceed with care here at the start (3) with no more than a simple daily ask; my fellow writers in the trenches say even 15 minutes a day is enough, and that feels like a thin-piece-of-wood request that I can manage. (4) Until the urge to write comes on its own–until it haunts my showers, walks, and the minutes before I sleep–I’ll continue the slow, steady feed of my flame. And I’ll try to do as I counsel others who stall or feel doubt: Just do it. Persevere. Write on. (5) Never stop breathing on that fire. Has a hard truth held you back? Has something disabled your confidence in yourself, in your skillset, or even in your potential? How might you rehabilitate those broken parts? What will it take for you to breathe on that fire again, and to keep breathing–to write on? BYO tales of perseverance. Happy New Year, friends. About Therese WalshTherese Walsh (she/her) co-founded WU in 2006 and is the site's editorial director. She was the architect and 1st editor of WU's only book, Author in Progress, and orchestrates the WU UnConference. Her second novel, The Moon Sisters, was named one of the best books of the year by Library Journal and Book Riot. Sign up for her newsletter to be among the first to learn about her new projects (or follow her on BookBub). Learn more on her website. Web | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | More Posts http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?d=yIl2AUoC8zA http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?d=qj6IDK7rITs http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?i=xL_GhIrcsrc:zTuQeeK_FPY:gIN9vFwOqvQ http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?i=xL_GhIrcsrc:zTuQeeK_FPY:D7DqB2pKExk [url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  19. Goodness, it’s that time of the year again! As we batten down the hatches and distract ourselves from the outside world by getting excited about the wonderful new books coming out in 2022, we can also distract ourselves with the wondrous older books being reissued, brought back into print, and translated into English for the first time. Here’s my list of the stuff I’m currently most excited about. After a busy year for the Gollancz SF Masterworks series last year, production seems to be slowing down this year. However we can still look forward to Gwyneth Jones’ Life, which is being inducted into the series in February. Long-time readers will know that Jones is one of my favourite writers, and I’m delighted to see more of her work coming back into print. Additionally, the Masterworks will help bring us more John M. Ford back in print, with Growing Up Weightless receiving the treatment in September. Speaking of Ford, Tor will be publishing his final novel Aspects, which until now has remained unpublished. Long may the John M. Ford renaissance continue! Tor Essentials also seem to be having a quieter 2022, but will be reissuing M. J. Locke aka Laura Mixon’s Up Against It in April. Mixon has written some excellent post-cyberpunk SF so I am very much looking forward to reading more of her work. Handheld Press will continue in its mission to unearth essential and overlooked women writers of Weird fiction. This year we can look forward to Australian novelist and playwright Helen de Geurry Simpson’s weird short fiction collected in The Outcast and the Rite in May, and British historical novelist D. K. Broster’s weird short fiction in From The Abyss, coming in August. Wakefield Press also have another exciting year of weird and experimental fiction in translation coming up. I am particularly excited about The Impersonal Adventure by Marcel Béalu, Bruges-La-Morte by Belgian symbolist Georges Rodenbach, and The Messengers by Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud, all of which sound gloriously surreal and strange. Another highlight will be legendary Belgian weird fiction writer Jean Ray’s novel The City of Unspeakable Fear. Some exciting titles are coming from non-genre imprints as well. Penguin Classics will be issuing The Tale of Princess Fatima, Warrior Woman: The Arabic Epic of Dhat al-Himma in English for the first time. The only Arabic epic named for a woman, this promises to be an exciting and fascinating text. Penguin Modern Classics will be issuing Beautiful Star by legendary Japanese author Yukio Mishima in April. Mishima considered Beautiful Star, a bonkers science fiction extravaganza, his finest novel, yet this will be the first time it is translated into English. Penguin Modern Classics will also be reissuing Joanne Greenberg’s I Never Promised You A Rose Garden, a semi-autobiographical novel about the author’s struggles with schizophrenia mediated through her own personal fantasy world. Faber Essentials will be issuing Kay Dick’s They, a dystopian masterpiece that has been lost for forty years. With early reviewers likening They to John Wyndham’s The Chrysalids and the works of Anna Kavan, I am incredibly excited to read this one! Last but most definitely not least, Influx Press will be continuing their much-needed programme to bring the works of British weird fiction writer Joel Lane back into print. March will see Lane’s classic debut novel, From Blue To Black, back in print for the first time in far too long, and will be followed in October by Lane’s chilling novella The Witnesses Are Gone. All in all, it’s shaping up to be another excellent year for classics and exciting lesser known works coming back into print! The post Jonathan’s Most Anticipated Reissues for 2022 appeared first on The Fantasy Hive. View the full article
  20. Every novel begins twice. One type of beginning feels nearly impossible to get right; the other one, you can’t possibly get wrong. Let’s talk about the harder one first. When a reader picks up your novel, they’re reading the hard type of beginning: the first line of your first chapter, which may have changed countless times over the course of your writing and rewriting process. While the book is in draft form, you can shift these pieces around as many times as you want. But when the novel is published, it can only have one beginning, and boy howdy, can making that choice be tough. (“Tonight, I will do the impossible.” — The Magician’s Lie) Maybe you start with action, a scene meant to snap up the reader and whisk them along breathlessly into your story. Maybe you start your protagonist in a quieter moment, a “before” picture, to establish their ordinary life before the action of the story transforms them. You’ll hear all sorts of advice about what type of beginning is best, but as with so much other writing advice, it’s useless if you take it as an absolute. No rule always applies. (“Goldengrove devoured my sister every time I closed my eyes.” — Woman 99) And it can be daunting, exhausting, frustrating to search for the right beginning. Maybe you write three chapters and then realize in Chapter Four that that’s where the book starts. The writing you did to get there isn’t wasted, not really–maybe you needed it to come to a better understanding–but in the moment it can feel like a waste, especially if your writing time is scarce. Or maybe you write the whole book–yay! you wrote a book!–but your critique partner, potential agent, or other early reader says, “I’m just not sure this book starts in the right place.” If it’s any consolation, with every single one of my books except The Magician’s Lie, someone has said or typed those words to me–and I’ve definitely thought them to myself. I wrote five different “first chapters” of Girl in Disguise before I found the right one to start with. (“Like any Chicago tavern in deep summer, Joe Mulligan’s stank.” — Girl in Disguise) It’s tempting to respond to the question “Does this book start in the right place?” with an automatic, unthinking answer: “Yes! Of course it does!” But let the question sit with you for a while. No matter how frustrating it is, you need to invest the time and effort necessary to figure out whether it’s really the right beginning, because that first line makes an outsize impression on your reader. It’s the writer’s version of the old saw “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” The beginning of your book is a promise; the ending has to deliver on that promise. It isn’t just the wording of that beginning you need to get right, but the characters who are present, the action of the scene, the speed of the plot, pretty much every possible element that could set the reader up for success or lead them astray. (“Across the Five Queendoms of the known world, on an average day, roughly a hundred children were born.” –Scorpica) It’s work. So much work. But that type of beginning, the beginning of your novel, carries an immense amount of weight. Put in the work to get it right, and all that effort pays off for both you and your readers. (“In the front row sit the survivors.” — The Arctic Fury) But! You may remember that we’re talking about two types of beginnings here. The beginning that makes it into the published version of your book is the hard one. But there’s also an easy, easy one. You might see by now where this is going. Your novel has another beginning: whatever you sit down and write as the very first words of the writing process. Those words may end up at the beginning of the novel, or the end, or the third chapter, or not in the finished novel at all. But they’re absolutely essential, because you can’t finish a novel without starting it first. And no matter what you start with, simply by starting, you can’t get it wrong. Begin. About Greer MacallisterRaised in the Midwest, Greer Macallister earned her MFA in creative writing from American University. Her historical novels have been named Book of the Month, Indie Next, LibraryReads, Target Book Club, and Amazon Best Book of the Month picks and optioned for film and television. Her upcoming book, SCORPICA (as G.R. Macallister), is the first in the Five Queendoms series and her epic fantasy debut. A regular contributor to Writer Unboxed and the Chicago Review of Books, she lives with her family in Washington, DC. www.greermacallister.com Web | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | More Posts http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?d=yIl2AUoC8zA http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?d=qj6IDK7rITs http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?i=IY4BgzD0j_8:8zCZm50guf4:gIN9vFwOqvQ http://feeds.feedburner.com/~ff/WriterUnboxed?i=IY4BgzD0j_8:8zCZm50guf4:D7DqB2pKExk [url={url}]View the full article[/url]
