Some Thoughts on Game of Thrones S8E5: ‘Ware Spoilers!

When I first heard people bitching about GoT episode 5, “The Bells,” I wasn’t terribly bothered. I hadn’t seen the episode yet, and a lot of the complaints really seemed like they were saying “This didn’t go how I expected it to.”

The biggest complaints seemed to be that Daenarys went “evil” or “mad” and how it didn’t fit with what had gone before. And I was not agreeing with that, because Daenarys in the show has always been a little too close to madness for me–her refusal to take any advice that didn’t tell her what she wanted to hear, her draconian–if you’ll excuse the pun–punishments and her tendency to regard any disagreement with a retainer as them failing her–all of this together made her seem a little too Targaryen.

But then I watched the episode.

Holy crap, you guys. At first it seemed fine; she was executing Varys for a difference of opinion, really, but okay, I can sort of see that. Why she had to use dragonfire again I don’t know; that girl is obsessed with fire.

But then King’s Landing surrenders, and she decides to torch it all anyway, killing thousands of innocents. And that made no sense at all. It was totally not in keeping with her character in previous seasons, it wasn’t a logical progression from what she’d been before.

I can sort of see how she might have snapped after the death of Jorah, but the show didn’t really telegraph that at all.

HBO does these “explications” of the episode right after the show. I’m not sure why these things are becoming so common; they’re kind of awful and unnecessary. I tend not to bother with them unless I really liked the episode, but I watched this one. And the showrunners “explain” Dany’s mindstate and the reasons for her snapping, but none of the explanations really work, because none of it is actually “on the page.” I mean, it all sort of made sense, but it was a sharp 90° turn from what had gone on up to the beginning of Season 8.

Now, I did like Arya’s story, and Sandor Clegane’s end seemed fitting for the character. But it didn’t make up for the terrible.

Now some bullet points:

  • I’m not one of those people who gets upset when the dog dies. But little children? Not Okay, show. It’s one thing to know children die in an apocalyptic setting, but breaking my heart by making me watch a child cowering in fear, knowing she’s going to die? Fuck you, show.
  • Jaime’s end was pathetic. After all that, he fucking actually went back to Cersei to save her ass? Fuck you, TV-Jamie. I hope Book-Jamie turns out better than you did.
  • Cersei dies stupidly. I wanted her to die, but that particular end? No, that wasn’t enough. I mean, I wanted Jamie to off her, which is kind of awful, but jaysus.
  • I get that dragonfire isn’t exactly fire, but since when does fire destroy stone walls? That was a bit much.

At this point I’m not even sure I want to see the ending. I mean, I’ll probably watch it, but more out of curiosity than anything else.

Book 2 Cover Reveal!

Here I am, writing away, trying to turn raw ideas into entertaining fodder, and–What’s that? There’s a new book listing?

Oh! Well, then. Let’s talk about that.

Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to introduce the cover for The Blood-Dimmed Tide, book 2 of The Remembrance War. Nice, isn’t it? I’m really happy with this design; there were three possibilities, and while I really liked them, there were two that stood out. The one I liked most had a couple of issues, which my editor, quite fortunately, agreed with. The art team worked with it, and now it’s basically perfect.

The Bood-Dimmed Tide is scheduled for release in February 2020. But it’s still not ready, so maybe I should get back to writing it!

Debut Author Interview: Dan Stout

Obviously, I’m not the only new SFF writer of the year.

Today I’m bringing you the first in a series of interviews with Science Fiction and Fantasy authors also debuting in 2019.  Today we have Dan Stout, author of Titanshade, out March 12th from DAW books.

Dan, what’s the book about?
Titanshade is a fantasy noir thriller set in a world where magic is real and technology is at 1970s level.

Can you give us a teaser? 
Titanshade interviewOur little car hugged the corners as I slalomed us through the early morning traffic. The nice thing about cop cars in Titanshade is that the boys in the shop keep them tuned nice and tight. I glided up to a stoplight and paused, waiting for the light to turn green.

