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#5DaysOfFiction: Day Three

Day three of the Five Days of Fiction! We’re halfway through the celebration of ten years since the publication of my first novel. And In the Labyrinth of Drakes comes out in just two days!

Today’s question is: what’s a favorite book or series of yours? Note that I say a favorite, not the favorite; I couldn’t single out one above all others if you paid me. So just pick whichever one you most feel like squeeing about right now. πŸ™‚

Me, I’ll go with Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles, and especially the first book, The Game of Kings. (Not to be confused with A Game of Thrones.) It’s brilliant historical fantasy with amazing characters and complex plotting and holy crap her prose and THAT DUEL and I could keep raving but I won’t.

Instead, I will give away a copy! Tell me a favorite book or series of yours, and you may be the lucky respondent who wins a lovely trade paperback of The Game of Kings.

Let’s see what our guest bloggers had to say . . . .


~ Iain M Banks’ Culture novels. They’re beautifully realised, fun, and witty. — Jaine Fenn, author of the Hidden Empire series

~ The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell. Its impact reminded me of what fiction can be. Many authors say they are inspired by a bad book to think “I could do better than that.” The Sparrow gives me something to aspire to instead. — E. C. Ambrose, author of Elisha Barber

~ The Discworld books. If I had to pick, I’d go with the Watch books. But it’s a difficult choice. I love the Witches and Death books almost as much. — Alex Gordon, author of Jericho (coming out on Tuesday!)

~ God, so many, but if I have to pick just one, I would say that Tanith Lee’s The Silver-Metal Lover is perhaps one of my ‘just about perfect’ books. It hits pretty much everything I love: an unconventional romance, philosophical complexity presented in a stunningly clear and simple way, gorgeous prose, an ending that is ‘right’ for the story being told. Just… unf. I love that book. It destroys me every time I read it.

A close runner up would be Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice. Everyone focuses on the gender pronoun thing, which is an interesting bit of culture-building, and yet that completely overlooks what I think of as the meaty brilliance of that book, which gives the reader the experience of a multi-perspective non-human consciousness in a way that the reader can still relate with and connect to. Fucking genius. She manages to balance multiple high-concept themes – colonialism/post-colonialsm, diffused consciousness, artificial consciousness, gender identity, sub-altern identity – without skimping on any of them, and unlike a lot of high concept books that can be plodding, she does it via a ripping action tale with some really fun ‘tagonists. — Alyc Helms, author of The Dragons of Heaven

~ The Long Price Quartet, by Daniel Abraham — Tim Akers, author of The Pagan Night

~ That’s tough, but I have to go with Lord of the Rings, which changed my life when I was 10. It shifted my brain in ways I had never imagined. — John Pitts, author of Night Terrors (due out on April 11th!)

~ Ah, the impossible question. Sorry, I can never come up with an answer to that. I can offer you two excellent recent reads – Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho, and Down Station by Simon Morden. Both offer me things that I’ve loved in books ever since I started reading – vivid, believable characters and compelling narrative with twists and surprises. — Juliet McKenna, author of The Tales of Einarinn and The Aldabreshin Compass

~ There’s a level on which that changes from month to month, but the book that is my soul, the book that’s woven into my bones, is Peter Beagle’s The Last Unicorn. I read it the first time when I was exceptionally young, and reread it about once a year; every time I open it, it feels like a wild, beautiful, terrible wind blowing in. — Leah Bobet, author of An Inheritance of Ashes

~ I’m not one for picking a single favorite above all others, but The Chronicles of Prydain and Red Harvest were pretty influential for me. — Harry Connolly, author of The Great Way

~ This is utterly impossible to answer, but I will just randomly say Jo Walton’s Thessaly books, because Plato’s Republic meets the real world is just such a rich concept and she does it with so much style, grace, humor, and pure weirdness. — Pamela Dean, author of Owlswater (due out later this month!)

