Monday, September 22, 2014

On Banning Books

This week is Banned Book week. Every year around this time, I find more books to read thanks to this list. The ones that end up on this list are typically raw and honest, and even if they fall flat for me, I can usually appreciate the truth in the work. Although I have to admit, E. L. James's 50 Shades of Grey is on the list for 2013, and while I sampled the first few pages, I couldn't find anything deeply honest about it, the writing was mediocre, and I didn't care for the main character. But that doesn't mean I think the book should be banned. People should have the right to sample a book and decide for themselves.

I've only read a couple of the books from the top ten of 2013, but one interesting trend I noticed is that seven of the ten books were banned due to being "unsuitable for age group." Now, there might be books I would steer my child away from because I might think he's not mature enough to handle it yet, but I wouldn't want that book taken out of the library or made unavailable to the public in any way, so when people do this, it leaves me flabbergasted. You could pick a dozen thirteen year olds at random, and all of them will have vastly different maturity levels. Some might be able to handle, for example, The Hunger Games, while it would give nightmares to others. But just because my child can't handle, let's say, jumping from a four foot perch on the playground equipment to the ground doesn't mean I think all kids his age should automatically be banned from doing so. There are plenty who could handle it, and some, like him, who couldn't.

A few months ago I had the pleasure of hearing Sherman Alexie speak at The University of New Mexico. His book, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is one of my favorite books of all time, and it's also been banned. A lot. He seemed to take some pride in this. He also found the humor in it. The main character is a fourteen year old boy who… wait for it… masturbates. Shocking, right? It's the main reason people want the book banned, along with the depicted alcoholism and language, and I'm sure there are some other things that got people's knickers in a twist. But think about a teenager picking up the book and thinking, Hey, yeah, I'm not the only one going through this whole weird thing with my body and my family and my community! What a great feeling. Adolescence is so damn lonely to begin with that any little gesture that reaches out to someone should be encouraged, including reading a book that a person might identify with.

I find that as I strive to write more honestly, I delve deeper into things that make me uncomfortable, which might make readers uncomfortable. I think it's good to face one's discomfort and fears, loves and hates. But sometimes readers don't want to be uncomfortable. They don't want to look at the truth, and when you show it to them, they flip out. It's actually one of my dreams that someday I write something so profoundly honest and disturbing that people try to ban it.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Amalia Dillin on Beyond Fate & Wrapping Up a Trilogy

I'd like to welcome Amalia Dillin back to the blog. Today she's celebrating the release of the final book in her Fate of the Gods trilogy. Read on to find out how it feels to finish a huge project and what you can expect in Beyond Fate:

Sometimes I wonder if Trilogy was a misnomer for Fate of the Gods. There are absolutely only three main novels – FORGED BY FATE, FATE FORGOTTEN, and now, BEYOND FATE – but the story potential of this series was always and still is rather unlimited. There are so many pockets of time that one could sink into and explore, like the 15th Century setting of TAMING FATE. Events that happen off page that could be fleshed out and made into their own smaller story, like the events of TEMPTING FATE, which explore Mia’s meeting and marriage to Adam.

But at the same time, I always knew what the overarching story was meant to be, and where it was meant to end – I always knew that Adam and Eve and Thor’s struggles would ultimately come to a conclusion, and in BEYOND FATE, I’ve definitely reached that end point. The Trilogy is Complete.

So what does that mean?

I don’t feel like it means I have to say goodbye to this world. I don’t feel like ALL the stories have been told that could have been. There are definitely characters I’d like to explore more fully who are twisted up in Adam and Eve and Thor’s narratives, as short side stories or novellas. Ra, for one, and Athena, too, maybe even Gabriel and Lucifer. I’ve written pages and pages and pages about Eve’s time in the ward – only a handful of which made it into FATE FORGOTTEN – and I’m sure if I wanted to dig deeper into that lifetime, there would be pages and pages left to write. (The details I know already don’t make me want to, necessarily; it was an awful life for Eve, and as such, it’s an awfully upsetting story to write.) I’m sure I could write a novel about Odin’s adventures before he arrived with Thor – it’s certain to be rich with conflict! Or even the adventures of some characters following the end of this particular Trilogy. (What are the Olympian gods up to over in their new world, anyway?)