Our destination lay straight ahead. But while I stared at the red light the thought of Talena’s photo and that small sticker remnant on the Do Not Disturb sign whirled in my mind.

When I took a sudden right turn, Ajax looked up from fiddling with the radio. “We taking the scenic route?”

“Just a quick stop before we talk to the candies.”

“Yeah? Where’s that?”

A heavily filtered bass line bounced from the Hasam’s speakers, followed by a trumpet’s trill. I slapped Ajax’s hand off the dial.

“No disco,” I said. “They can make us work together, but I am not listening to disco.”

What’s the story behind the title?
Titanshade is an oil boomtown, where a mix of greed and hard labor has allowed the residents to claw out a living in the midst of an arctic perma-freeze. So much of the story ties into the character of the streets and the citizens that there was never any doubt the book needed to be named after the city.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?
Drafting.  I love brainstorming, and I love fixing the story once it’s built. But writing down the initial draft is like chewing glass.

What’s your writing routine? 
I work in chunks of time, usually two blocks of 2 – 3 hours. I start early, so I’m usually done with writing by noon, and move to admin and marketing after that.

Do you have any writing quirks? 
Oh man, so many! Maybe the strangest is that my first-draft characters almost always have names that start with the same letter (Steve and Sara and Sammie, etc.). I created the Mollenkampi naming convention in Titanshade as a private joke at my own expense.

What are you working on right now?
The sequel! It’s been tough but rewarding, as building a follow-up that can also stand on its own has meant learning a whole new set of skills. But it’s paying off, and I’m very excited to share the next chapter in the story.

What’s your favourite writing advice?
The struggle belongs to you, the finished product belongs to the reader.


Stout Head Shot for interviewDan Stout lives in Columbus, Ohio, where he writes about fever dreams and half-glimpsed shapes in the shadows. His prize-winning fiction draws on travels throughout Europe, Asia, and the Pacific Rim as well as an employment history spanning everything from subpoena server to assistant well driller. Dan’s stories have appeared in publications such as The Saturday Evening Post, Nature, and Mad Scientist Journal. His debut novel Titanshade is a noir fantasy thriller, available from DAW Books. To say hello, visit him at www.DanStout.com.

Find Dan on:  Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

10 Books I’m Looking Forward To in 2019

As we’re 33 days out from my own book’s debut, I thought I’d mention 10 other books I’m looking forward to this year. Some are debuts, some aren’t, but all of them are exciting to me. All the links in this in-no-particular-order list go to the Goodreads page; from there you can go to your retailer-of-choice.

  1. The Perfect Assassin, K.A. Doore.

Divine justice is written in blood.

Or so Amastan has been taught. As a new assassin in the Basbowen family, he’s already having second thoughts about taking a life. A scarcity of contracts ends up being just what he needs.

Until, unexpectedly, Amastan finds the body of a very important drum chief. Until, impossibly, Basbowen’s finest start showing up dead, with their murderous jaan running wild in the dusty streets of Ghadid. Until, inevitably, Amastan is ordered to solve these murders, before the family gets blamed.

Every life has its price, but when the tables are turned, Amastan must find this perfect assassin or be their next target.

2. The Burning White, Brent Weeks

Stripped of both magical and political power, the people he once ruled told he’s dead, and now imprisoned in his own magical dungeon, former Emperor Gavin Guile has no prospect of escape. But the world faces a calamity greater than the Seven Satrapies has ever seen… and only he can save it.

As the armies of the White King defeat the Chromeria and old gods are born anew, the fate of worlds will come down to one question: Who is the Lightbringer? 

3. A Memory Called Empire, Arkady Martine

Ambassador Mahit Dzmare arrives in the center of the multi-system Teixcalaanli Empire only to discover that her predecessor, the previous ambassador from their small but fiercely independent mining Station, has died. But no one will admit that his death wasn’t an accident–or that Mahit might be next to die, during a time of political instability in the highest echelons of the imperial court.

