MAPS TO NOWHERE is now available for pre-order!

So a while back I looked at my short stories and realized, huh — they kind of fall into these nice little groupings. Not enough in any one grouping to fill a whole print collection, but very nicely sized to make a set of tidy little ebooks.

The first of those is now available for pre-order! The title is Maps to Nowhere, in homage to Diana Wynne Jones’ novel Fire and Hemlock and the “NOWHERE” vases that are a recurring motif in it. (The same novel that inspired me to become a writer, and in a roundabout fashion sparked another story of mine.) It contains ten short stories, all set in secondary worlds. To whet your appetite, here’s the table of contents:

Maps to Nowhere


cover art for MAPS TO NOWHERE by Marie Brennan

Maps to Nowhere will be out on September 5th!

Nevertheless, a whole lot of us persisted

cover art for Nevertheless, She Persisted; ed. Mindy KlaskyYesterday saw the release of Nevertheless, She Persisted. There are many things with that title these days, but this one is mine — well, mine and that of eighteen other authors from Book View Cafe. It is, as you might expect, a collection themed around female persistence in the face of adversity. If you feel like you need that sort of encouragement right now, or you know someone who might, or you want to support the general idea, or you just think that sounds like something you would like to read, you can get the ebook directly from Book View Cafe, or from Amazon, Nook, iTunes, Kobo, or Amazon UK; if you want a print edition, those are available too, from Amazon US or UK.

My contribution to the anthology is “Daughter of Necessity”, which is one of the stories I’m proudest of having written. It was inspired by an essay of Diana Wynne Jones’, and of course she herself is the woman whose work inspired me to become a writer in the first place.

It’s been six months since Elizabeth Warren was silenced on the floor of the Senate. Keep on speaking out. Persist. We will stand strong.

    Table of Contents

  • “Daughter of Necessity” by Marie Brennan
  • “Sisters” by Leah Cutter
  • “Unmasking the Ancient Light” by Deborah J. Ross
  • “Alea Iacta Est” by Marissa Doyle
  • “How Best to Serve” from A Call to Arms by P.G. Nagle
  • “After Eden” by Gillian Polack
  • “Reset” by Sara Stamey
  • “A Very, Wary Christmas” by Katharine Eliska Kimbriel
  • “Making Love” by Brenda Clough
  • “Den of Iniquity” by Irene Radford
  • “Digger Lady” by Amy Sterling Casil
  • “Tumbling Blocks” by Mindy Klasky
  • “The Purge” by Jennifer Stevenson
  • “If It Ain’t Broke” by Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff
  • “Chatauqua” by Nancy Jane Moore
  • “Bearing Shadows” by Dave Smeds
  • “In Search of Laria” by Doranna Durgin
  • “Tax Season” by Judith Tarr
  • “Little Faces” by Vonda N. McIntyre

The work continues

Another month, another tikkun olam post. Because while we can make the world a better place, there is always more to be done. Especially these days.

The usual guidelines apply. Share any good that you’ve done: volunteering, donations in money or supplies, changes toward a more sustainable lifestyle, random good deeds for neighbors or strangers. If you find yourself thinking “that isn’t big enough to count,” share it anyway. Every bit helps; every bit tells others that they’re not working alone.

Spark of Life: Joshua Palmatier on REAPING THE AURORA

As a fellow organic writer, I am totally there with Joshua Palmatier about needing these sparks of life to power a book to its ending. (There’s a reason I chose that concept for my guest blog series.) And if some of those sparks occasionally involve being a total sadist to one of your characters . . . well. It happens.

***

cover art for REAPING THE AURORA by Joshua PalmatierThe idea behind this blog series—Spark of Life—is particularly appropriate for me, because a novel will not work for me UNLESS there is some particular “spark” with the characters at some point during the writing process. I’m an “organic” writer, or a writer that works by the seat of their pants rather than an outline or synopsis, and so if there isn’t some kind of spark somewhere along the way, I’m never going to finish the novel. It won’t have any life, which means I won’t be interested in writing it, which means it will never get finished.

For Reaping the Aurora, there were many, many sparks. Some of them happened in earlier novels—this is the third and final in the series, so the characters had to come to life earlier—but the spark I want to talk about today relates to a character, Cory, who I didn’t think had a major role to play in the final scenes. He’s been there since the beginning, and had his moments in earlier novels, but it didn’t seem like he had anything to contribute to this ending. The “spark” was when I realized that I couldn’t have been more wrong.