  21. A subject that often goes by the wayside until too late. Twenty years, several novels, a room full of edited manuscripts, and hundreds of workshops later, I'd like to share three self-editing techniques for narrative that I've effectively utilized on a spectrum from foundation to final milkshake cherry. First Multi-Part Editorial Phase After pounding out a few pages on any given day, I devote a hour or so at the end to clean up, i.e., I read over what I've written and immediately make corrections to the most obvious flubs. It's easy. I don't want to have to deal with the rudimentary stuff when I return weeks later to engage in deeper second stage editing. Three to six weeks later (recommend no less than a four week hiatus) while continuing to push forward into the story, I come back around to the pages noted above. How many at a time? It varies. Let's say I'm second staging with a full scene, three to five pages. Sufficient time has elapsed that I cannot avoid spotting the necessary line edits. I rearrange sentences, swap words, zap any excessive "to be" passives, and make certain my narrative verve and cinema is up to grade, among other things. It's odd that you cannot see the second stage edits right away. Your eye is like a stone skipping over water if you attempt to revise too early. You just need time away. I cannot explain it, though I'm sure an explanation exists. Nevertheless, it's written in stone, even if it does skip over water: you must put the pages out of your sight for a sufficient time, thereby giving your brain time to reboot. Writers who are new to this mind-altering process will inevitably engage in even more edits as they work towards a reasonably well-edited manuscript. This assumes, of course, they pretty much know what they're doing in the first place. So this process continues. First stage immediately, second stage later, looping and looping. Once the manuscript official second draft begins (I personally don't count the first two editing stages as constituting anything other than an overall first draft of the novel), days or weeks after second stage editing is completed for the final scenes of the first draft, I am able to once again see the novel opening hook after a hiatus of at least a few months. And guess what? I see MORE EDITS. Now I find myself in the third stage. More time has elapsed. I see edits to the previous edits, and other edits I missed previously. How did I miss them? Don't ask me. It can be maddening, but I'm grateful I can spot and fix them. Will this ever end you ask? Your eye is like a stone skipping over water if you attempt to revise too early. You just need time away. I cannot explain it, though I'm sure an explanation exists. Writers who are new to this mind-altering process will inevitably engage in even more edits as they work towards a reasonably well edited manuscript. This assumes, of course, they pretty much know what they're doing in the first place. Do they? More often than not, they don't. I once edited my first scene in All the Dark We Will Not See over 35 times. No kidding. And guess what? That's not unusual. Back to the ms. As I progress through rewrites, the third stage continues, all the way to the end of the novel. Things are looking pretty good... but wait. I decide to add a third viewpoint. What happens? Hold back the tears, here comes a lot of writing, rewriting, and the necessity of engaging in the three editorial stages yet again, necessary to polish that huge new helping of words just plopped onto the novel plate. So you see, brace yourself for a jerky forward movement, especially if your veteran status is not yet earned. Phases II and III - Rerouting of the Editorial Brain Once I've polished the ms using the stage technique above, I switch techniques. I role play a game wherein I'm giving a reading of a portion of my new novel to a group of writers and readers. In the scenario, the writers are excellent writers known to me, perhaps one or two publishing house editors, and several readers who are fans of this particular genre, plus at least one severe critic who despises me. I'm standing behind a wooden lectern upon which rests my manuscript pages. I'm at a Barnes and Noble, or another local bookstore. My eyes glance up only long enough to catch a glimpse of the onlookers I note above. I begin to read. I either hear the words in my throat or I actually read them out loud, all the while existing in the fictional reality. Because upon using this final editorial screen, by placing separate passages through yet another filter, I see edits never before witnessed. Necessary edits. By some twist of consciousness I do not understand, I hear the necessary edits as I read. I've rerouted my brain to digest the words in a different manner. Utilizing this effective method, I'm able to apply 99% of the final editorial coat. I hear the edits for every 100 words or so (it can vary) and stop to correct the ms, then I continue like that, reading, halting, editing, and moving forward. Following on above, I have one more technique to share. This is a second brain reroute for the final nitpick edits. Again, I fail to comprehend how it works, but it succeeds. First, I choose a few slices of narrative, say around 200 words each, and I ask myself, "Which one of these passages is sharp and clean enough to appear on the novel back cover as a shining example? Answer? Zero... Why? Because upon using this final editorial screen, by placing separate passages through yet another filter, I see edits never before witnessed. Necessary edits. How had I missed them previously? Don't ask. I cannot answer. It matters not. Again, it works. So now you have three phases of editorial technique at your disposal. Precisely how you utilize them while you evolve as a masterful fiction writer will create customizations, no doubt, so keep that in mind. Scimas Via Michael Neff _____________ SHARE Labels advanced writing craftnovel developmentself-editing
  22. Little orgasmic ideas bubbling to the surface of the writer's consciousness!
  23. Welcome to our annual Most Anticipated post! That’s right, if our 2021 Awards didn’t destroy your TBR, this list will be sure to finish it… (Note: The list was curated by our contributors, and is ordered by expected publication date. All blurbs and publication information have been gathered from Goodreads, Amazon, and publishers’ websites. Titles are links to Goodreads, or Fantastic Fiction when Goodreads unavailable – adding not-yet released books to your “want to read” list massively helps authors, especially debuts, so please go make someone’s new year extra happy!) DAUGHTER OF THE MOON GODDESS Sue Lynn Tan A captivating debut fantasy inspired by the legend of Chang’e, the Chinese moon goddess, in which a young woman’s quest to free her mother pits her against the most powerful immortal in the realm. Growing up on the moon, Xingyin is accustomed to solitude, unaware that she is being hidden from the feared Celestial Emperor who exiled her mother for stealing his elixir of immortality. But when Xingyin’s magic flares and her existence is discovered, she is forced to flee her home, leaving her mother behind. Alone, powerless, and afraid, she makes her way to the Celestial Kingdom, a land of wonder and secrets. Disguising her identity, she seizes an opportunity to learn alongside the emperor’s son, mastering archery and magic, even as passion flames between her and the prince. To save her mother, Xingyin embarks on a perilous quest, confronting legendary creatures and vicious enemies across the earth and skies. But when treachery looms and forbidden magic threatens the kingdom, she must challenge the ruthless Celestial Emperor for her dream—striking a dangerous bargain in which she is torn between losing all she loves or plunging the realm into chaos. Daughter of the Moon Goddess begins an enchanting, romantic duology which weaves ancient Chinese mythology into a sweeping adventure of immortals and magic—where love vies with honor, dreams are fraught with betrayal, and hope emerges triumphant. Expected release: 11th January (HarperVoyager) Edgewood Kristen Ciccarelli No matter how far she runs, the forest of Edgewood always comes for Emeline Lark. The scent of damp earth curls into her nose when she sings and moss creeps across the stage. It’s as if the woods of her childhood, shrouded in folklore and tall tales, are trying to reclaim her. But Emeline has no patience for silly superstitions. When her grandfather disappears, leaving only a mysterious orb in his wake, the stories Emeline has always scoffed at suddenly seem less foolish. She enters the forest she has spent years trying to escape, only to have Hawthorne Fell, a handsome and brooding tithe collector, try to dissuade her from searching. Refusing to be deterred, Emeline finds herself drawn to the court of the fabled Wood King himself. She makes a deal—her voice for her grandfather’s freedom. Little does she know, she’s stumbled into the middle of a curse much bigger than herself, one that threatens the existence of this eerie world she’s trapped in, along with the devastating boy who feels so familiar. With the help of Hawthorne—an enemy turned reluctant ally who she grows closer to each day—Emeline sets out to not only save her grandfather’s life, but to right past wrongs, and in the process, discover her true voice. Haunting and romantic, Kristen Ciccarelli’s Edgewood is an exciting novel from a bold, unforgettable voice in fantasy. Expected release: 18th January (Wednesday Books) 36 Streets T. R. Napper Altered Carbon and The Wind-Up Girl meet Apocalypse Now in this fast-paced, intelligent, action-driven cyberpunk, probing questions of memory, identity and the power of narratives. Lin ‘The Silent One’ Vu is a gangster and sometime private investigator living in Chinese-occupied Hanoi, in the steaming, paranoid alleyways of the 36 Streets. Born in Vietnam, raised in Australia, everywhere she is an outsider. Through grit and courage Lin has carved a place for herself in the Vietnamese underworld where Hanoi’s crime boss, Bao Nguyen, is training her to fight and lead. Bao drives her hard; on the streets there are no second chances. Meanwhile the people of Hanoi are succumbing to Fat Victory – a dangerously addictive immersive simulation of the US-Vietnam war. When an Englishman comes to Hanoi on the trail of his friend’s murderer, Lin’s life is turned upside down. She is drawn into the grand conspiracies of the neon gods – of regimes and mega-corporations – as they unleash dangerous new technologies. Lin must confront the immutable moral calculus of unjust wars. She must choose: family, country, or gang. Blood, truth, or redemption. No choice is easy on the 36 Streets. Expected release: 18th January (Titan Books) Obsidian Sarah J. Daley Shade Nox is a fiend, a rogue, and a wanted murderer, though her only true crime is that she chooses to dress like a man. Proud and defiant, she wears her tattoos openly as any bloodwizard would, and carries obsidian blades at her hips. Those who laughingly call her a witch to her face soon learn an unfortunate lesson: Shade Nox might be an abomination, but she wields her blades with devastating precision, gleefully shedding blood for elemental magic that matches any man’s. Shade scratches out a dangerous living in the broken Wastes, but now that they are growing more unstable and dangerous, Shade and her people need their own Veil to protect them. She vows to raise one—a feat not accomplished in over a hundred years. But the Veils are controlled by the Brotherhood, who consider them sacred creations. They would sooner see all the Veils collapse into dust than allow a witch to raise one. With the help of her friends and allies, and her own indomitable will, Shade stays one step ahead of her enemies. Her zeal is only tempered when she learns the true sacrifice required to raise a Veil—a secret even the centuries-old Brotherhood has forgotten. It is too high a price to pay. Nevertheless, she must pay it, or she will lose everything and everyone she loves… Expected release: 25th January (Angry Robot) The Bone Spindle Leslie Vedder A pacey, fractured twist on a classic fairy tale! Filore, a treasure hunter with a knack for riddles, is busy running from her own deadly curse, when she pricks her finger on a spindle. Bound to the sleeping prince Briar Rose with the spindle’s magic – and chosen as the only person who can wake him – Fi is stuck with the prince’s ghost until she can break his ancient curse and save his kingdom. She’s going to need a partner. A warrior huntswoman with an axe to grind (literally), Shane couldn’t care less about curses and ancient texts. But instead of riches, the two girls find trouble. Dark magic, witch hunters, nightmarish beasts – and of course, curses – all stand in their way as Fi and Shane undertake the dangerous journey into a forgotten kingdom where the sleeping prince’s body waits. Expected release: 3rd February (Hodder) The This Adam Roberts The This is the new social media platform everyone is talking about. Allow it to be injected into the roof of your mouth and it will grow into your brain, allow you to connect with others without even picking up your phone. Its followers