But it does mean, I think, that there isn’t much left to write about Eve going forward. The story isn’t hers anymore, and if I wrote another book, she’d likely only be a tertiary presence. As for Adam and Thor, though, well…

I guess you’ll just have to read BEYOND FATE to find out how finished their stories are.

***

The epic conclusion to the Fate of the Gods trilogy. When Adam left Eve, abandoning his wife and their newborn daughter Elah, he thought he was saving the world. But he hadn't counted on the influence of Michael, twisting Elah's love for her parents into paranoia, or the slow, leaching death of the world she rules. Even with the help of Raphael, Elah is becoming her father's daughter, a master manipulator, and she's determined to have her way, even if it means betraying her own mother's trust.

With Loki and the Aesir gone, Thor thinks he’s protected Eve from the ravages of Ragnarok, but there are forces in play even the gods can’t see. When Thor arrives in Eve's next life, offering her everything she ever wanted from Adam, and more -- eternity without death or rebirth, and the freedom to live outside of her daughter's reach -- Eve is more than tempted. But can the world survive with only Adam to protect it?

Beyond Fate will be available in trade paperback and ebook via Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, Kobo.com, WorldWeaverPress.com, and other online retailers, and for wholesale through Ingram. You can also find Beyond Fate on Goodreads.

***

Amalia Dillin began as a Biology major before taking Latin and falling in love with old heroes and older gods. After that, she couldn't stop writing about them, with the occasional break for more contemporary subjects. Her short stories have been published by Daily Science Fiction and Birdville magazine, and she's also the author of the “Fate of the Gods” series and Honor Among Orcs, the first book in the Orc Saga. Amalia lives in upstate New York with her husband, and dreams of the day when she will own goats — to pull her chariot through the sky, of course.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Clockwork Cookie Blog Tour: Cookies and Cream Cookies

Please join me in welcoming a guest on the blog today to talk about her novel and also about yummy, delicious cookies. Without further ado, here's Beth:

Hi! I'm Beth Cato. I'm here to share some chocolaty delight and to introduce you to my book.

My debut novel, THE CLOCKWORK DAGGER, comes out September 16th from Harper Voyager. It's a steampunk novel with airships, espionage, and a world tree that seriously plays favorites. Here's the back cover summary:

Orphaned as a child, Octavia Leander was doomed to grow up on the streets until Miss Percival saved her and taught her to become a medician. Gifted with incredible powers, the young healer is about to embark on her first mission, visiting suffering cities in the far reaches of the war-scarred realm. But the airship on which she is traveling is plagued by a series of strange and disturbing occurrences, including murder, and Octavia herself is threatened.

Suddenly, she is caught up in a flurry of intrigue: the dashingly attractive steward may be one of the infamous Clockwork Daggers—the Queen’s spies and assassins—and her cabin-mate harbors disturbing secrets. But the danger is only beginning, for Octavia discovers that the deadly conspiracy aboard the airship may reach the crown itself.

You can also read the full first chapter over at Tor.com. It can be found at Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and most any independent bookstore.

Now, on to the cookies!

I'm an author, but I'm also somewhat infamous for my baking. Every Wednesday over at my site, I post a new recipe in my Bready or Not series.

I modified this recipe by using Mint Oreos, which added a lovely fresh taste. Really, though, Oreos are like ninjas in these cookies. You can't see them since they are finely ground, but they really deepen the chocolate flavor.

Cookies and Cream Cookies
modified from Picky Palate

2 sticks softened butter
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips [I mixed mini semi-sweet and white chips]
1 cup cocoa powder
15 whole Oreo Cookies (mint, normal, or double-stuff), finely ground

1. In a mixer, beat butter and sugars until well combined. Add eggs and vanilla and beat again.

2. Place flour, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Add to wet ingredients along with cocoa powder, and chocolate chips, slowly mixing until just combined. Chill the dough for at least one hour, or your cookies will be very flat.

3. Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Grease or line a large baking sheet.

4. With a medium cookie scoop, scoop dough onto prepared baking sheet, about 1 inch apart from each other. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes, until cooked through. Let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

OM NOM NOM.

---
Beth Cato's the author of THE CLOCKWORK DAGGER, a steampunk fantasy novel from Harper Voyager. Her short fiction is in InterGalactic Medicine Show, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Daily Science Fiction. She's a Hanford, California native transplanted to the Arizona desert, where she lives with her husband, son, and requisite cat.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

When A Non-Morning Person Decides to Get Up Early

Posts have been few and far between because my schedule has been off, and I've felt like I was floundering. And when I feel like I'm floundering, there's no organizing the thoughts in my head. What it comes down to lately is that there's just never enough time to do all the things I want to do, and every time I think I have a day to do something, a problem pops up, like the plumbing or the car or a billion other things. It's made me really grumpy lately. Well, grumpier than usual.

One of the biggest problems is that I've had trouble finding time to write. All work and no writing makes Rebecca a dull girl. And fidgety. And it puts me in a bad mood, as my co-workers and family can attest.

But I think I've stumbled onto a solution. It's called Getting Up Early to Write. This has been a problem in the past because (1) I'm not a morning person. If you think I'm grumpy now, you should see me if I have to get up at 5:00 am for anything. Grumpola. And (2) every time I tried it over the past couple of years, the kiddo would get up super early that day. He might have been getting up at six thirty or later, but the day I decided to get up early and write, he decided to wake up at 5:45 or even earlier. But lately (excuse me while I knock on wood) he's been holding off until close to 7:00 to rise and shine. Which means, I can get up, shoot back some coffee, and tap-tap-tap at the keyboard for a while. Then when I get home from the day job, the complete opposite of bright eyed and bushy tailed, I can just be a lazy bum and hang out on the couch without feeling compelled to type anything except witty responses on Facebook and Twitter.

So I'm going to try this next week and let you know how it goes. I won't start tomorrow because I'm flying back to Texas to visit with family, and I'd rather have a nice stretch of week ahead of me to try to make it a habit. I figure, why not? I'm grumpy all the time already at this point. A little more grumpiness probably won't make a difference.

And just to inspire me to get up early, I'm posting a link to Maya Lassiter's blog in which she talks about getting up early to write.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Introducing The Necromancer's Return

Hey, kids, guess what's coming out soon! That's right, the sequel to The Graveyard Girl! I'm pleased to announce the impending release of The Necromancer's Return, not only because it continues Rose's story, but because it was immensely fun to write, and I think it's my best book yet. I can't wait to share it with everybody! Here's the blurb:

Rose has sworn off necromancy until a college statistics assignment sends her to a graveyard. Her entire grade depends on the assignment, so she uses her magic to convince the slackers in her group to help. When her powers don't work like they should, Rose discovers that there's another necromancer in Albuquerque whose inexperienced magic is affecting hers. Worse, she discovers there's a being called the Phantom who is devouring spirits and gunning for her and her powers. As if statistics isn't hard enough already, Rose has to track down this other necromancer and keep herself and her family safe from the Phantom.

Stay tuned for news on the release!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Introducing "Blood Chimera" by Jenn Lyons

I catch myself gushing often about my publisher, World Weaver Press, because they put out some really wonderful books. Their latest release is Blood Chimera by Jenn Lyons. The cover is just spot-on, and the blurb leaves me dying to read it. Speaking of blurbs...

Some ransoms aren’t meant to be paid. Kidnap and Ransom negotiation used to be straightforward. The bad guys kidnap someone, and K&R expert Jackson Pastor negotiates their release, skillfully traversing a maze of bloodthirsty monsters: criminals, terrorists, police, and especially the FBI. But that was before he met real bloodthirsty monsters.