~ *rolls mental dice* A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K Le Guin, another fave from my youth. — Sean Williams, author of Hollowgirl

~ How about the whole Tolkien oeuvre? The Amber series? The Lyonesse series by Vance? And how about something like Guy Gavriel Kay’s “Tigana” which is not part of a series but which tears my heart out and gives it back into my hands still trembling like a bird?… — Alma Alexander, author of Empress

~ If “favourite” means “read most often over a lifetime”, that would be Tolkien again, LotR: how predictable is that? But actually now my favourite series for revisiting is Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin books, which I can read on a yearly basis. — Chaz Brenchley, author of Bitter Waters

#5DaysOfFiction: Day Two

It’s day two of the Five Days of Fiction, my celebration of ten years since the publication of my first novel! The winner of yesterday’s giveaway is @lauracwhitney on Twitter, with her lonely cloud being befriended by a unicorn. πŸ™‚

With only three days left to the release of In the Labyrinth of Drakes, my next question is: what writer would you say has had the biggest influence on your life?

This one’s a no-brainer for me: Diana Wynne Jones. Specifically, her book Fire and Hemlock, because I distinctly remember putting it down and thinking, “I want to be a writer.” I’d made up stories before then (see yesterday’s post), but that was the first time I really thought about telling stories for other people to read. My career rests on that foundation; it’s hard to imagine a bigger influence than that.

As you might expect, the winner for this giveaway will receive a copy of Fire and Hemlock; I’m going to try to track down the library edition I read when I was nine or ten, but no promises. You may wind up with a different cover.

On to the guest responses! (I specifically asked my guests who influenced them as a writer, but for the purposes of the giveaway, any kind of influence is fair game.)



#5DaysOfFiction: Day One

Ten years ago today, my first novel came out.

This isn’t an April Fool’s joke, nor was it then. In fact, I’m happy to say that my less-than-entirely-auspicious debut date turned out just fine for me: ten years on, the book is still in print (though it likely won’t be for much longer). In the interim, I’ve published ten other novels, with twelfth due out on Tuesday, which ain’t a bad run for that span of time.

In celebration of that anniversary, and as a lead-up to the publication of In the Labyrinth of Drakes, we’re going to have Five Days of Fiction! Each day will feature a question, with guest answers from various authors of my acquaintance, and a chance for others to weigh in via comments or Twitter. Anybody who responds to the question will be eligible for a book giveaway: some days it will be one of my books, while others will be books that have had a big influence on me. You have until the next day’s question gets posted to answer; after that I’ll pick a winner.


To start us off, let me ask: what’s the earliest story you remember ever writing? Pretty much all of us made up stories at some point, even if we didn’t wind up pursuing it as a more serious hobby or career. How old were you? What kind of story was it? Did you ever show it to anybody?

One lucky respondent will receive a copy of Doppelganger — not Witch; I’m scouring the wilds of the internet to find the original edition, the one that came out on April 1st, 2006.

For me, the answer is a little mystery story I wrote when I was (I think) eight. The woman babysitting me and several other kids that summer taught us out to make little bound books with cardboard and cloth; mine was red, and I wrote a story about a girl named Jessica whose cat was stolen. I felt obliged to fill all the pages of the little book, so as I went along in the story, my handwriting got larger and larger . . . and then in desperation, when Jessica was going to get on a plane after rescuing her cat, I listed everything she packed, because I didn’t want any blank pages left. Yeah. Not exactly proof of future genius, that. πŸ˜›

And now for the guest responses! Find out what ~fabulous~ ideas the pros had when they were six . . . .



Photo exhibit at Borderlands

Not that you can really make out the details in this picture (I took it with my phone), but: you are looking at the very first public exhibition of my photography.

Borderlands exhibit

That’s the cafΓ© at Borderlands Books, with eight of my photos on the wall. Last year it occurred to me that, hey, they regularly have local artists hanging their work in the cafΓ© — and I count as a local artist. I talked to the store’s owners, and we agreed that it would make sense for me to do a small exhibition that coincides with the release of In the Labyrinth of Drakes. I hung the pictures on Monday night; they’ll be there through the end of May.

There’s no thematic connection between the photos and the book; I haven’t traveled enough in the Middle East to put together a decent collection of Labyrinth-appropriate shots. (Israel and Turkey are the closest I’ve gotten, and most of my Israeli pictures are of Neolithic archaeological sites. Which is to say: dirt. And the occasional rock.) Instead it’s just eight photos I happen to really like, grouped in four pairs. If you’re curious which ones I chose, I’ve made a Flickr set of them here — or you can go to Borderlands and see them in person. πŸ™‚ In fact, why not come to Borderlands on April 9th? I’m doing a reading and signing there at 3 p.m. that Saturday. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then between the photos and the reading, that’s like ten thousand words for your effort. It’s a bargain, I’m tellin’ ya.