are growing. Its detractors say it is a cult. But for one journalist, hired to do a puff-piece interview with their CEO, it will change the world forever. Adan just wants to stay at home with his smart-companion Elegy – phone, friend, confidante, sex toy. But when his mother flees to Europe and joins a cult, leaving him penniless, he has to enlist in the army. Sentient robots are invading America, but it seems Adan has a surprising ability to survive their attacks. He has a purpose, even if he doesn’t know what it is. And in the far future, war between a hivemind of Ais and the remnants of humanity is coming to its inevitable end. But one woman has developed a weapon which might change the course of the war. It’s just a pity she’s trapped in an inescapable prison on a hivemind ship. Expected release: 3rd February (Gollancz) The Wind Child Gabriela Houston Packed with a colourful Slavic cast of tempestuous gods and frightening monsters, The Wind Child is above all a story about friendship, and how far you would go and what you would sacrifice to avoid saying goodbye to someone you love. No human has ever returned from Navia, the Slavic afterlife. But twelve-year-old Mara is not entirely human. She is the granddaughter of Stribog, the god of winter winds and she’s determined to bring her beloved father back from the dead. Though powerless, Mara and her best friend Torniv, the bear-shifter, set out on an epic journey to defy the gods and rescue her father. On their epic journey they will bargain with forest lords, free goddesses from enchantments, sail the stormy seas in a ship made of gold and dodge the cooking pot of the villainous Baba Latingorka. Little do the intrepid duo know of the terrible forces they have set in motion, for the world is full of darkness and Mara will have to rely on her wits to survive. Expected release: 3rd February (UCLan Publishing) Bluebird Ciel Pierlot Lesbian gunslinger fights spies in space! Three factions vie for control of the galaxy. Rig, a gunslinging, thieving, rebel with a cause, doesn’t give a damn about them and she hasn’t looked back since abandoning her faction three years ago. That is, until her former faction sends her a message: return what she stole from them, or they’ll kill her twin sister. Rig embarks on a journey across the galaxy to save her sister – but for once she’s not alone. She has help from her network of resistance contacts, her taser-wielding librarian girlfriend, and a mysterious bounty hunter. If Rig fails and her former faction finds what she stole from them, trillions of lives will be lost–including her sister’s. But if she succeeds, she might just pull the whole damn faction system down around their ears. Either way, she’s going to do it with panache and pizzazz. Expected release: 8th February (Angry Robot) Stars and Bones Gareth L. Powell From the multi BSFA award-winner comes a stunningly inventive action-packed science-fiction epic adventure. A brand-new series for fans of Becky Chambers and Ann Leckie. Seventy-five years from today, the human race has been cast from a dying Earth to wander the stars in a vast fleet of arks—each shaped by its inhabitants into a diverse and fascinating new environment, with its own rules and eccentricities. When her sister disappears while responding to a mysterious alien distress call, Eryn insists on being part of the crew sent to look for her. What she discovers on Candidate-623 is both terrifying and deadly. When the threat follows her back to the fleet and people start dying, she is tasked with seeking out a legendary recluse who may just hold the key to humanity’s survival. Expected release: 15th February (Titan Books) Age of Ash Daniel Abraham Kithamar is a center of trade and wealth, an ancient city with a long, bloody history where countless thousands live and their stories unfold. This is Alys’s. When her brother is murdered, a petty thief from the slums of Longhill sets out to discover who killed him and why. But the more she discovers about him, the more she learns about herself, and the truths she finds are more dangerous than knives. Swept up in an intrigue as deep as the roots of Kithamar, where the secrets of the lowest born can sometimes topple thrones, the story Alys chooses will have the power to change everything. Expected release: 15th February (Orbit Books) The Justice of Kings Richard Swan The Justice of Kings, the first in a new epic fantasy trilogy, follows the tale of Sir Konrad Vonvalt, an Emperor’s Justice – a detective, judge and executioner all in one. As he unravels a web of secrets and lies, Vonvalt discovers a plot that might destroy his order once and for all – and bring down the entire Empire. As an Emperor’s Justice, Sir Konrad Vonvalt always has the last word. His duty is to uphold the law of the empire using whatever tools he has at his disposal: whether it’s his blade, the arcane secrets passed down from Justice to Justice, or his wealth of knowledge of the laws of the empire. But usually his reputation as one of the most revered—and hated—Justices is enough to get most any job done. When Vonvalt investigates the murder of a noblewoman, he finds his authority being challenged like never before. As the simple case becomes more complex and convoluted, he begins to pull at the threads that unravel a conspiracy that could see an end to all Justices, and a beginning to lawless chaos across the empire. Expected release: 22nd February (Orbit Books) Blood Legacy Tej Turner The ragtag group from Jalard have finally reached Shemet, Sharma’s capital city. Scarred and bereft, they bring with them the grim tale of what happened to their village, and a warning about the ancient powers that have been awakened and now threaten all humanity. Despite this, some of them still hope that reaching sanctuary within the Synod will mean an end to their hardships, but these hopes are soon dashed. Sharma’s ruling class are caught within their own inner turmoil. When Jaedin senses that there are moles within their ranks, not only does his call to crisis fall mostly on deaf ears, but some who do hear seek to thwart him when he tries to hunt these infiltrators down. Meanwhile, across the Valantian Mountains, Gavendara is beginning to muster its forces. Using ritualistic means to augment their soldiers, their mutant army is like nothing the world has ever seen before. The Zakaras are coming. And Sharma’s only hope of stopping them is if it can unite its people in time. Expected release: February (Elsewhen Press) The River of Silver S A Chakraborty Bestselling author S.A. Chakraborty’s acclaimed Daevabad Trilogy gets expanded with this new compilation of stories from before, during, and after the events of The City of Brass, The Kingdom of Copper, and The Empire of Gold, all from the perspective of characters both beloved and hated, and even those without a voice in the novels. The River of Silver gathers material both seen and new—including a special coda fans will need to read—making this the perfect complement to those incredible novels. A prospective new queen joins a court whose lethal history may overwhelm her own political savvy… An imprisoned royal from a fallen dynasty and a young woman wrenched from her home cross paths in an enchanted garden… A pair of scouts stumble upon a secret in a cursed winter wood that will turn over their world… Now together in one place, these stories of Daevabad enrich a world already teeming with magic and wonder. From Manizheh’s first steps towards rebellion to adventures that take place after The Empire of Gold, this is a must-have collection for those who can’t get enough of Nahri, Ali, and Dara and all that unfolded around them Expected release: 1st March – Audiobook (Harper Audio) 13th October – Hardback and Paperback The Doloriad Missouri Williams Macabre, provocative, depraved, and unforgettable, The Doloriad marks the debut of Missouri Williams, a terrifyingly original new voice In the wake of a mysterious environmental cataclysm that has wiped out the rest of humankind, the Matriarch, her brother, and the family descended from their incest cling to existence on the edges of a deserted city. The Matriarch, ruling with fear and force, dreams of starting humanity over again, though her children are not so certain. Together the family scavenges supplies and attempts to cultivate the poisoned earth. For entertainment, they watch old VHS tapes of a TV show in which a problem-solving medieval saint faces down a sequence of logical and ethical dilemmas. But one day the Matriarch dreams of another group of survivors and sends away one of her daughters, the legless Dolores, as a marriage offering. When Dolores returns the next day, her reappearance triggers the breakdown of the Matriarch’s fragile order, and the control she wields over their sprawling family begins to weaken. Told in extraordinary, intricate prose that moves with a life of its own, and at times striking with the power of physical force, Missouri Williams’s debut novel is a blazingly original document of depravity and salvation. Gothic and strange, moving and disquieting, and often hilarious, The Doloriad stares down, with narrowed eyes, humanity’s unbreakable commitment to life. Expected release: US – 1st March (MCD X Fsg Originals) UK – 3rd March (Dead Ink) Our Wives Under the Sea Julia Armfield Miri thinks she has got her wife back, when Leah finally returns after a deep-sea mission that ended in catastrophe. It soon becomes clear, though, that Leah is not the same. Whatever happened in that vessel, whatever it was they were supposed to be studying before they were stranded on the ocean floor, Leah has brought part of it back with her, onto dry land and into their home. Moving through something that only resembles normal life, Miri comes to realize that the life that they had before might be gone. Though Leah is still there, Miri can feel the woman she loves slipping from her grasp. Our Wives Under The Sea is the debut novel from Julia Armfield, the critically acclaimed author of salt slow. It’s a story of falling in love, loss, grief, and what life there is in the deep deep sea. Expected release: 3rd March (Picador) The Circus Infinite Khan Wong Hunted by those who want to study his gravity powers, Jes makes his way to the best place for a mixed-species fugitive to blend in: the pleasure moon. Here, everyone just wants to be lost in the party. It doesn’t take long for him to catch the attention of the crime boss who owns the resort-casino where he lands a circus job. When the boss gets wind of the bounty on Jes’ head, he makes an offer: do anything and everything asked of him, or face vivisection. With no other options, Jes fulfills the requests: espionage, torture, demolition. But when the boss sets the circus up to take the fall for his about-to-get-busted narcotics operation, Jes and his friends decide to bring the mobster down together. And if Jes can also avoid going back to being the prize subject of a scientist who can’t wait to dissect him? Even better. Expected release: 8th March (Angry Robot) Kundo Wakes Up Saad Hossain In this standalone follow-up to the fan favorite The Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday Saad Z. Hossain continues to mix futurism with fable, and shows how strange our lives might become. While Gurkha introduced us to the techno utopia of Kathmandu, Kundo takes us to Hossain’s native Bangladesh, to the fading city of Chittagong, which is slowly crumbling into the sea as even Karma goes silent. But Kundo’s contemplation of his dying city is interrupted when his wife leaves him and then goes inexplicably missing, and soon Kundo starts to connect the dots between a number of disappearances. But this is Hossain, and so there’s more afoot than techno shenanigans. Kundo will find that the veil between worlds is paper-thin, and the djinn have their own stake in the