Now, Mahit must discover who is behind the murder, rescue herself, and save her Station from Teixcalaan’s unceasing expansion–all while navigating an alien culture that is all too seductive, engaging in intrigues of her own, and hiding a deadly technological secret–one that might spell the end of her Station and her way of life–or rescue it from annihilation.

4. Ancestral Night, Elizabeth Bear

Halmey Dz and her partner Connla Kurucz are salvage operators, living just on the inside of the law…usually. Theirs is the perilous and marginal existence—with barely enough chance of striking it fantastically big—just once—to keep them coming back for more. They pilot their tiny ship into the scars left by unsuccessful White Transitions, searching for the relics of lost human and alien vessels. But when they make a shocking discovery about an alien species that has been long thought dead, it may be the thing that could tip the perilous peace mankind has found into full-out war.

5. Famous Men Who Never Lived, K. Chess

Wherever Hel looks, New York City is both reassuringly familiar and terribly wrong. As one of the thousands who fled the outbreak of nuclear war in an alternate United States—an alternate timeline—she finds herself living as a refugee in our own not-so-parallel New York. The slang and technology are foreign to her, the politics and art unrecognizable. While others, like her partner Vikram, attempt to assimilate, Hel refuses to reclaim her former career or create a new life. Instead, she obsessively rereads Vikram’s copy of The Pyronauts—a science fiction masterwork in her world that now only exists as a single flimsy paperback—and becomes determined to create a museum dedicated to preserving the remaining artifacts and memories of her vanished culture.

But the refugees are unwelcome and Hel’s efforts are met with either indifference or hostility. And when the only copy of The Pyronauts goes missing, Hel must decide how far she is willing to go to recover it and finally face her own anger, guilt, and grief over what she has truly lost.

6. Titanshade, Dan Stout

Carter’s a homicide cop in Titanshade, an oil boomtown where 8-tracks are state of the art, disco rules the radio, and all the best sorcerers wear designer labels. It’s also a metropolis teetering on the edge of disaster. As its oil reserves run dry, the city’s future hangs on a possible investment from the reclusive amphibians known as Squibs.

But now negotiations have been derailed by the horrific murder of a Squib diplomat. The pressure’s never been higher to make a quick arrest, even as Carter’s investigation leads him into conflict with the city’s elite. Undermined by corrupt coworkers and falsified evidence, and with a suspect list that includes power-hungry politicians, oil magnates, and mad scientists, Carter must find the killer before the investigation turns into a witch-hunt and those closest to him pay the ultimate price on the filthy streets of Titanshade.

7. The Currency of War, Melinda M. Snodgrass

The fourth book in the acclaimed space opera romance series Imperials. A new alien race has attacked the human Solar League bringing war and death. Tracy returns to active duty as Mercedes and Boho lead their troops in a desperate attempt to save the empire. All three bring their bravery and brilliance to bear, but Boho is angered by Tracy’s emerging fame. Then at the height of the conflict they are betrayed by a former classmate, Jasper Talion who has his own ambitions. While Mercedes and Boho are engaged in the final, desperate battle with the alien menace Tracy races to protect the Imperial prince from Talion… And discovers the boy is actually his son and not Boho’s. Will Tracy also become a rebel?

8. The Luminous Dead, Caitlin Starling

When Gyre Price lied her way into this expedition, she thought she’d be mapping mineral deposits, and that her biggest problems would be cave collapses and gear malfunctions. She also thought that the fat paycheck—enough to get her off-planet and on the trail of her mother—meant she’d get a skilled surface team, monitoring her suit and environment, keeping her safe. Keeping her sane.

Instead, she got Em.

Em sees nothing wrong with controlling Gyre’s body with drugs or withholding critical information to “ensure the smooth operation” of her expedition. Em knows all about Gyre’s falsified credentials, and has no qualms using them as a leash—and a lash. And Em has secrets, too . . .

As Gyre descends, little inconsistencies—missing supplies, unexpected changes in the route, and, worst of all, shifts in Em’s motivations—drive her out of her depths. Lost and disoriented, Gyre finds her sense of control giving way to paranoia and anger. On her own in this mysterious, deadly place, surrounded by darkness and the unknown, Gyre must overcome more than just the dangerous terrain and the Tunneler which calls underground its home if she wants to make it out alive—she must confront the ghosts in her own head.