It happened at the major turning point in the novel, basically when everything utterly and completely falls apart and the direction of the novel takes a sudden and sharp hairpin turn. I knew what the majority of the characters were going to do at this point—Kara, Allan, Marcus, Hernande, etc. But leading up to this point, I didn’t have anything in mind for Cory. I just assumed that he would be joining one of the groups and help them tie the final threads of the novel together. But that didn’t happen. During the course of the action, everything falling apart around them, shockingly, Cory gets captured by the Kormanley, the group they’ve been fighting since the first book. No one knows what happened, and so no one realizes they need to rescue him. And because he’s a mage, with powers that are feared, he isn’t simply thrown into a cell. He’s drugged and left mostly unconscious.

All of this was unexpected. All of it happened in the course of writing one chapter. But suddenly, Cory’s plotline awakened and exploded inside my head. How was he going to survive? He can’t plan an escape—he’s unconscious and paralyzed most of the time. And he can’t be rescued—no one knows where he is or that he’s even in trouble. His plight—because of the stakes involved and because it is so personal—suddenly took on a vibrancy and reality that the other known plotlines didn’t have. In my head, Cory had become the most interesting character in the book. Why? Not because his plight tied itself significantly to the final outcome of the novel. No. It was because I had no foreknowledge of his plotline at all.

Those are the surprises that keep me writing, that tell me the book I’m working on is actually working, that bring the words and the worlds I create to life. Those sparks make the job of putting words to paper mesmerizing.

***

From the cover copy:

The final book in the thrilling epic fantasy Ley trilogy, set in a sprawling city of light and magic fueled by a ley line network.

In a world torn apart by the shattering of the magical ley lines that formerly powered all the cities and towns of the Baronies, there are few havens left for the survivors. The uncontrolled distortions released by the shattering have claimed the main cities of the Baronial Plains. And many of the Wielders who controlled the ley died in the apocalyptic cataclysm their manipulation of the ley created.
 
Wielder Kara Tremain and former Dog Allan Garrett, survivors of the city of Erenthrall’s destruction, have seized control of the new Nexus created at the distant temple known as the Needle, the stronghold of the White Cloaks and their leader, Father Dalton.  With Father Dalton a prisoner, Kara intends to use the Needle’s Nexus to heal the major distortions that threaten to shake their entire world apart. 

But while she and the remaining Wielders managed to stabilize Erenthrall, they have not been able to stop the auroral storms or the devastating earthquakes sweeping across the lands. Now they are hoping to find a means to heal the distortion at the city of  Tumbor, releasing the nodes captured inside.  If they succeed, the ley network should be able to stabilize itself.

But the distortion over Tumbor is huge, ten times the size of the one over Erenthrall.  Kara will need the help of all of the Wielders at the Needle in order to generate enough power, including the rebel White Cloaks.  But can Kara trust them to help her, or will the White Cloaks betray her in order to free Father Dalton and regain control of the Needle, possibly destroying any chance of healing the ley network in the process?
 
Meanwhile, Allan journeys back to Erenthrall, hoping to form alliances with some of the survivors, only to discover that Erenthrall itself has sunk a thousand feet into the ground.  The vicious groups that plagued them on their last visit have banded together under a new leader—Devin, formerly Baron Aurek’s second-in-command.  While discussing an alliance with the Temerite enclave, Devin’s men attack, forcing Allan and the Temerites to flee back to the Needle, leaving Erenthrall in Devin’s hands.
 
But the Needle is no safe haven.  Father Dalton’s followers have begun to rebel, starting riots and creating unrest, all of it targeted at Kara and the Wielders.  The tensions escalate beyond control when Father Dalton declares he’s had a vision—a vision in which the Needle is attacked from the north by dogs and from the south by snakes; a vision that ends with the quickening of the distortions called the Three Sisters to the north . . . and the annihilation of reality itself!

A professor of mathematics at SUNY College at Oneonta, Joshua Palmatier has published nine novels to date—the “Throne of Amenkor” series (The Skewed Throne, The Cracked Throne, The Vacant Throne), the “Well of Sorrows” series (Well of Sorrows, Leaves of Flame, Breath of Heaven), and the “Ley” series (Shattering the Ley, Threading the Needle, Reaping the Aurora). He is currently hard at work on the start of a new series, as yet untitled. He has also published numerous short stories and has edited numerous anthologies. He is the founder/owner of a new small press called Zombies Need Brains LLC, which focuses on producing SF&F themed anthologies, the most recent being Alien Artifacts and Were-. Find out more at www.joshuapalmatier.com or at www.zombiesneedbrains.com. You can also find him on Facebook under Joshua B. Palmatier and Zombies Need Brains, and on Twitter at @bentateauthor and @ZNBLLC.

