Yup, giving away 3 signed copies of Before the Fall (and you’ll get a copy of Fade to Black if you don’t already have it)
So, still going old school for this post, but how can we talk about women to read in SFF without Lois McMaster Bujold? I was/am a latecomer to her books — it was only when the Curse of Chalion was recommended to me on a writer’s forum that I’d even *heard* of it. She’s not usually stocked in my local bookshop (and why that is, when she’s such a prominent SFF author, along with other award winning female SFF authors, is a post for another time…). I couldn’t even order in the sequel, but had to borrow it. And this sequel won a Hugo, a Nebula and a Locus award for crying out loud!
Anyway…I was late getting to her. But once I started…well, once I started I could not stop. I’ve still got about a bajillion books of hers to read, but I’ve loved every one so far. Curse of Chalion is in my ‘top five books of any genre, all time’ list. Threads are woven together with subtle expertise, the world-building is fantastic, the description flowing and not overblown, the MC is intelligent, not your typical hero, but so believable and likeable…I love that book so hard, it gives me that I Am A Talentless Hack feeling.
Not just a one off either — every book I read of hers evokes such things in me I cannot describe. I haven’t even started on her most famous series, the Vorkosigan saga, yet. At least partly because I know that’ll be it for quite some time, reading wise.
In conclusion — read her books. Now.
So, inspired by the #womentoread hashtag, whereby people are listing great female SFF authors (in response to that hypothetical, but sadly all too real ‘women don’t write proper SFF’ *eyeroll*) I thought I’d do a series of blog posts about said female authors. I’m going to start with a few ‘old school’ authors before I dive into the latest crop, and especially with the woman who made me want to write – CJ Cherryh
Once upon a time, many years ago, I encountered a book called The Chronicles of Morgaine. And lo, I fell in love with it, very hard indeed. I had no idea until years later what gender the author was, and I didn’t care. I DID care that here was a fantastic story, written in a style I’d not seen before (in SFF anyway) but which utterly absorbed me. The third POV was nailbitingly close, the worlds subtly drawn but viscerally real, as real to me as this one even when they were sometimes uncomfortable, (one of) the main protagonist, Morgaine, was tantalisingly mysterious because we only got to see her through the POV Vanye’s eyes. Other subtleties were there too, ones that again I’d not seen before, or not to that extent (okay, I was young, but I’d read a heck of a lot — I was and am always reading something) — namely Vanye’s duality, that is, that he thought of himself as a coward and a failure due to his upbringing, but it was obvious to me as a reader that he was, in fact, steadfastly loyal and recklessly brave. The treatment of ‘magic’ too; a good example of Clarke’s Law, that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Morgaine’s tools are clearly technological, but Vanye sees them as magic (and is afraid of the witchery of them). And, ofc, it was fantasy, but it was SF too.
But back then, when I were a girl, I didn’t know about Clarke’s Laws, or unreliable(ish, kinda, not really but…) narrators or show, don’t tell, or even that women in SFF were advised to change/rearrange their name for publication (Cherryh was advised to add the ‘h’ to her name to avoid sounding like a romance author…., and to use her initials to disguise the fact she was female). All I knew was this was one heck of a story written in a way that engaged my emotions — all of them. I ran out and bought half a ton of other books by Cherryh. They didn’t all grab me to the same extent (though I reserve Merchanter’s Luck as one of my all time favourite reads), but they did always interest me, and they certainly made me think about people, and how they work.
And when, years later, I decided to give this writing lark a try, it was Morgaine and the other books that came to mind. How did she do this and that? How can I do that?
I wish I could go back and read them for the first time again. But, because this writing malarky changes how you read, whether you will it or no, I find myself reluctant to go back and reread Morgaine. What if I don’t love it as much? Instead, I remember it, so distinctly I can remember where I was sitting, the time of day, what the weather was like, each time I sat down to read, for the week it took me to read it. I remember it because it instilled in me a love for characters, and an ambition to realise my characters just as well (a feat I fear I will never manage).
In short, CJ Cherryh inspired me to write, and if I was going to write, do it well.
So the schedule is up (here)
And you can find me at:
Début Authors Friday 6pm
Fantasy get together (signing) Friday 7pm
Best Books of 2012 Saturday 7pm
Revolutionary Fantasy (Pitchforks optional) Sunday 5pm
Come and say hi!