matter. Filled with enough ruminations on tea and coffee to wake anyone up, this mystery/fantasy/science fiction/myth is a genre-breaker with something for everyone to love. Expected release: 15th March (Tordotcom) Wild and Wicked Things Francesca May In the aftermath of World War I, a naive woman is swept into a glittering world filled with dark magic, romance, and murder in this lush and decadent debut. On Crow Island, people whisper, real magic lurks just below the surface. Neither real magic nor faux magic interests Annie Mason. Not after it stole her future. She’s only on the island to settle her late father’s estate and, hopefully, reconnect with her long-absent best friend, Beatrice, who fled their dreary lives for a more glamorous one. Yet Crow Island is brimming with temptation, and the biggest one may be her enigmatic new neighbor. Mysterious and alluring, Emmeline Delacroix is a figure shadowed by rumors of witchcraft. And when Annie witnesses a confrontation between Bea and Emmeline at one of the island’s extravagant parties, she is drawn into a glittering, haunted world. A world where the boundaries of wickedness are tested, and the cost of illicit magic might be death. Expected release: 29th March (Orbit Books) Deep’s End Kai Greenwood A new stand-alone novel from the author of SPFBO quarter-finalist Code of the Communer. Expected release: March (Self-Published) The Bladed Faith David Dalglish A usurped prince prepares to take up the mantel of a deadly assassin and reclaim his kingdom, his people, and his slain gods in this epic fantasy from a USA Today bestselling author. Cyrus was only twelve years old when his gods were slain, his country invaded, and his parents—the king and queen—beheaded in front of him. Held prisoner in the invader’s court for years, Cyrus is suddenly given a chance to escape and claim his revenge when a mysterious group of revolutionaries comes looking for a figurehead. They need a hero to strike fear into the hearts of the imperial and to inspire and unite the people. They need someone to take up the skull mask and swords and to become the legendary “Vagrant”—an unparalleled hero and assassin of otherworldly skill. But all is not as it seems. Creating the illusion of a hero is the work of many, and Cyrus will soon discover the true price of his vengeance. Expected release: 5th April (Orbit Books) And Then I Woke Up Malcolm Devlin In the tradition of Mira Grant and Stephen Graham Jones, Malcolm Devlin’s And Then I Woke Up is a creepy, layered, literary story about false narratives and their ability to divide us. “A scathing portrait of the world we live in and a running commentary on what’s story, what’s truth, and what’s not.”—Stephen Graham Jones In a world reeling from an unusual plague, monsters lurk in the streets while terrified survivors arm themselves and roam the countryside in packs. Or perhaps something very different is happening. When a disease affects how reality is perceived, it’s hard to be certain of anything… Spence is one of the “cured” living at the Ironside rehabilitation facility. Haunted by guilt, he refuses to face the changed world until a new inmate challenges him to help her find her old crew. But if he can’t tell the truth from the lies, how will he know if he has earned the redemption he dreams of? How will he know he hasn’t just made things worse? Expected release: 12th April (Tordotcom) Stringers Chris Panatier Knowledge can get you killed. Especially if you have no idea what it means. Ben is NOT a genius, but he can spout facts about animals and wristwatches with the best of experts. He just can’t explain how he knows any of it. He also knows about the Chime. What it is or why it’s important he couldn’t say. But this knowledge is about to get him in a whole heap of trouble. After he and his best friend Patton are abducted by a trash-talking, flesh-construct alien bounty hunter, Ben finds out just how much he is worth… and how dangerous he can be. Hopefully Patton and a stubborn jar of pickles will be enough to help him through. Because being able to describe the mating habits of Brazilian bark lice isn’t going to save them. Expected release: 12th April (Angry Robot) The Hunger of the Gods John Gwynne The Hunger of the Gods continues John Gwynne’s acclaimed Norse-inspired epic fantasy series, packed with myth, magic and bloody vengeance. Lik-Rifa, the dragon god of legend, has been freed from her eternal prison. Now she plots a new age of blood and conquest. As Orka continues the hunt for her missing son, the Bloodsworn sweep south in a desperate race to save one of their own – and Varg takes the first steps on the path of vengeance. Elvar has sworn to fulfil her blood oath and rescue a prisoner from the clutches of Lik-Rifa and her dragonborn followers, but first she must persuade the Battle-Grim to follow her. Yet even the might of the Bloodsworn and Battle-Grim cannot stand alone against a dragon god. Their hope lies within the mad writings of a chained god. A book of forbidden magic with the power to raise the wolf god Ulfrir from the dead . . . and bring about a battle that will shake the foundations of the earth. Expected release: 12th April (Orbit Books) Queen of Clouds Neil Williamson Queen of Clouds is a sumptuous fantasy from the mind of Glasgow-based author and musician Neil Williamson. Neil’s debut novel The Moon King was described by Jeff VanderMeer as “one of the best debuts of this or any other year” and went on to be shortlisted for both the BSFA Award and British Fantasy Award for best novel. Billy Braid has been raised in an idyllic mountain backwater, aiding Master Kim to craft strangely sentient sylvans from carefully cultivated trees. Then the outside world impinges, and Billy is tasked with delivering a sylvan to the Sunshine City of Karpentine. Upon his arrival, Billy falls in with a young Weathermaker, Paraphernalia, who proves to be fascinating and infuriating in equal measure. But all is not well in the Sunshine City, and Billy is soon embroiled in Machiavellian intrigues he is ill-equipped to understand, as the city’s ruling Guilds – the Constructors, Inksmiths, Weathermakers and more – jostle for status and power, seeing him as the key.. Queen of Clouds is a delight; a fast-paced tale set in a richly imagined world. Wooden automata, sentient weather, talking cats, compellant inks, a tower of hands built from the casts provided by the city’s many visitors, and a host of vividly realised characters provide the backdrop as the drama rushes to its stunning climax. Expected release: 17th April (NewCon Press) Spear Nicola Grifiith The girl knows she has a destiny before she even knows her name. She grows up in the wild, in a cave with her mother, but visions of a faraway lake come to her on the spring breeze, and when she hears a traveler speak of Artos, king of Caer Leon, she knows that her future lies at his court. And so, brimming with magic and eager to test her strength, she breaks her covenant with her mother and, with a broken hunting spear and mended armour, rides on a bony gelding to Caer Leon. On her adventures she will meet great knights and steal the hearts of beautiful women. She will fight warriors and sorcerers. And she will find her love, and the lake, and her fate. Expected release: 19th April (Tordotcom) The Memory Librarian Janelle Monáe In The Memory Librarian: And Other Stories of Dirty Computer, singer-songwriter, actor, fashion icon, activist, and worldwide superstar Janelle Monáe brings to the written page the Afrofuturistic world of one of her critically acclaimed albums, exploring how different threads of liberation–queerness, race, gender plurality, and love–become tangled with future possibilities of memory and time in such a totalitarian landscape…and what the costs might be when trying to unravel and weave them into freedoms. Whoever controls our memories controls the future. Janelle Monáe and an incredible array of talented collaborating creators have written a collection of tales comprising the bold vision and powerful themes that have made Monáe such a compelling and celebrated storyteller. Dirty Computer introduced a world in which thoughts–as a means of self-conception–could be controlled or erased by a select few. And whether human, A.I., or other, your life and sentience was dictated by those who’d convinced themselves they had the right to decide your fate. That was until Jane 57821 decided to remember and break free. Expanding from that mythos, these stories fully explore what it’s like to live in such a totalitarian existence…and what it takes to get out of it. Building off the traditions of speculative writers such as Octavia Butler, Ted Chiang, Becky Chambers, and Nnedi Okorafor–and filled with the artistic genius and powerful themes that have made Monáe a worldwide icon in the first place–The Memory Librarian serves readers tales grounded in the human trials of identity expression, technology, and love, but also reaching through to the worlds of memory and time within, and the stakes and power that exists there. Expected release: 19th April (Harper Voyager) Nettle and Bone T. Kingfisher With her signature mix of the grim and the delightful, award-winning author T. Kingfisher takes the old bones of fantasy and fairytale and makes them into something entirely new in this enchanting adventure. After years of seeing her sisters suffer at the hands of an abusive prince, Marra—the shy, convent-raised, third-born daughter—has finally realized that no one is coming to their rescue. No one, except for Marra herself. Seeking help from a powerful gravewitch, Marra is offered the tools to kill a prince—if she can complete three impossible tasks. But, as is the way in tales of princes, witches, and daughters, the impossible is only the beginning. On her quest, Marra is joined by the gravewitch, a reluctant fairy godmother, a strapping former knight, and a chicken possessed by a demon. Together, the five of them intend to be the hand that closes around the throat of the prince and frees Marra’s family and their kingdom from its tyrannous ruler at last. Expected release: 26th April (Titan Books) Dark Factory Kathe Koja Dark Factory is a state-of-the-art club where reality is customizable: just scroll down the menu, and change your world. Ari Regon is the club’s floor manager, a wild card who makes things happen, Max Caspar is a stubborn and talented DIY artist. And they’re both chasing the same thing: the ultimate experience, a vision of true reality. Expected release: 10th May (Meerkat Press) The Collarbound Rebecca Zahabi On the other side of the Shadowpass, rebellion is brewing and refugees have begun to trickle into the city at the edge of the world. Looming high on the cliff is The Nest, a fortress full of mages who offer protection, but also embody everything the rebellion is fighting against: a strict hierarchy based on magic abilities, and the oppression of the Kher community. When Isha arrives as a refugee, she attempts to fit in amongst the other mages, but her Kher tattoo brands her as an outcast. She can’t remember her past or why she has the tattoo. All she knows is that she survived. She doesn’t intend to give up now. Tatters, who wears the golden collar of a slave, knows that this rebellion is different from past skirmishes. He was once one of the rebels, fought beside them, and technically, they still own him. He plans to stay in the shadows, until Isha appears in his tavern. He’s never seen a human with a tattoo, and the markings look eerily familiar. Despite his fear of being discovered, Tatters decides to help her. As the rebellion carves a path of destruction towards the city, The Collarbound follows an unlikely friendship between a man trying to escape his past and a woman trying to uncover hers, until their secrets threaten to tear them apart. A tale that questions fate and finds