But how come she can’t shake the feeling she’s being followed?

9. Lord of Secrets, Breanna Teintze

Outlaw wizard Corcoran Gray has enough problems. He’s friendless, penniless and on the run from the tyrannical Mages’ Guild – and with the search for his imprisoned grandfather looking hopeless, his situation can’t get much worse.

So when a fugitive drops into his lap – literally – and gets them both arrested, it’s the last straw – until Gray realises that runaway slave Brix could be the key to his grandfather’s release. All he has to do is break out of prison, break into an ancient underground temple and avoid killing himself with his own magic in the process.

In theory, it’s simple enough. But as secrets unfold and loyalties shift, Gray discovers something with the power to change the nature of life and death itself.

Now Gray must find a way to protect the people he loves, but it could cost him everything, even his soul . . .

10. This Is How You Lose the Time War, Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandant finds a letter. It reads: Burn before reading.

And thus begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents hellbent on securing the best possible future for their warring factions. Now, what began as a taunt, a battlefield boast, grows into something more.

Except discovery of their bond would be death for each of them. There’s still a war going on, after all. And someone has to win that war. That’s how war works. Right?

The Importance of Local Bookstores for Authors–and the Reading Public

Long ago, in the dark days of my early-to-mid-twenties, I was a bookseller at Books, Inc. in Sacramento.  It was an odd job; very “Empire Records”-like in the way the staff interacted.  I kind of miss it sometimes, even though I rarely worked more than 20 hours in a week and I had to eventually leave it for a better-paying job.

But what I loved was helping people find books they would love.  I eventually ended up in charge of the Science Fiction/Fantasy section, because people knew that I was the guy who knew the genre well.  So anyone looking for SFF was quickly pointed my way.

Even in these days of Amazon and other websites that let you buy books, physical bookstores are important.  For one thing, Amazon is good for getting the book you already know you want, but it’s utter crap for browsing.  It’s much easier to walk the shelves in a real store, perusing the titles and author names, looking for something to catch your eye.

In addition, bookstores pay attention to what sells, and they log requests.  If people make the time to come in and special order a book, there is a better-than-zero chance the store will order a second copy for the shelves.

If enough people request or order the book, the bookseller is more likely to read and then handsell the book to people who want something new, but don’t know exactly what. This is what I did all the time, and if the bookseller liked the book, they’re going to push it.  This is why my store sold completely out of Ian MacDonald’s Scissors Cut Paper Wrap Stone.  We had ten copies, and not one sold until I got intrigued by the cover, read it, and then hand sold it to nine other people who came in looking for good SF.

A book on the shelf has a greater chance of being picked up on an impulse buy than a picture online, thus widening the audience.

Finally, if you shop at a local, independent store, you’re adding money to the local economy and helping a local business stay open.

Support your local independent bookstore. 

The Widening Gyre Now Available For Pre-Order!

Exciting news!  The Widening Gyre, my debut novel coming in March from Flame Tree Press, is now available for pre-order (in some formats)!

NB: Only the hardcover, paperback, and non-Kindle ebook are currently available to order.  If you want it as a Kindle book or an audiobook, you’ll have to wait a bit longer to pre-order.

Hardcover, Paperback, and Ebook can be ordered directly from the publisher.

Paperback can also be ordered from Amazon in the US.  All other formats WILL be on Amazon US eventually, but of course you can also order them direct from the publisher.

Amazon UK has both the hardcover and paperback available.

You should be able to preorder from book stores, as well, but I’m not sure if it’s percolated that far yet.  The ISBN for the paperback is 978-1787581432. That might help. If anyone does successfully preorder from a brick & mortar, please let me know!

So far the book isn’t on B&N.com, Kobo, or iBooks, but as soon as it is I’ll post that information.