So, yesterday I had my first signing at Forbidden Planet in London. It was nerve racking (I did a reading too – eek! I kept wanting to edit the sentences as I went….) but ultimately a lot of fun.
So I did my reading – my family decided not to stand around making me nervous, and then got caught up browsing the graphic novel section, thus deserting me in my hour of need. Swine! I then had some people come and get books signed. I even signed some for some people I didn’t know! Pretty sure I only spelled my name wrong the once….and like a numpty, totally forgot to take any photos!
And so for drinkies, with several of the above mentioned, and my editor Anna, and a fun evening gabbing about books, films, games, you name it.
For those of you who made it, thanks! For those of you who couldn’t, maybe next time.
So today, the cover for Book 2 was released: Before the Fall (deets here)
Gorgeous, ain’t it?
The Next Big Thing – what is that I hear you ask? (Well I don’t, but let’s pretend). It’s a blog chain – writers answer a few questions about their next book, and then link to five other writers. Technically these should be people who haven’t been linked yet, but, ya know, I’m cheating a bit. *blows raspberry at rules*
So, on with the questions! Disclaimer: I may or may not have been entirely serious with the answers. Because I’m contrary like that.
1) What is the working title of your next book?
Fade to Black, which is the final title.
2) Where did the idea come from for the book?
Gah, hate this question! All over the place, like most of my ideas – a bit here, a bit there, then the ideas get together, start partying and gang up on me. If I told you the main inspiration you’d look at me funny.
3) What genre does your book fall under?
Fantasy Noir. Possibly.
4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Ooh, now, see I can play this game all day. I’ve got a picture of Christian Bale with one eyebrow raised, like he’s questioning the world (very Rojan!) but he’s not quite right. Maybe Adam Beach.
5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Bladerunner, only with mages instead of replicants. Yes, I know that’s not a synopsis. But it’s what you’re getting.
6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
It’s represented by my lovely agent, Alex Field, and will be published by Orbit books in February 2013.
7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
It was initially a NaNo book (my one and only time up till this month). The first 20k came out in one mad weekend. I made the 50k by the end of the month and then went back to other projects. It sat on my hard drive for a while (bar the occasional tinker) until I decided I really ought to do something with it at the start of last year, and it took another month to finish the first draft. All told, it took five months writing time to get it finished and ready to send out.
8 ) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
It’s a bit Harry Dresden, but then again it’s a bit Sandman Slim too, with a soupçon of Perdido Street Station for good measure.
9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Didn’t we cover this in question 2? Anyway, for the atmosphere, I very much had Bladerunner and Sin City in mind. I wanted to write something different to anything I’d done before, something dark.
10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
Hmmm. Well, the magic system is based on pain. Want to play with magic? Dislocating a thumb works well for smaller spells, although Rojan thinks this is a bloody stupid way to get his “juice”. Hence he doesn’t use his magic very often. Until he has to.
Rojan was hellishly fun to write too – he’s your natural sarcastic bastard, on the outside at least. So he and I got to unleash our inner snark. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
And on to the linkies:
First up, Benedict Jacka, whose Alex Verus series is WELL worth a read for anyone into UF. Seriously – go buy one.
And for my cheats, I’m going with Anne Lyle (cos she writes some pretty great historical fantasy and obviously has waaay more patience with research than I do) and Tom Pollock (who is fearsomely smart. Fearsomely, and also bloody good at the writing malarky)
And what a cover it is!
Of course what I find even better than the picture (even though I want to take the image and love it and squeeze it and call it George) the words, naturally.
You can find the gist over at Orbit, but let’s just say I’m rather pleased to have such authors mentioned in the same breath (and the author named on the copy I’ve got made my jaw drop open). <– This is an understatement.
Book just finished. Three Musketeers. Oh and Fade to Black (got my galley proofs! Mostly I read and thought, who wrote this? Cos it wasn’t me…)
Words written: only 4k this week – see above re galley proofs. But I have next week off work, so fingers crossed for more wordage.
This one has been brewing awhile, but a sudden outcrop of ‘OMG 50 Shades of Grey is crap’ prompted this.