strength in not-belonging, The Collarbound hooks from the opening pages and will appeal to fans of magical, brink-of-war settings, like that of The Poppy War, and lyrical, character-driven writing, as found in A Darker Shade of Magic Expected release: 12th May (Gollancz) The Landing Mary Gentle ASTEROIDS AREN’T MEANT TO CHANGE COURSE. Aeris Warren-Finch is NASA’s Acting Director of the New Earth Object Lab, overseeing the transit of a large unidentified object past Earth’s orbit. She’s trained and worked all her life for this. She couldn’t be more ready. But the object changes trajectory. What was one object becomes three, seven, nineteen. Nineteen different modules land across the planet. When the nearest module creates a dome and leaves Aeris stranded within its confines, she’s left to wander in search of safety. But things are stranger than she could have guessed, and she soon discovers she’s not the only one wandering the alien landscapes under the domes. Alongside her 105-year-old great-grandmother, a displaced imam, the President of the United States and her bodyguard, Aeris must find a way home before they run out of water, food and ideas. The question is: when every direction reveals new and strange geographies, which way is the right way to go? Expected release: 12th May (Gollancz) The Stardust Thief Chelsea Abdullah Inspired by stories from One Thousand and One Nights, The Stardust Thief weaves the gripping tale of a legendary smuggler, a cowardly prince, and a dangerous quest across the desert to find a legendary, magical lamp. Neither here nor there, but long ago… Loulie al-Nazari is the Midnight Merchant: a criminal who, with the help of her jinn bodyguard, hunts and sells illegal magic. When she saves the life of a cowardly prince, she draws the attention of his powerful father, the sultan, who blackmails her into finding an ancient lamp that has the power to revive the barren land—at the cost of sacrificing all jinn. With no choice but to obey or be executed, Loulie journeys with the sultan’s oldest son to find the artifact. Aided by her bodyguard, who has secrets of his own, they must survive ghoul attacks, outwit a vengeful jinn queen, and confront a malicious killer from Loulie’s past. And, in a world where story is reality and illusion is truth, Loulie will discover that everything—her enemy, her magic, even her own past—is not what it seems, and she must decide who she will become in this new reality. Expected release: 17th May (Orbit Books) Glitterati Oliver K. Langmead Simone is one of the Glitterati, the elite living lives of luxury and leisure. Slave to the ever-changing tides – and brutal judgements – of fashion, he is immaculate. To be anything else is to be unfashionable, and no one wants to be unfashionable, or even worse, ugly… When Simone accidentally starts a new fashion with a nosebleed at a party, another Glitterati takes the credit. Soon their rivalry threatens to raze their opulent utopia to the ground, as no one knows how to be vicious like the beautiful ones. Enter a world of the most fantastic costumes, grand palaces in the sky, the grandest parties known to mankind and the unbreakable rules of how to eat ice cream. A fabulous dystopian fable about fashion, family and the feckless billionaire class. Expected release: 17th May (Titan Books) The Legacy of Molly Southbourne Tade Thompson From Arthur C. Clarke Award-winner Tade Thompson, The Legacy of Molly Southbourne continues his chilling series. Whenever Molly Southbourne bled, a murderer was born. Deadly copies, drawn to destroy their creator, bound by a legacy of death. With the original Molly Southbourne gone, her remnants drew together, seeking safety and a chance for peace. The last Molly and her sisters built a home together, and thought they could escape the murder that marked their past. But secrets squirm in Molly Southbourne’s blood–secrets born in a Soviet lab and carried back across the Iron Curtain to infiltrate the West. What remains of the Cold War spy machine wants those secrets back, and to get them they’re willing to unearth the dead and destroy the fragile peace surrounding the last copies of Molly Southbourne. The Legacy of Molly Southbourne brings the story to a bloody end. Expected release: 17th May (Tordotcom) All the Seas of the World Guy Gavriel Kay Returning triumphantly to the brilliantly evoked near-Renaissance world of A Brightness Long Ago and Children of Earth and Sky, international bestselling author Guy Gavriel Kay deploys his signature ‘quarter turn to the fantastic’ to tell a story of vengeance, power, and love. On a dark night along a lonely stretch of coast a small ship sends two people ashore. Their purpose is assassination. They have been hired by two of the most dangerous men alive to alter the balance of power in the world. If they succeed, the consequences will affect the destinies of empires, and lives both great and small. One of those arriving at that beach is a woman abducted by corsairs as a child and sold into years of servitude. Having escaped, she is trying to chart her own course—and is bent upon revenge. Another is a seafaring merchant who still remembers being exiled as a child with his family from their home, for their faith, a moment that never leaves him. In what follows, through a story both intimate and epic, unforgettable characters are immersed in the fierce and deadly struggles that define their time. All the Seas of the World is a page-turning drama that also offers moving reflections on memory, fate, and the random events that can shape our lives—in the past, and today. Expected release: 22nd May (Hodder & Stoughton) Never the Wind Francesco Dimitri A bittersweet gothic fantasy of family, friendship, memory, and the uncanny told from the perspective of a blind teenager, set in the same world as The Book of Hidden Things, perfect for readers of Neil Gaiman, Donna Tartt and Haruki Murakami. Praise God, never the wind 1996 – Luca Saracino is thirteen and has been completely blind for eight months when his parents move to a Southern Italian farmhouse they dream of turning into a hotel. With his brother dropping out of university and the family reeling from Luca’s diagnosis, they are chasing dreams of rebirth and reinvention. As Luca tells his story without sight – experiencing the world solely through hearing, smell, taste and touch – he meets the dauntless Ada Guadalupi, who takes him out to explore the rocky fields and empty beaches. But Luca and Ada find they can’t escape the grudges that have lasted between their families for generations, or the gossiping of the town. And Luca is preyed upon by the feral Wanderer, who walks the vineyards of his home. As Luca’s family starts to crack at the seams, Luca and Ada have to navigate new lands and old rivalries to uncover the truths spoken as whispers on the wind. Expected release: 7th June (Titan Books) A Fire of Ten Thousand Flags Aliette de Bodard Aliette de Bodard is ‘one of the most influential voices in fantasy today’ (Starburst). A Franco-Vietnamese writer living in Paris, she’s the mother of two, qualified as an officer in the French military, is a very talented cook (http://aliettedebodard.com/recipes/), understands everything it’s possible to understand about Applied Maths and, in her day job, literally keeps the trains running. Expected release: 9th June (Gollancz) Hopeland Ian McDonald They met while London burned. A encounter during a riot brought Amon Brightbourne together with Raissa Hopeland on a mad rooftop hunt for a family heirloom: a Tesla Coil. But there is no such thing as chance where Amon is concerned: he’s been exiled from his family home because he’s both cursed and blessed with the Grace — he lives a charmed life, but at the expense of those closest to him. The Grace made him fall in love with Raissa, and with her family, the extraordinary Hopelands — a family like stars in the sky, scattered but connected in constellations of affection, parenthood, love and responsibility. But a terrible misunderstanding tears them apart, and sends Amon on a journey through the ever-extending Hopeland family, touching lives and shaping the course of the unfolding 20th century. Raissa’s life is also changed by that moment, from free spirit to major player in the unfolding story of the 21st century in an Iceland transformed by the Artic thaw. Over twenty years their lives and loves orbit around each other, through climate change, new religions, economic and technological revolution, resource wars and mass migration as Raissa tries to unite her family. there is — and always will be — Hope in her name. They love each other but they can never be with each other — until Amon must choose between family and his fear of what the Grace will do to the woman he has always loved. Hopeland is a sprawling, picaresque, magical, marvelous novel — love story, family saga, tech thriller, science fiction — that takes you to the heart of the woes and promises of this most astonishing of centuries. Expected release: 9th June (Gollancz) The Warrior Stephen Aryan A sequel to 2021’s hugely successful The Coward, a fantasy duology with an engaging anti-hero that is perfect for fans of Joe Abercrombie or Anna Smith Spark. The story of Kell Kresia continues in Book II of the gripping fantasy duology. Kell, two time saviour of the Five Kingdoms, is now the King of Algany. He has fame, power, respect, and has never been more miserable… Bound, by duty and responsibility, Kell is King only in name. Trapped in a loveless marriage, he leaves affairs of state to his wife, Sigrid. When his old friend, Willow, turns up asking him to go on a journey to her homeland he can’t wait to leave. The Malice, a malevolent poison that alters everything it infects, runs rampant across Willow’s homeland. Desperate to find a cure her cousin, Ravvi, is willing to try a dark ritual which could damn her people forever. Journeying to a distant land, Kell and his companions must stop Ravvi before it’s too late.While Kell is away Reverend Mother Britak’s plans come to a head. Queen Sigrid must find a way to protect her family and her nation, but against such a ruthless opponent, something has to give… Expected release: 14th June (Angry Robot) A Mirror Mended Alix E. Harrow A Mirror Mended is the next installment in USA Today bestselling author Alix E. Harrow’s Fractured Fables series. Zinnia Gray, professional fairy-tale fixer and lapsed Sleeping Beauty is over rescuing snoring princesses. Once you’ve rescued a dozen damsels and burned fifty spindles, once you’ve gotten drunk with twenty good fairies and made out with one too many members of the royal family, you start to wish some of these girls would just get a grip and try solving their own narrative issues. Just when Zinnia’s beginning to think she can’t handle one more princess, she glances into a mirror and sees another face looking back at her: the shockingly gorgeous face of evil, asking for her help. Because there’s more than one person trapped in a story they didn’t choose. Snow White’s Evil Queen has found out how her story ends and she’s desperate for a better ending. She wants Zinnia to help her before it’s too late for everyone. Will Zinnia accept the Queen’s poisonous request, and save them both from the hot iron shoes that wait for them, or will she try another path? Expected release: 14th June (Tordotcom) The Last Blade Priest W P Wiles An absorbing and original epic fantasy with rich world-building and a wry take on genre conventions from a Betty Trask Award-winning author. Inar is Master Builder for the Kingdom of Mishig-Tenh. Life is hard after the Kingdom lost the war against the League of Free Cities. Doubly so since his father betrayed the King and paid the ultimate price. And now the King’s terrifying chancellor and torturer in chief has arrived and instructed Inar to go and work for the League. And