Debut Diary, Part 3: The Cover

Yesterday, I received an email from my editor.

Yes, I still love to say “my editor.”

Anyway, I thought it was going to be my edits, but no–it was cover design ideas. He presented me with two, told me his preference, and asked for mine.

I’ve thought about this moment a lot, even before I made the sale, and I’ve always known it would be a stressful thing.  For one thing, I’d been thinking about possible designs for a while.  Most of my ideas were, I knew, unobtainable. Further, while some publishers will ask the author what they think, the final decision is the publisher’s.  More than one author has hated their book cover.  I was prepared to join them, but hoping for better.

So it was with some trepidation that I clicked on the files. And then I smiled, because both designs were fantastic.

I really loved the artwork on one of them, but it doesn’t quite fit this book’s feel or themes as well as it might.  But the other design is thematically perfect, and dynamic.  It’s eye-catching and has a great tagline.

I’m happy. The design may change, in small or even large ways, between now and finalization.  But for now?  I’m totally pleased.

 

My First Worldcon

So I attended Worldcon 76, in San Jose, CA. It was my first Worldcon; the last one in my neck of the woods was Reno in 2011, and I was not in a good enough financial space to go to that one.

All in all, I enjoyed the experience, but as a baby writer whose book is not even out yet, it was … interesting.

I quickly learned that most of the writing craft-focused panels were not for me.  They were saying things I already knew. The sort of “theory”-based panels were much better, though I didn’t make it into a few of them due to overcrowded rooms.  C’est la vie.

I learned late on Saturday that the head of my publisher was in attendance, and I tried to arrange a meet, just to shake his hand and say hi, but we weren’t able to sync our schedules and get a minute.  Ah well, there will be other chances.

I attended a panel titled “The Revival of Space Opera,” which included among the panelists my Viable Paradise instructor, Teresa Nielsen Hayden.  I wanted to go talk to her at the end, but I didn’t feel like fighting my way through the press, and assumed I’d be able to find her somewhere else.  Sadly, I didn’t, so I didn’t get to talk to her, which I regret.  Teresa’s one of my favorite VP people.

I did learn that going to a con with my pre-teen daughter is difficult.  Tegan is 10, which presents a problem: the child-focused stuff was too young for her, and she’s not old enough to go hang out with teens yet.  So she spent much of her time being bored, though she did attend her first panel on her own at one point, and enjoyed that.  She felt better once her mom arrived on Friday evening, though daughter spent Friday night visiting her Bay Area-based cousins.  Tegan really wants to be my “assistant” if and when I ever do signings and the like, but I think we’ve both decided she’s not ready for that yet.  We’ll see what happens as she gets older.

What I really enjoyed the most about the Con was visiting my tribe members who came to Worldcon.  Through Beth Morris Tanner, who seemingly knows basically everyone in the SFF field, I also met Karen Osborne and Mary Anne Mohanraj, both of whom were delightful and I hope to see more of in the future.  I didn’t get to talk to all the people I wanted to, but that’s the reality of Big Social Events.  Dinner with my VP crew on Saturday was a high point, for sure.  Let me tell you, if you’re ever in need of some great SFF anecdotes, K.G. Anderson is the person to sit with.

I’m delighted that most of my Hugo votes were for the winners, and I gladly give my congratulations to all the winners, even the ones I didn’t vote for.

Now it’s time to get ready for the school year to begin, and keep plugging away on the writing projects I have going right now.

Debut Diary, Part 1: Getting an Offer

Ever since I got the offer on my novel, I’ve felt a mix of exhilaration and crushing fear.  I thought it might be fun to write a series of posts explaining the process and how I’ve felt during it.  I’m going to call this series “What it’s Really Like,” because when we’re working towards publishing professionally, many of us get an idea in our head of what it will be like, and while I’m only completely aware of my own experience, I’m willing to bet a lot of it is universal.