DICE TALES is out in the world!

I should have posted this yesterday, but appropriately enough, I was too busy prepping for the game I ran last night. 🙂

Dice Tales: Essays on Roleplaying Games and Storytelling is out now! If you play RPGs and have an interest in them from the narrative side of things — the ways we use them to tell stories, and what GMs and players can do to make them work better in that regard — you may find it of interest. Follow the link to buy it from Book View Cafe, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, iTunes, Kobo, or (in a first for me) DriveThruRPG. And if any parts of it wind up working their way into the games you play or run, let me know!

Also, the New Worlds Patreon has headed off into the wilds of rudeness, with two posts on “Gestures of Contempt” and “Insults.” The theme will continue through the end of this month before turning in a new direction for August. Remember that patrons at the $5 level and above can request topics, so if there’s something you’d like to see me discuss, you can make that happen!

SPARK OF LIFE: Michael F. Haspil on GRAVEYARD SHIFT

I had the pleasure of meeting Michael F. Haspil at Denver Comic-Con recently, and he had me at the word “Egyptology.” The hero of his debut novel is a mummy and former pharaoh — how could I not be interested in that! But I’ll let Michael tell you about how it took a different character to bring his mummy’s story to, er, life for him.

***

cover art for GRAVEYARD SHIFT by Michael F. HaspilI wrote the original version of GRAVEYARD SHIFT during NaNoWriMo some time ago. However, I still remember when the story really jumped into gear and, regrettably, that wasn’t truly in the first draft, though at the time I thought it was.

As I began revisions and sorted through the aftermath of a NaNo first draft, certain aspects stood out as being decent. The main character, Alex Menkaure, an immortal pharaoh now working in a special supernatural police unit in modern-day Miami, and his partner, Marcus, a vampire born in ancient Rome, needed minor work. The climactic battle at the end against the villains needed a lot of polish. While the action was solid, I wrote the section in a blur and it showed. Also, there was something missing. While Alex and Marcus are formidable, the villains I’d set up for them to go against were more so, and they needed help.

The help came in the form of Rhuna Gallier, a young but vicious shapeshifter with her own agenda. I’d had an idea for her character while brainstorming another novel, but realized with some minor tweaks, Rhuna and “The Pack” could fit into GRAVEYARD SHIFT’s story and world.

When I wrote the next draft, as I seeded Rhuna’s presence throughout the book, she threatened to take over the entire thing and make it hers. This may sound weird to non-writers, but she didn’t seem to understand this was Alex’s story and she was a supporting character. So I promised her besides the climax she would get a cool action scene. I knew in the scene Rhuna needed to be mostly on her own with minimal support so I could showcase her lethality.

In GRAVEYARD SHIFT’s world, a practice goes by the underground name of S&B. It stands for Sangers, a derogatory name for vampires, and Bleeders, humans who willingly let vampires feed on them to experience the pleasurable sensations that come with it. Participants meet in bloodclubs, which are akin to prohibition-era speakeasies. Many unsavory activities such as human trafficking, blood and drug dealing, and murder, happen near the clubs and they are part of Miami’s criminal underbelly.

In the early draft, I had a criminal vampire who liked to prey on young girls, take one of his victims to the club. It was an unhappy chapter and ended with the vampire killing another victim. In the new draft, Rhuna showed up. That’s when the story jumped to life. Rhuna took the place of the victim and suddenly where I had a naïve girl falling prey to an old vampire’s wiles, now I had Rhuna going in as a Trojan horse and the vampire and his companions never knew what hit them.

I rewrote the sequence, several chapters long, in one sitting. Now, I can’t wait to write Rhuna’s novel. It’s going to be great fun.

***

From the cover copy:

Alex Menkaure, former pharaoh and mummy, and his vampire partner, Marcus, born in ancient Rome, are vice cops in a special Miami police unit. They fight to keep the streets safe from criminal vampires, shape-shifters, bootleg blood-dealers, and anti-vampire vigilantes.

When poisoned artificial blood drives vampires to murder, the city threatens to tear itself apart. Only an unlikely alliance with former opponents can give Alex and Marcus a fighting chance against an ancient vampire conspiracy.

If they succeed, they’ll be pariahs, hunted by everyone. If they fail, the result will be a race-war bloodier than any the world has ever seen.