to spy for him. And any builder knows you don’t put yourself between a rock and a hard place. Far away Anton, Blade Priest for Craithe, the God Mountain, is about to be caught up in a vicious internal war that will tear his religion apart. Chosen from infancy to conduct human sacrifice, he is secretly relieved that the practice has been abruptly stopped. But an ancient enemy has returned, an occult conspiracy is unfolding, and he will struggle to keep his hands clean in a world engulfed by bloodshed. In a series of constantly surprising twists and turns that take the reader through a vividly imagined and original world full of familiar tensions and surprising perspectives on old tropes, Inar and Anton find that others in their story may have more influence on their lives, on the future of the League and on their whole world than they, or the reader imagined. Expected release: 14th June (Angry Robot) In the Shadow of Lightening Brian McClellan From Brian McClellan, author of The Powder Mage, comes In the Shadow of Lightning, a brand-new epic fantasy where magic is a finite resource—and it’s running out. Demir Grappo is an outcast—he fled a life of wealth and power, abandoning his responsibilities as a general, a governor, and a son. Now he will live out his days as a grifter, rootless, and alone. But when his mother is brutally murdered, Demir must return from exile to claim his seat at the head of the family and uncover the truth that got her killed: the very power that keeps civilization turning, godglass, is running out. Now, Demir must find allies, old friends and rivals alike, confront the powerful guild-families who are only interested in making the most of the scraps left at the table and uncover the invisible hand that threatens the Empire. A war is coming, a war unlike any other. And Demir and his ragtag group of outcasts are the only thing that stands in the way of the end of life as the world knows it. Expected release: 21st June (Tor) The Moonday Letters Emmi Itäranta A gripping sci-fi mystery wrapped in an LGBTQIA love story that bends space, time, myth and science. Lumi is an Earth-born healer whose Mars-born spouse Sol disappears unexpectedly on a work trip. As Lumi begins her quest to find Sol, she delves gradually deeper into Sol’s secrets – and her own. While recalling her own path to becoming a healer under the guidance of her mysterious teacher Vivian, she discovers an underground environmental group called Stoneturners, which may have something to do with Sol’s disappearance. Lumi’s search takes her from the wealthy colonies of Mars to Earth that has been left a shadow of its former self due to vast environmental destruction. Gradually, she begins to understand that Sol’s fate may have been connected to her own for much longer than she thought. Part space-age epistolary, part eco-thriller, The Moonday Letters is also a love story between two individuals from very different worlds. Expected release: 5th July (Titan Books) Violet Made of Thorns Gina Chen A darkly enchanting fantasy debut about a morally gray witch, a cursed prince, and a prophecy that ignites their fate-twisted destinies—perfect for fans of The Cruel Prince and Serpent & Dove. Violet is a prophet and a liar, influencing the royal court with her cleverly phrased—and not always true—divinations. Honesty is for suckers, like the oh-so-not charming Prince Cyrus, who plans to strip Violet of her official role once he’s crowned at the end of the summer—unless Violet does something about it. But when the king asks her to falsely prophesy Cyrus’s love story for an upcoming ball, Violet awakens a dreaded curse, one that will end in either damnation or salvation for the kingdom—all depending on the prince’s choice of future bride. Violet faces her own choice: Seize an opportunity to gain control of her own destiny, no matter the cost, or give in to the ill-fated attraction that’s growing between her and Cyrus. Violet’s wits may protect her in the cutthroat court, but they can’t change her fate. And as the boundary between hatred and love grows ever thinner with the prince, Violet must untangle a wicked web of deceit in order to save herself and the kingdom—or doom them all. Expected release: 26th July (Delacorte Press) A Strange and Stubborn Endurance Foz Meadows “Stolen me? As soon to say a caged bird can be stolen by the sky.” Velasin vin Aaro never planned to marry at all, let alone a girl from neighboring Tithena. When an ugly confrontation reveals his preference for men, Vel fears he’s ruined the diplomatic union before it can even begin. But while his family is ready to disown him, the Tithenai envoy has a different solution: for Vel to marry his former intended’s brother instead. Caethari Aeduria always knew he might end up in a political marriage, but his sudden betrothal to a man from Ralia, where such relationships are forbidden, comes as a shock. With an unknown faction willing to kill to end their new alliance, Vel and Cae have no choice but to trust each other. Survival is one thing, but love—as both will learn—is quite another. Byzantine politics, lush sexual energy, and a queer love story that is by turns sweet and sultry. A Strange and Stubborn Endurance is an exploration of gender, identity, and self-worth. It is a book that will live in your heart long after you turn the last page. Expected release: 26th July (Tor) A Half-Built Garden Ruthanna Emrys A literary descendent of Ursula K. Le Guin, Ruthanna Emrys crafts a novel of extraterrestrial diplomacy and urgent climate repair bursting with quiet, tenuous hope and an underlying warmth. A Half-Built Garden depicts a world worth building towards, a humanity worth saving from itself, and an alien community worth entering with open arms. It’s not the easiest future to build, but it’s one that just might be in reach. “A Half-Built Garden deserves to be the first contact novel that defines a generation.” —Seanan McGuire On a warm March night in 2083, Judy Wallach-Stevens wakes to a warning of unknown pollutants in the Chesapeake Bay. She heads out to check what she expects to be a false alarm–and stumbles upon the first alien visitors to Earth. These aliens have crossed the galaxy to save humanity, convinced that the people of Earth must leave their ecologically-ravaged planet behind and join them among the stars. And if humanity doesn’t agree, they may need to be saved by force. The watershed networks aren’t ready to give up on Earth. Decades ago, they rose up to exile the last corporations to a few artificial islands, escape the dominance of nation-states, and reorganize humanity around the hope of keeping their world liveable. By sharing the burden of decision-making, they’ve started to heal the wounded planet. But now corporations, nation-states, and networks all vie to represent humanity to these powerful new beings, and if any one accepts the aliens’ offer, Earth may be lost. With everyone’s eyes turned skyward, everything hinges on the success of Judy’s effort to create understanding, both within and beyond her own species. Expected release: 26th July (Tordotcom) The Jaguar Path Anna Stephens The long-awaited sequel to The Stone Knife, The Jaguar Path will be the second novel in Stephens’ Songs of the Drowned series. Expected release: 4th August (Harper Collins) Priest of Crowns Peter McLean ‘Praise be to Our Lady of Eternal Sorrows, and blessed be the Ascended Martyr.’ Those were the words on lips of the faithful: Blessed be the Ascended Martyr, and woe betide you if you thought otherwise. The word Unbeliever had become a death sentence on the streets in those days. Gangster, soldier, priest. Governor, knight, and above all, Queen’s Man. Once, Tomas Piety looked after his men, body and soul, as best he could. Then those who ran his country decided his dark talents would better serve in the corridors of power. Crushed by the power of the Queen’s Men and with the Skanian menace rising once more on the streets of Ellinburg, Tomas Piety is forced to turn to old friends, old debts and untrustworthy alliances. Meanwhile in the capital city of Dannsburg, Dieter Vogel is beginning to wonder if the horror he has unleashed in the Martyr’s Disciples might be getting out of control. With revolution brewing and tragedy and terrorism running rife in the cities, Piety and Vogel must each weigh the cost of a crown. Expected release: 4th August (Jo Fletcher Books) Maror Lavie Tidhar Set in Israel across four decades, Maror is a story of life and death, politics and history, perfect for fans of Pachinko or A Little Life. Like a spray of bullets from an Uzi, Maror‘s mosaic sections add up to a massacre of a novel, leaving a bloodied trail of sacred cows in its wake. It is the story of a war for the soul of a nation. It is a true story. All of these things happened. Tel Aviv, 2004. A bomb attack kills five people. Two of them are children. Policeman-cum-hitman Avi Sagi is tasked with solving the murder – clean. His superior officer is known only as Cohen. A man who moves silent as a shadow through the years. Who could be so ruthless as to kill a child? In 1974, the body of a young woman is found on the beach. Young constables Eddie and Cohen are attached to the case. The investigation takes them to the left-wing radicals at first suspected, and then to the war vet they are tasked with putting in jail for the murder – by any means necessary. But the deaths continue. In 1977 a journalist searches for the truth behind a string of nascent land deals in the newly occupied West Bank. But what she discovers puts her and everyone around her in danger. In 1982 a small-time gangster travels into the heart of darkness that is the Lebanese Civil War, determined to make his name in drugs. In 1985 a woman murders a Holocaust survivor for her money. In 1987 Los Angeles an Israeli couple is brutally slaughtered, and in 1989 Colombia the young Israelis training the drug cartels get more than they bargained for. How do they all connect? Only Cohen knows. Cohen, a man who loves his country. And in 1995 a young Avi Sagi gets a chance at redemption, during one long hot summer of rock music, love and the promise of peace… This is a novel about love. About hate. About the things people do to each other. Digging deep into historical archives, Lavie Tidhar has conjured up a riveting and bloodied history and brought it back to glorious technicolour life. Just remember. This is all true. May the ghosts here captured one day rest in peace. Expected release: 4th August (Apollo) The Garden of Empire J. T. Greathouse WAR MAKES MONSTERS OF EVERYONE. Foolish Cur, once named Wen Alder, finds that his allies in the rebellion might cross any line if it means freedom from the Empire. But he can’t overcome a foe as strong as Emperor Tenet alone. REBELLION HAS UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES. Koro Ha, Foolish Cur’s former tutor, discovers the Empire is not so forgiving of those who raise a traitor. And the depths to which he can fall are lower than he ever considered. THE GODS ARE LURKING IN THE SHADOWS. As the fight for the Thousand-Armed Throne rages, Foolish Cur knows there is a greater threat. The emperor intends to kill the gods, and they will wreak destruction if he tries. To stop him, Foolish Cur might have to risk everything – and resort to ancient magics that could tear the world apart. Expected release: 4th August (Gollancz) The First Binding R. R. Virdi All legends are borne of truths. And just as much lies. These are mine. Judge me for what you will. But you will hear my story first. I buried the village of Ampur under a mountain of ice and snow. Then I killed their god. I’ve stolen old magics and been cursed for it. I started a war with those that walked before mankind and lost the princess I loved, and wanted to save. I’ve called lightning and bound fire. I am legend. And I am a monster. My name is Ari. And this is the story of how I let loose the first evil. Thus begins the tale of a storyteller and a singer on the run and hoping to find obscurity in a tavern bar. But the sins of their past aren’t forgotten, and neither are their enemies. Their old lives are catching up swiftly and it could cost them the entire world. No one can escape their pasts and all stories must have an ending. Expected release: 18th August (Tor) Babel R. F. Kuang Traduttore, traditore: An act of translation is always an act of betrayal. 