When Jackson Pastor arrives in Los Angeles to help a new client recover his kidnapped wife, he finds himself dropped in the middle of a 500-year-old war between rival European and Mexican vampire clans, a conflict that threatens to escalate into a full-on public gang war. Worse, Jackson hasn’t been brought to Los Angeles to be a negotiator. His new boss wants to turn him into an assassin. With Jackson about to be caught in the middle of a clan war, his only hope of escape may lie with a secret FBI monster-hunting task-force led by a very dangerous, eccentric wizard. Which could be a problem, since Jackson’s a monster himself.

And here's a sample from Blood Chimera:

“How are you feeling, Mr. Pastor?”

I looked down at myself. I seemed to be hale and hearty enough, with all the right number of limbs in all the right places. My ribs didn’t ache when I breathed and my arm wasn’t swollen. I felt great, but I looked ready to play one of the walking dead. “Like I need a bath,” I told him. “And clothes would be nice.” There’s nothing quite like being naked and filthy in front of a lot of people who aren’t, to make you all self-conscious about it.

He nodded. “You’ve looked better.”

“Why do you have me in a cage?” I shook my head. “What happened?”

“I would think the reasons for the cage would be obvious. You don’t remember?”

“No, of course I don’t remember. I was Tez’s prisoner and then--” I looked over at the carcass in the corner. I swallowed. “Who did that?”

“You did.” Darius said as he took a swig of his beer. “You also wrecked one of my vans.” He pointed to an unmarked black van over in the garage area. The back doors were hanging awkwardly and the metal was twisted. Great gouges had been raked into the door and sides as if something had tried to smash its way out with some kind of very sharp ram.

I blinked at that. “That--that couldn’t have been me. I didn’t--”

“Oh, you very much did. We had a hell of a time getting you back here. We were lucky you were stunned by the explosions, and even luckier that we had tranq darts. That--” he pointed to the rotting, fly-infested pile of flesh using the long black feather. “--used to be a pair of goats. Juan thought you might revert if we fed you something. As it happens, he was right.”

I felt sick to my stomach, and, although I certainly wasn’t going to mention it to Darius, a bit peckish.

Goat wasn’t as filling as human.

***

Blood Chimera is available in trade paperback and ebook via Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, Kobo.com, and other online retailers, and for wholesale through Ingram. You can also find Blood Chimera on Goodreads.

***

Jenn Lyons lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband, three cats and a lot of opinions on anything from Sumerian creation myths to the correct way to make a martini. At various points in her life, she has wanted to be an archaeologist, anthropologist, architect, diamond cutter, fashion illustrator, graphic designer, or Batman. Turning from such obvious trades, she is now a video game producer by day, and spends her evenings writing science fiction and fantasy. When not writing, she can be found debating the Oxford comma and Joss Whedon’s oeuvre at various local coffee shops.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Bubonicon 2014 Report

Another Bubonicon has come and gone. This year the con was relatively quiet, probably mostly due to George R. R. Martin not being there. Since he's a local author, he's usually in attendance. Last year, the line for his signing was as long as the line for every other author combined. He might kind of be a big deal.

At any rate, I found some lovely artwork from Elizabeth Legget. Her work is fantastic, and I feel very fortunate to have picked up the piece I did. Her work has appeared in Lightspeed and in Women Destroy Science Fiction.

I went to a few good panels, including one given by Connie Willis on where she gets her ideas. It's a question every writer gets (and often) and it's actually one of the hardest questions for a writer to answer. Ideas come from everywhere, and they get all mashed up in our brains, and they eventually come out in a story filled with characters, plot, conflict, etc. It's a mysterious process (cue eerie music). She talked about one of her stories, "Even the Queen," and how multiple ideas converged into its creation.

I went to another panel in which the SFWA president, Steven Gould, gave a demonstration of Japanese swords. All I can say is… don't mess with the guy if there's a sharp object around.

Another panel, given primarily by Robert Vardeman, offered a lot of great information on self publishing. This link essentially has all the same information he gave at the panel.

I went to a couple of other panels, one on horror and one on YA dystopias. At the horror panel I discovered that an inordinately large number of people fear centipedes. The YA panel presented some good theories as to why there are so many YA dystopias right now, and why the pendulum might eventually swing back the other way.