How an author feels upon receiving her page proofs

Please excuse my messy kitchen and crap film production skills.

Slightly intimidating. On the other hand, I love this stage of the book production process. I probably shouldn’t, because at this point I’ve read the novel what feels like ninety times… but I do. This is the point where that year of sweat and harsh language starts to feel like a book.

A really, really, really big, book.


Stuff I wrote (and read) in 2014

Since people keep asking, here’s the very short list of stuff I published in 2014. I’ll have you know I’m postponing a perfectly good snow day nap to write this up!!

I did have one more thing published in 2014, but please note that this was a reprint, originally published back in 2012 in the anthology After. No novels — yes, I know some websites kept insisting that The Fifth Season was out in 2014, but as you know, readers, that was just an error. (We have a pub date! TFS will be out on August 4th of this year.)

And in recommendations-from-me news, while I didn’t keep up well with my short fiction reading this year, you can take a lookback at my two NYT roundups for a sense of which novels I’m probably going to be voting for myself:

So now you know. And knowing is half the battle!

What I’ll be doing this weekend

I’ve mentioned a few times here that I’ll be one of the Guests of Honor at this year’s Arisia in Boston, haven’t I? Well, now I’m mentioning it again. Here are the events I’m scheduled for, if you’ll be there too:

Continue reading ›

“To anthology editors”, a corollary

Nalo Hopkinson has an awesome and helpful piece up today on her website on how anthology editors can go about creating cohesive, thematically powerful collections that don’t just contain the same old voices all the time. All of her essay is good; go read the whole thing. I’ll wait.

Continue reading ›

Launch Day!

Hi folks. Well, it’s official — as of today, the omnibus edition of the Inheritance Trilogy, and “The Awakened Kingdom” novella, both go on sale.

Cover shows a photorealistic, ornate stone door, superimposed with text reading THE INHERITANCE TRILOGY. At bottom, INCLUDES A BRAND NEW NOVELLA SET IN THE SAME WORLD, THE AWAKENED KINGDOM

The omnibus is available at all major retailers, print and ebook, and includes the novella. If you’ve already got the trilogy in separate-book form, however, don’t worry — you can buy just the novella as a standalone ebook for $2.99.

Awakened Kingdom ebook cover - shows stylized brassy stars exploding on a burgundy background, and book title.

It’s available for Nook, Kindle, and as a Google ebook.

As for the omnibus, here’s KING OZZYMANDIAS (or Ozzy, for short) to demonstrate just what a whopper it is:

Orange cat sitting next to a very large book.

In the next photo, he pushes it off the desk.

…Might wanna have it delivered. Just sayin’.

I usually post sample chapters of my novels, but since this is just a novella (about 1/3 the size of most of my books), and it doesn’t have chapters, I’m going to post a shorter segment, below. This is from the pre-copyedited version, note, and from a few pages in.

Happy reading!
Continue reading ›

DA: Inquisition Story Review

So, since people keep asking me about this on Twitter, I’ll summarize my thoughts about this game, which I finished this past weekend. Emphasis on story vs other gameplay elements, so thus the post title. Spoilers herein, BTW, so a cut:
Continue reading ›

Your groundbreaking is not my groundbreaking

Note: I will be mentioning a few spoilers in this post. Look away now if you’re not ready for that yet!

So, a few nights ago I started Dragon Age: Inquisition, the third game in a franchise I’ve liked a lot over the years. Just for shits and giggles I livetweeted my game for a few hours. Most of the feed is pretty dull — like, me eating dinner while waiting half an hour for the game to finish installing on my XBox’s hard drive. But once I finally got the game going and dug into the character creator, I felt a moment of sharp bitterness at the realization that even though I write fantasy, there are times when this genre is really, really hard to love. My in-the-moment reaction:

I ended up with this when I was done rolling up my character (sorry for the terrible image; it’s just a photo of my TV screen):

image shows a DA: Inquisition character: middle-toned black female elf with white facial markings and nearly bald shaven head

She’s okay. Not what I wanted. But okay. And that’s pretty much how the experience left me feeling, despite the fact that I’ve been stupidly excited over this game for something like three years. That pretty much killed the excitement right out of the gate. I’m still playing, but I’m not raving about this game to anyone, anymore. It’s just something to do, now.

So, this little experience has me thinking a lot about the concept of “normal”.
Continue reading ›

You can tell a lot about a fantasy novel by its glossary

Was just working on the glossary for The Fifth Season. Glossaries are both fun and frustrating for me — fun because a glossary is worldbuilding at its most stark, and frustrating because it’s part of the story, and can enhance or detract from the reading experience if it’s mishandled. The tension between TELL THEM EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING, HA HA HA and tell them nothing, nothing, they don’t need to know gets kind of uncomfortable after awhile. That’s why I’ve asked that all of my glossaries be located at the backs of my books, rather than the fronts — because, like maps, they contain unavoidable spoilers to the reader about where the story’s going to go and what it will involve. I prefer for readers to figure that out the way the characters do, by living in the world’s context and immersing in its strangeness.