1828. Robin Swift, orphaned by cholera in Canton, is brought to London by the mysterious Professor Lovell. There, he trains for years in Latin, Ancient Greek, and Chinese, all in preparation for the day he’ll enroll in Oxford University’s prestigious Royal Institute of Translation — also known as Babel. Babel is the world’s center of translation and, more importantly, of silver-working: the art of manifesting the meaning lost in translation through enchanted silver bars, to magical effect. Silver-working has made the British Empire unparalleled in power, and Babel’s research in foreign languages serves the Empire’s quest to colonize everything it encounters. Oxford, the city of dreaming spires, is a fairytale for Robin; a utopia dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. But knowledge serves power, and for Robin, a Chinese boy raised in Britain, serving Babel inevitably means betraying his motherland. As his studies progress Robin finds himself caught between Babel and the shadowy Hermes Society, an organization dedicated to sabotaging the silver-working that supports imperial expansion. When Britain pursues an unjust war with China over silver and opium, Robin must decide: Can powerful institutions be changed from within, or does revolution always require violence? What is he willing to sacrifice to bring Babel down? Babel — a thematic response to The Secret History and a tonal response to Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell — grapples with student revolutions, colonial resistance, and the use of translation as a tool of empire. Expected release: 23rd August (HarperVoyager) Expect Me Tomorrow Christopher Priest Christopher Priest’s novels have built him an inimitable dual reputation as a contemporary literary novelist and a leading figure in modern SF and fantasy. His novel THE PRESTIGE is unique in winning both a major literary prize (THE JAMES TAIT BLACK AWARD and a major genre prize THE WORLD FANTASY AWARD); THE SEPARATION won both the ARTHUR C. CLARKE and the BRITISH SCIENCE FICTION AWARDS. THE ISLANDERS won both the BSFA and John W. Campbell awards. He was selected for the original BEST OF YOUNG BRITISH NOVELISTS in 1983. Expected release: 15th September (Gollancz) Malarkoi Alex Pheby NATHAN TREEVES is dead, murdered by the Master of Mordew, his remains used to create the powerful occult weapon known as the Tinderbox. His companions, scattered, are making for Malarkoi – the city of the Mistress, the Master’s most powerful enemy. Hoping to find welcome there, or at least safety, they find neither… and instead become embroiled in a life and death struggle against assassins, demi-gods, and the cunning plans of the Mistress. Only Sirius, Nathan’s faithful dog, has not forgotten the boy. Bent on revenge, he returns to the shattered remains of Mordew, newly deformed into an impossible mountain, swarming with monsters. He senses something in the Manse at its pinnacle – the Master is there, grieving the loss of his manservant, Bellows – and in the ruins of the slums he finds a power capable of destroying his foe, if only he has the strength to use it. Expected release: Autumn (Galley Beggar Press) Desert Creatures Kay Chronister In a world that has become treacherous and desiccated, Magdala has always had to fight to survive. At nine years old, she and her father, Xavier, are exiled from their home, fleeing through the Sonoran Desert, searching for refuge. As violence pursues them, they join a handful of survivors on a pilgrimage to the holy city of Las Vegas, where it is said the vigilante saints reside, bright with neon power. Magdala, born with a clubfoot, is going to be healed. But when faced with the strange horrors of the desert, one by one the pilgrims fall victim to a hideous sickness—leaving Magdala to fend for herself. After surviving for seven years on her own, Magdala is sick of waiting for her miracle. Recruiting an exiled Vegas priest named Elam at gunpoint to serve as her guide, Magdala turns her gaze to Vegas once more, and this time, nothing will stop her. The pair form a fragile alliance as they navigate the darkest and strangest reaches of the desert on a trip that takes her further from salvation even as she nears the holy city. With ferocious imagination and poetic precision, Desert Creatures is a story of endurance at the expense of redemption. What compromise does survival require of a woman, and can she ever unlearn the instincts that have kept her alive? Expected release: Autumn (Erewhon ) The Best Of World SF Volume 2 Anthology edited by Lavie Tidhar Twenty-nine new short stories representing the state of the art in international science fiction. The future is coming. It knows no bounds, and neither should science fiction. They say the more things change the more they stay the same. But over the last hundred years, science fiction has changed. Vibrant new generations of writers have sprung up across the globe, proving the old adage false. From Jamaica to Japan, from Bolivia to Bahrain, from Italy to Iraq, they draw on their unique backgrounds and culture, changing the face of the genre one story at a time. Prepare yourself for a journey through the wildest reaches of the imagination, to visions of Earth as it might be and the far corners of the universe. In The Best of World SF, award-winning author Lavie Tidhar acts as guide and companion to a world of stories, from never-before-seen originals to award winners, from twenty-six countries and seven languages. Because the future is coming and it belongs to us all. Expected release: 13th October (Head of Zeus) The Village at the Edge of Noon Darya Bobyleva | Translated by Ilona Chavasse The residents of a village outside Moscow wake up to discover that the road out to the motorway has disappeared without a trace and the usual paths into the woods somehow lead back into the village. And the woods? Overnight their weedy and rubbish-strewn copse has become a dark and overgrown forest inhabited by something mysterious and unfriendly. Anyone who makes it into the trees either vanishes into thin air or returns, not quite themselves… And, of course, the Internet, radio and TV have stopped working and the weather never changes. And time seems to loop seamlessly from one crop of apples and cabbages into the next. There are strange noises, and strange visitations. The villagers are plagued by odd thoughts and desires, and quiet but pervasive voices call from the river. Objects mutate; phones and radios emit strange mutterings; people disappear. What begins as a one-sided manifestation of the weird, becomes weirder still as the villagers split into factions and odd alliances with the new “neighbours” are formed. Meanwhile the forest looms closer every day. Is Katya, a solitary young woman, the only one beginning to glimpse what is going on? Expected release: October (Angry Robot) The Surviving Sky Kritika H. Rao High above a jungle-planet float the last refuges of humanity—plant-made civilizations held together by tradition, technology, and arcane science. In these living cities, architects are revered above anyone else. If not for their ability to psychically manipulate the architecture, the cities would plunge into the devastating earthrage storms below. Charismatic, powerful, mystical, Iravan is one such architect. In his city, his word is nearly law. His abilities are his identity, but to Ahilya, his wife, they are a way for survival to be reliant on the privileged few. Like most others, she cannot manipulate the plants. And she desperately seeks change. Their marriage is already thorny—then Iravan is accused of pushing his abilities to forbidden limits. He needs Ahilya to help clear his name; she needs him to tip the balance of rule in their society. As their paths become increasingly intertwined, deadly truths emerge, challenging everything each of them believes. And as the earthrages become longer, and their floating city begins to plummet, Iravan and Ahilya’s discoveries might destroy their marriage, their culture, and their entire civilization. Expected release: October (Daw Books) Africa Risen: A New Era of Speculative Fiction Anthology edited by Sheree Renée Thomas, Oghenekevwe Donald Ekpeki and Zelda Knight Tordotcom Publishing is thrilled to announce that Emily Goldman has acquired World English rights to Africa Risen: A New Era of Speculative Fiction, a new anthology of African and Diasporic speculative fiction edited by Sheree Renée Thomas, Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki (whose novella “Ife-Iyoku, The Tale of Imadeyunuagbon” recently won the 2020 Otherwise Award), and Zelda Knight. The collection will be available in hardcover and ebook in Fall 2022. This anthology is the direct descendant of Sheree Renée Thomas’s groundbreaking Dark Matter anthology series celebrating a hundred years of Black speculative fiction in the African Diaspora. Containing thirty-two original stories of fantasy, science fiction, and horror by African authors and authors of African descent living in the Diaspora who are among some of the genre’s most exciting voices, Africa Risen is a celebration of African storytelling and speculative literature, a tradition both ancient and new. Expected release: 8th November (Tordotcom) The Lost Metal Brandon Sanderson Return to #1 New York Times bestseller Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn world of Scadrial as its second era, which began with The Alloy of Law, comes to its earth-shattering conclusion in The Lost Metal. For years, frontier lawman turned big-city senator Waxillium Ladrian has hunted the shadowy organization the Set—with his late uncle and his sister among their leaders—since they started kidnapping people with the power of Allomancy in their bloodlines. When Detective Marasi Colms and her partner Wayne find stockpiled weapons bound for the Outer City of Bilming, this opens a new lead. Conflict between Elendel and the Outer Cities only favors the Set, and their tendrils now reach to the Elendel Senate—whose corruption Wax and Steris have sought to expose—and Bilming is even more entangled. After Wax discovers a new type of explosive that can unleash unprecedented destruction and realizes that the Set must already have it, an immortal kandra serving Scadrial’s god reveals that Harmony’s power is blocked in Bilming. That means the city has fallen under the influence of another god: Trell, worshipped by the Set. And Trell isn’t the only factor at play from the larger Cosmere—Marasi is recruited by offworlders with strange abilities who claim their goal is to protect Scadrial…at any cost. Harmony’s vision of future possibilities comes to an abrupt halt tomorrow night, with only blackness after that. It’s a race against time, and Wax must choose whether to set aside his rocky relationship with God and once again become the Sword that Harmony has groomed him to be. If no one steps forward to be the hero Scadrial needs, the planet and its millions of people will come to a sudden and calamitous ruin. Expected release: 15th November (Tor) Where it Rains in Colour Denise Crittendon Swazembi is a blazing, color-rich utopia and the vacation center of the galaxy. This idyllic, peace-loving world is home to waterless seas, filled with cascading neon vapors, where tourists and residents alike soar from place to place in a swift wind force called The Sweep. No one is used to serious trouble here, especially Lileala. Lileala is a pampered, young 50-year-old whose radiance has just earned her the revered title of Rare Indigo, the highest and most sacred of honours. But, her perfect lifestyle is shattered when a band of drug-addicts from a dying planet come up with a way to infect her with a fatal skin disease. They succeed and the unthinkable happens – Lileala Walata Sundiata loses her ability to shimmer. Where her skin should glisten like diamonds mixed with coal, instead it dulls and forms scar tissue. And she starts to hear voices in her head. Distraught over her condition, she flees to the village where her Rare Indigo predecessor, Ahonotay, is said to be hiding. Ahonotay reveals a destiny to Lileala that awakens a new power inside her and she realises her whole life, and the galaxy, is about to change… Expected release: 13th December (Angry Robot) Phew! It’s going to be another amazing year for SFF – what are you most looking forward to? The post MOST ANTICIPATED SFF BOOKS 2022 appeared first on The Fantasy Hive. View the full article