So maybe it is, and maybe it isn’t – I couldn’t really say, having only read the sample. Not my cup of tea, but does that make it crap? Because while right now, maybe people are reading because of the hype, to begin with people picked it up and read it because, well probably because one of their friends or someone online said ‘OMG you have to read this!’ because they liked it. Whatever you think of the writing, people liked it. It gave them pleasure. So the author has undoubtedly done something right. Good for her, is all I can think. Same goes for Twilight, and the Davinci Code etc. The authors of these stories got something right. They gave a lot of people a lot of pleasure, and that’s why they are popular (and why my sister in law has a picture of Edward Cullen as the wallpaper on her phone).
And it seems when something becomes popular, or it gets nommed for an award when you or I don’t particularly care for it or whatever, it gets fashionable to say it’s crap. Tosh, pulp, hack-work. Why is that? I mean, my husband loves a particular series of books, which I won’t name. But it has ‘bestseller’ stamped all over the covers, they always have multiple copies in stock in Waterstone’s, and it is from what I can gather pretty popular. I couldn’t get past page 3 of the prologue without rolling my eyes. Does that make it crap? Or just not my thing? I don’t like it, but I can’t call it crap. Why? Because I see the pleasure my husband gets from it, how excited he gets about the story and I think, well then. It’s done its job. Not for me, but for him.
When reader voted awards short lists get announced, you see people mutter about ‘well, those aren’t very good books, it’s just a popularity contest’ and I think, ‘So? What’s wrong with that? What’s wrong with a book being popular so people vote for it?’
Because I am writing, for the most part, to give pleasure to people who like a good story. I read for pleasure – I expect we all do, though what form that pleasure takes will differ in all of us. I like to be transported from this world to another, to see excitement, adventure and really wild things. I like to see new worlds from someone else’s eyes, and emotion and passion and tragedy. If you can give me deeper meaning as well, bonus! Some people read only for deeper meaning. Some people read to escape. Neither is any better reason to read. Someone once told me online that reading only for pleasure/fun would make me stupid, like eating only Big Macs would make me fat. Which kind of boggled me…I know highly intelligent people who read just for vicarious pleasure, not for anything else, but for escapism. The lawyer who sees enough grit every day, thankyouverymuch, and so escapes into a romance when she gets the chance. One of my brothers, who tbh is so intelligent it’s scary, has a job requiring large inputs of brain power, so when he isn’t working, his books are pure escapism – James Bond being favourite.
These books are popular, and they are doing the job the reader needs them to do – giving them the sort of pleasure they require. If they do that, then they aren’t crap, no matter what I think of the writing.
Last book I finished reading: Whispers Underground, by Ben Aaronovitch. Highly enjoyable, though am now left slightly worried because I got all the geeky references…
Book I’m still reading: The Three Musketeers – why does it seem to take longer to read a book on my Kobo? Hmmm.
Words written this week: 7000
Times I thought ‘Holy hell, how much does this WIP suck?’ Too many to mention. Because I have reached the dreaded Mid Novel. The point where I, without fail, say to myself ‘Why the hell did you ever think you could plot/write decent dialogue/create characters?’
I’m not alone in thinking like this. It’s a sort of function of the mid-novel for me, and for other writers too
There is a graph somewhere on the net about the stages a writer goes through as they write a novel. I’ll link to it if I can remember where it is, but it goes something like this:
OMG best idea ever! I’m going to get a best-seller out of this and no mistake. Cake for everyone! *throw confetti*
Okay, could still be good
This makes *insert worst book you’ve ever read here* look good
I want to die
Please let me stab my own eyeballs out
Okay maybe this doesn’t suck quite as bad as I thought (about 80k for me)
I think I can make this work!
At least it won’t be *insert worst book you’ve ever read here*.
Okay, it doesn’t suck donkey balls. Much.
You know what, I think I may be able to salvage this…
Done, now where’s that damn tequila?
I’m writing my ninth novel now. I’m at 30k words, and wondering whether I’ve forgotten how to plot, or whether I should just spork my own eyes out now. You’d think I’d be used to it, but I still despair of it ever working. ‘Ack! It’s awful!’ I wail. ‘It’ll never work/be crap’ ‘You say that every time,’ says Other Half. Usually while rolling his eyes. ‘But this time I mean it!’ ‘You say that every time too.’
And, while I am loathe to admit it, he’s right. But I think a case of the Acks! is actually a good thing – if I think it’s crap I work hard to try to make it less crap. If I thought it was good, I’d not work as hard. And then it probably would be crap.