Michael F. Haspil is a geeky engineer and nerdy artist. The art of storytelling called to him from a young age and he has plied his craft over many years and through diverse media. He has written original stories for as long as he can remember and has dabbled in many genres. However, Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror have whispered directly to his soul. An avid gamer, he serves as a panelist on the popular “The Long War” webcasts and podcasts, which specializes in Warhammer 40,000 strategy, tactics, and stories. Graveyard Shift is his first novel. Find him online at michaelhaspil.com or @michaelhaspil.

The Battle for the Net

I posted a little while ago about today, July 12th, being the “Battle for the Net.” The short version is that the FCC is trying to roll back the “net neutrality” protections we currently enjoy, which would have the effect of letting corporations control how you interact with the internet. Think of your cable company: you know how they charge you more money for “premium channels”? You might find yourself paying your internet provider extra fees to access “premium sites.” (Not paying the sites; paying Comcast. Or whoever provides your internet connection.) Sites they don’t have a financial stake in might load more slowly. Streaming sites could be throttled to the point where you can’t watch a video or listen to music or play an online game without constant hiccups.

All of those things are bad. But here’s what’s worse.

Think about the flood of online political activity we’ve had in the last year. All those petitions, all those videos, all those political blogs. Right now, the only thing controlling your access to them is your level of interest and will to engage. But if we let the FCC empower internet providers to become the internet’s gatekeepers, then it may get a hell of a lot harder for us to make our voices heard. A lot of the groups speaking out right now are precisely the ones being disadvantaged by the current administration’s policies; they’re the ones who can’t afford to pay prioritization fees to keep their sites from being buried. This would be another way to screw them over, to make sure the voices we hear first, last, and loudest are the ones with money behind them: a negative feedback loop that ensures that power stays in the hands of those who already have it.

We can’t let this happen. Call your senators. Call your representative. Write a letter to the FCC. Speak up now, while you still can. As tools for speech go, the internet is up there with the printing press and the invention of writing itself — and our democracy depends on freedom of speech. We have to protect it.

Bounty Offered: Book for Cartoon

This started out as a joke yesterday, but then I figured — why not?

SO! I am offering a signed book from my stash of author copies for someone who can provide me with a quick cartoon-style/chibi/super-deformed sketch of this man:

standing on a pressure plate and looking extremely grumpy, while this woman:

armed and armored like a D&D rogue, skips around sticking pink companion cube hearts on him:

. . . because yeah, last game session my PC left the Blackjack standing on a pressure plate in a hallway to disarm a trap while she went inside to plant a magical surveillance device. Which led to jokes that he was her companion cube, a la Portal. And then my sister said she would totally draw this cartoon if she could draw, except she can’t, and neither can I, but maybe one of you can! There’s a signed book in it for you if you do. 😀

The Battle for the Net: July 12th

So, net neutrality.

It’s an important thing. Without it, cable companies will have far more control over what you see and do online: they’ll be able to slow down or block websites, or charge apps and sites extra fees in order to reach their audiences. They’ll push you toward sites belonging to companies who can afford to pay for “prioritization.” Marginalized communities and voices will be muted by the power of money, and your ability to say “I want to hear them” will be weaker, too.

Ajit Pai, the new FCC chairman (and not coincidentally, a former Verizon lawyer) thinks this sounds great. Me, not so much.

There’s a protest planned. I’ll be back on this topic July 12th, because I’ve signed up to participate. If you want to do the same, you can sign up at that link. My microphone isn’t huge, but the more of us that shout together, the louder we get.

Let’s get loud.

A more perfect union

I decided to delay this month’s tikkun olam post until the 4th. It seemed appropriate.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

A more perfect Union. That’s the goal this country was founded on — and though we may have often and egregiously foundered in pursuit of it, that doesn’t make the goal any less worthy. We must keep striving to establish Justice: to make it clear that Black Lives Matter, Native Lives Matter, Trans Lives Matter. We must ensure domestic Tranquility: stop homegrown terrorism, partner violence, police brutality. Provide for the common defence: but not unending aggression. Promote the general Welfare: through programs like Medicaid, Social Security, and the ACA. Secure the Blessing of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity: protect voting rights, protect the freedom of speech, religion, the press, and peaceable assembly.

If the people in charge won’t do it, then we have to do what we can, in our own lives and in our communities. So share what you’ve done lately, however small, to repair the world: to establish a more perfect Union, in the United States or elsewhere, through donations, volunteer work, good deeds, anything. Share what you intend to do in the days to come. The work is ongoing.