  24. It’s that time of year again where I look back at all my favourite reads of the year. It seems that 2021 has been the year of sequels and endings for me, which is rare because I’m usually one to procrastinate reading them because I rarely want to say goodbye to the characters. Yet I’ve thoroughly enjoyed and found comfort in being back in familiar worlds, with characters I know I love and I have to say they’ve all been cracking reads. There were many books I immensely enjoyed this year, so it was hard choosing my overall favourites, but to all the authors I read this year thank you for your stories and the hours of entertainment and escape you gave me. Thank you also to all the publicists and publishers who sent me ARCs this year, I truly appreciate them all. Without further ado, here’s my Top 20, starting with my three outstanding books of the year. The Empire of Gold by SA Chakraborty This is the explosive conclusion to The Daevabad trilogy. I must be drawn to authors who cause me pain because by the end of Empire Chakraborty left such an ache in my heart, I loved this world and its characters so much. Recommended for people who like: The previous books in the series! Egyptian and Middle-Eastern mythology, Djinn, morally grey characters, magical world building & creatures, and high octane action scenes. Review The Shadow of the Gods by John Gwynne This is a new series set in a completely new world and it is nothing short of magnificent. A tale of monsters and magic, Gods and legends, friendship and oaths, blood and vengeance – Gwynne has certainly done it again, if not raised the bar even higher. Recommended for people who like: Norse mythology, action packed reads, themes of found families and friendships. Also for anyone who likes dragons! Review The Wisdom of Crowds by Joe Abercrombie This is the conclusion to The Age of Madness trilogy and to put it bluntly everything fucks up in this book and I absolutely loved it. In this finale the oppressors become the oppressed, and anyone with wealth and prosperity are brought under a knife’s edge. Recommended for people who like: Joe Abercrombie’s previous books, grimdark with humour, themes of rebellion and uprising, morally grey characters and low-key fantasy elements. Review A Spindle Splintered by Alix E Harrow This is the first novella I’ve read from Alix E Harrow, and damn does it pack a real emotional punch. She made me see the tale of Sleeping Beauty in a whole new light. Recommended for people who like: Fairytale retellings, a genre blend of urban fantasy/magical realism inside a fairytale esque setting. Princesses who refuse to die. Buddy review with Beth Fury of a Demon by Brian Naslund This is the emotional rollercoaster conclusion to The Dragons of Terra trilogy and what a gem of a finale it was! I laughed and cried in equal measures and felt our characters got the ending they all deserved. Recommended for people who like: The previous books in the trilogy! DRAGONS, dark humour, sweary banter, hilarious shenanigans, strong friendships, and a lot of magic/science. Review The Fires of Vengeance by Evan Winter This is the sequel to Evan’s debut The Rage of Dragons and gosh does Evan make the stakes even higher! From the very first page to the very last there is non stop action which held me on the edge of my seat with my heart racing. The main character, Tau, really did need a nap by the end! Recommended for people who like: The First book! DRAGONS (can you tell I like dragons yet?), an African inspired world, high octane action sequences, flawed yet heartfelt characters and strong friendships. Review Piranesi by Susanna Clarke This book left me awed by its charm and beauty, Clarke whisked me away on a journey quite like no other. It’s a surreal, magical and somewhat sinister novel written with such grace. One of those books where it starts out perplexing but comes together beautifully at the end, but also leaves some doors wide open. Recommended for people who like: Short standalones, magical surrealism, a highly fantastical setting, mystery, slow burn plot, a gentle scholarly, quiet and innocent main protagonist. Review The Righteous by David Wragg This is the conclusion to the Articles of Faith duology. This has to win the award for the funniest book I’ve read this year, I swear I laughed from beginning to end. Wragg elevates the silly shenanigans and his trademark sweary banter, but also manages to leave things on quite a poignant note. Recommended for people who like: The First book The Black Hawks, hilarious humour, silly shenanigans, political intrigue, found families, a plot where everything that can go wrong does go wrong. Review The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman Buehlman was a new author to me, but damn was I really impressed with this book. It’s one of those novels which blends fantasy and horror seamlessly, injects a lot of humour and a very cleverly executed plot. Plus a blind cat who is simultaneously creepy and adorable. Recommended for people who like: Genre blends, cleverly witted humour, surreal bizarre settings and characters, and did I mention a blind cat? Review Priest of Gallows by Peter McLean This is the third book in the War for the Rose Throne quartet. My dear old Tomas Piety, how I will never tire of his highly addictive narrative voice, I’d follow this character wherever his dark and tortured story may lead, and in this book it leads him way out of his depth. Recommended for people who like: Addictive first person narration, gangster fantasy, close knit settings, low key magic and shit hitting the fan. Review The Bone Shard Emperor by Andrea Stewart This is Stewart’s sequel to The Bone Shard Daughter and is just as mysterious, thrilling and a stressful read as ever! Stewart’s bold choice of mixed narrative POV and her unique magic system is an absolute delight. Recommended for people who like: The first book! Cryptic, often macabre magic, morally grey characters, animal companions, Asian inspired fantasies, and intricate worldbuilding. Review The Hand of the Sun King by JT Greathouse Another new author to me, and I’m awarding this as my favourite debut of the year! In fact I can’t believe it is a debut. The worldbuilding was exceptional, the prose was my favourite lyrical kind, and the main protagonist, Wen Alder, was very compelling. Recommended for people who like: A coming of age story arc, atmospheric lyrical prose, a slow burn plot but with the focus more on descriptive world building and scholarly learning. Review Swashbucklers by Dan Hanks A nostalgic trip back to the 80’s, The Goonies meets The Ghostbusters, parenting whilst fighting supernatural entities, yes please! This was such a fun read, one I devoured as soon as I was given the chance to read it. Recommended for people who like: 80’s nostalgia and pop culture from that era, lots of silly shenanigans, protagonists in their 40’s, a blend of urban fantasy, horror and supernatural. Review Composite Creatures by Caroline Hardaker Hardaker was a new author to me, and although she’s published poetry I believe this was her first published novel. This is a story where Hardaker beautifully builds upon tension, it’s written with stunning prose, and more than a hint of creepiness. Recommended for people who like: Standones, dystopian worlds, flawed characters, mystery, building tension, poetic prose and contemporary characters. Review The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson Damn you Sanderson, why can’t you be a happy-go-lucky cheerful author, why do you insist on making me cry?! Whilst I’ll never forgive you for the ending of this book, I also absolutely loved this book! As you may tell, my journey into The Mistborn trilogy kicked off with a bang. Recommended for people who like: HEARTBREAK, dystopian fantasy world, intricately detailed magic system, troubled characters, philosophy surrounding religion and basically if you like Sanderson’s other books. Review Justice of Kings by Richard Swan This is a debut which actually isn’t released until February next year, but as I read it this year, I wanted to include it. This story focuses around a captivating murder mystery in one close-knit setting but we soon discover it has bigger implications throughout the Sovan Empire. Recommended for people who like: Sherlock Holmes, murder mysteries, epic fantasy, supernatural elements, and first person narrations. Review The Hod King by Josiah Bancroft This is the third book in The Books of Babel quartet. What a bizarre journey through the Tower we take! Bancroft really grabs you by the heart in this book and my love for the characters and this world deepened even further. Recommended for people who like: The previous books in the series! Steampunk fantasy, surrealism, fantastical creatures and characters, eccentric and eclectic characters, and poetic prose. Review One Day All This Will Be Yours by Adrian Tchaikovsky Another novella I thoroughly enjoyed. I never knew I needed a story about a time travelling sociopath with a pet dinosaur in my life, but I’m damn glad Tchaikovsky provided one. The premise is bizarre but it’s also so much fun! Recommended for people who like: Dinosaurs, time travel, blending of sci-fi/dystopian and fantasy genre, a short standalone, morally grey flawed eccentric characters and general bizarreness! Review The Wood Bee Queen by Edward Cox This was my second standalone novel by Cox, and although it was quite different from his previous work I was delighted by this fairytale-esque, escapist, whimsical story. Recommended for people who like: Magical realism, fairytales, magical hidden worlds, complex villains, and atmospheric prose. Buddy review with Beth Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks Dalton This is a tender story which stays with you well after you have closed the book. Dalton’s debut explores how much of life means anything if by the end you’re left alone with only meaningless encounters to look back on? Recommended for people who like: Open endings, slow burn plot with more philosophy than action, thought-provoking sci-fi reads, descriptive poignant prose, and isolated cold and barren settings. Review Inevitably there were plenty of other books which were released this year which I had planned to read, but the problem with being a mood reader is that plans don’t always work out, sometimes it’s better to wait than to forcibly stick to TBRs. Nevertheless books such as, She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker Chan, Jade Legacy by Fonda Lee and Voidbreaker by David Dalglish will definitely be read in 2022! Happy New Year! The post Nils’ Top 20 Books for 2021 appeared first on The Fantasy Hive. View the full article
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