Despite that universality, however, there are some caveats:

  1. My experience is mine alone. While I know authors who are further along the path of pro writing than I am, some of them significantly so, and many of them have reported similar experiences, there are also some differences that are pretty important.
  2. I am publishing through a small press. By definition, this means my experience will be somewhat different than an author who publishes through a large publishing house, and it will also be different than someone who is working as an indie author, self-publishing their work.  None of these things are better, but they are different.

I’ll post each entry when it’s time, by which I mean as things happen.  Right now I’m in a sort of limbo, waiting for the next step in the process to begin.  So I’ll start by telling how it began–or, rather, how I went from “aspiring novelist with a finished book but no contract” to “author with a book contract.”

In 2016, Flame Tree Publishing, a company that had been publishing themed science fiction, fantasy, and horror anthologies for several years,   announced that they were going to open to novel-length works at the end of the year.  I submitted my novel, The Widening Gyre, on 10 December 2016.

And then I waited.

The response window had been claimed to be about four months, but I’ve been submitting works for publication long enough to know that was not going to be the case.  But eventually, I just about forgot about it.

In March 2018, I remembered I’d submitted the work, and I queried the publisher, expecting that I’d missed a rejection email in spam or something.  But I was informed by a helpful staff member that the book was still under consideration.

Then, on 11 May 2018, I checked my email at lunch.  I noticed an email from someone at Flame Tree, and I could see in the gmail list that it began “Thank you so much for letting me read The Widening Gyre, and please excuse the delay in getting back to you.”

Now, “Thank you for letting me read…” is how pretty much every rejection I’ve ever received began.  So when I saw those words, my heart sank a bit.  But I knew I had to read the rest of it at some point, so I clicked to open it.

The next words were “I enjoyed the manuscript quite a bit…” Now, you’d think that would be a good sign, but I’d had a couple of nice personal rejections (as opposed to form rejections), and some of them began with “Though I enjoyed the book,” so I was still convinced it was a rejection.  But then I read “… and I think it would make a great addition to the Flame Tree Press line…” and my brain went “Wait, what?”

And then the last part: “… And so I’m happy to make an offer for the book.”

There followed some business stuff to let me know the terms of the offer, but at that point my brain was still stuck on “make an offer for the book.”

In my reply, I tried to play it cool in my response, but the truth was I was practically dancing.  My mood had gone from sour in the middle of a bad day with my students to jubilant.  Someone liked my book–the same book I’d taken to calling the damned book when discussing it with friends–enough to buy it.  It’s really the ultimate “Yes, you are a writer” moment.

Next time, I’ll talk about the boilerplate and the contract.

The Panic of Having Sold a Debut Novel

So, I sold the book.  Began writing it in 2012, finished it in 2015, submitted it to the eventual publisher (among many agents and another publisher) in 2016, sold it in 2018.

Now what?

Well, as it turns out, what happens now is I panic.

I mean, not entirely.  But the book is scheduled for release in March 2019, and I’m expecting the edits in August or September 2018.  Maybe later. So now, I write book 2 and hope the editor likes it enough to add it to the schedule.  But… how can I? After all, I’m a fraud and I’ll never manage a book as good as the first one.  Look at these crappy words I’m making!  GAH!

Which is prime, grade-A bullshit, but it’s what my brain is feeding me lately.  I plotted the book out, broke it into scenes, wrote a synopsis, and then wrote 1300 words of the first chapter.  And then I deleted them, and wrote 1900 words that were marginally better, in both craft and structure.

Every pro writer I know has said at some point that they deal with this, too.  They fear not being able to write another book.  They feel the cold and nasty tendrils of Impostor Syndrome. So I know it’s not really unique.  But digging out of it?  It’s not easy.

In fact, the only thing I can think of to do is to keep my head down, ignore the news, and continue to write.  The first draft will be horrible, but the second will be better, and the third better than that.  And hopefully it, too, will become a book.

So for now, I avoid the siren song of video games and movies, and continue to plug away at this book.  I mean, I already plotted it out and broke it; I guess I ought to go ahead and write it, yeah? And I trust that eventually, I’ll break out of this stupid brainspace and be convinced my stuff is worth reading, again.

Stupid brains.