Still, the Broken Earth trilogy is the, hmm, biggest thing I’ve ever written, and the scope of it is forcing me to do some things I’ve never done before. The Fifth Season is going to have a map, for example. (Yeah, yeah, I’m breaking my infamous “NO MAPS!” rule, lemmealone.) But I needed one while I was working on TFS, which pretty much means readers are going to need one too, so I’ve spent the past few weeks working with an artist on my first-ever fantasy map. That’s been fascinating as hell — the first draft alone is awesome — and when it’s done I’ll tell you more about it.

And the glossary is bigger. I’m editing it down now, because ya know, the glossary shouldn’t be longer than the novel. In the process I’m trying to put myself into the head of a reader who skips ahead to read the glossary before reading the book, because I know full well some of ya’ll do that. ::mom eyes:: That way I can (hopefully) extract any spoilers before you impatient people hit them. :)

So, an exercise! Here’s a random page of the glossary, from which I think I have extracted any spoilery material. There should be stuff here that makes you scratch your head and want to know more, but not anything that would reveal Important Plot Secrets. Warning in advance that I might have failed in this, so I’m putting it below the cut if you’d rather not risk it. The rest of you, if you’re feeling brave, help me out!

Continue reading ›

Why I Talk So Damn Much About Non-Writing Stuff

A reader at NYCC asked me — not in an accusatory way if you’re wondering — why I spend so much time on social media talking about world events, social justice issues, health care, etc. I’m an SFF writer, after all; why don’t I just spend all of my time talking about writing?

What I told her, basically, was this: when I talk about those things, I am talking about writing. How can I manage good characterization if I don’t understand the complexities of human behavior, and their motivations? How plausible will my fantasy worlds be, if they don’t demonstrate the power dynamics and cognitive fallacies which shape our own societies — i.e., what readers will expect to see, given their own likely experiences? Apart from the fact that the stuff I retweet and comment upon affects me personally — e.g. race and gender issues, gaming, Amazon vs Hachette — these things are also story material. In The Kingdom of Gods, Dekarta’s personality is shaped by being a mixed-race person who cannot pass as Amn, in a society that has privileged and applied value to Amn “purity” for generations. That’s not a personal experience for me, but when you read enough stories like this about supposedly-loving parents who nevertheless consider their child’s brownness to be a “loss” for which they should be compensated… well. It’s easy to extrapolate. In The Broken Kingdoms, when Oree knows better than to expect justice of Shadow’s system of law enforcement — that part is personal experience, and also reading a thousand news articles about how police victimize and disproportionately target the poor and people of color and trans people and so on. Many of the scenarios in The Shadowed Sun are drawn from everything I’ve read and lived on how sexual abuse is handled in societies which are in denial about having a problem with sexual abuse, and which simultaneously point fingers at other “more barbaric” societies. And so on. Sure, it’s all fantasy… but I’ve always been firmly of the opinion that the various whoppers of fantasy (e.g. dream-stalking ninja priests) go down easier if they’re coated in realistic human structures and interactions.

That’s the whole point of speculative fiction for me, really — playing the “what-if” game. What if, all other things being equal and people being people, the apocalypse happened every few hundred years? What if, all other things being equal and people being people, gods lived among us, and were sometimes real assholes? Those what-ifs don’t work without the people being people part. Which means I need to understand people, in the real world, in all their glory and grotesquerie.

So, for those of you who get frustrated by how often I post about Ferguson, or bigotry in video games, or whatever, and who wish I would just stick to writing… well. I get that you might not be interested in the stuff that interests me. But you might want to expand your definition of what’s relevant to writing, is all I’m saying. For the worldbuilder, all the world is necessary fuel.

Author strength training: Reading reviews

So, I saw Kameron Hurley (who’s got a new book out that I really need to get to ASAP) lamenting this morning on Twitter about something familiar:

It’s the thing they don’t really tell you in Pro-Author-Wannabe school: getting published is just the beginning. Or maybe they said it and I just didn’t want to hear it — because after all the effort most of us go through to learn the craft, make the connections, find the agent, and/or sell the book, who’s really ready to hear, “Okay! Now it gets hard“? But the thing is, despite the manuscript deadlines and the page proofs that have to be done yesterday and the interviews and the conventions and the blog maintenance oh and the day job most of us won’t be able to afford to quit, we also have to make sure we’re continuing to improve our craft. Becoming good enough to publish doesn’t mean you’ve crossed some artistic finish line; it means you’ve qualified for the real race. It means you’ve reached a minimum level of readability — and I can’t speak for other authors, but I’m not satisfied with minimum anything. I need to be the best writer I can possibly be. That means I need to not only “stay in shape” writing-skill-wise, I also need to make an active effort to improve those skills over time — kind of like strength training when you’ve hit a fitness plateau. A few ways that I’ve done this “author strength training” include: trying to stay current with my writing group, although I’ve done a terrible job of that lately and need to try harder; attempting drastically different styles and perspectives in my writing, and forcing myself outside of my comfort zone; and reading as much as possible, which I’m pleased to say I’ve done a decent job of this year. (Except Kameron’s book. Sorry, Kameron. Soon.)

But another thing I do is look at my reviews.
Continue reading ›