And should you happen to like one or more of the pictures especially well, they’re for sale! The precise size varies depending on the proportions of the photo in question, but they’re all in the ballpark of a sheet of paper (U.S. 8.5″x11″/U.K. A4), printed full-frame on acrylic panels, with French cleats. Individual prices also vary, but they’re less than a hundred dollars, plus shipping costs. The photos will all remain on display at Borderlands until the show ends, but I’ll mail them out as soon as I can when that’s done.

It feels a little odd, doing this. I think that publicly displaying my pictures and putting them up for sale means I can officially refer to myself not just as a writer, but as a photographer. Somehow, when I wasn’t looking, I acquired a second artistic pastime. But seeing them hanging on the wall of the cafΓ© . . . it feels a little odd, but also cool. πŸ™‚

ARC giveaway results!

Totally irrelevant to the actual choosing of a winner, but relevant to my curiosity: here’s how the “favorite character” voting fell out.

Natalie had an early lead and never lost it. Though for a brief time in the middle the second-place contender drew near, she wound up with twice as many votes as her closest competitor, making her the clear victor. Yay, Natalie!

Second place was . . . . Suhail! And behind him, Jake. Other candidates included Tom, Jacob, Heali’i, the dragons en masse, and the sparklings in specific. πŸ™‚ If I count secondary votes, though — the respondents who said “Character A, but I also really love character B,” then Greenie got a vote, Heali’i got more support, and Jake pulls up to be tied with Suhail for second place. Natalie also got a secondary vote, though, so she remains ahead of even Suhail + Jake + Jake’s secondary votes combined. So I guess y’all like her. πŸ˜‰

But I’ve made you wait long enough. According to my highly scientific random number generation method*, the winner is . . .

. . . beccastareyes, on Livejournal!

Send me your address, and I’ll get the ARC out to you as soon as I can!

Thanks to everybody who sent in their votes. Keep an eye on this space for more giveaways in the upcoming weeks!


*i.e. dice


I neglected to mention this on the release date, but: A Natural History of Dragons is out in French! (Or rather, Une histoire naturelle des dragons.) That makes the first translation to hit the shelves, though there are others in progress.

As it is now four weeks to the release of In the Labyrinth of Drakes, it seems a prime time for an ARC giveaway! All you have to do is tell me — in comments, by email, or on Twitter — who your favorite character from the series is, OTHER than Isabella. (Ruling her out because, judging by the fanmail I get, she’d be 90% of the answers.) Deadline is noon PST tomorrow; I’ll pick a winner at random and ship out the ARC.

Month of Letters followup

Just a quick notice to say that, unsurprisingly, the end of the month brought in a mini-flood of letters. I’m working diligently to get through them, and should have replies out the door by the end of next week at the latest. But I figure you all would prefer that I prioritize finishing the draft of the final book — not to mention that if I don’t take frequent and lengthy breaks, my cursive gets even worse than it usually is. πŸ˜› So it’s one letter here, one letter there, in between other things. And of course a few more may yet come in, things that were mailed before the end of February but took a while to reach Lady Trent’s mailbox.

ARC giveaway for In the Labyrinth of Drakes

There’s a few days left in the Lady Trent’s Friends of Nepal fundraiser, with a variety of items still for sale (including some new additions from Linda Nagata and Vonda McIntyre) — plus, of course, donations also put you in the pool for lottery prizes. The page currently says the goal is $750, but I’d love to hit $1K before this is done; it’s a nice round number. πŸ™‚

Over on Twitter I joked that I should not resort to blackmail, like saying “Donate or Isabella loses a finger to frostbite in the last book!” But the truth is, I was already thinking about having Isabella lose a finger to frostbite. So really, what I should say is that you have a chance to save her from that fate! (Carrot, not stick.) If we hit $1000, she will make it safely through the series with all ten fingers intact!

. . . yes, writers are horrible people. πŸ˜›

But onward to the business promised by the title of this post. By far the hottest item in the sale part of the fundraiser was the ARC of In the Labyrinth of Drakes, due out next spring; all five copies were gone in about twenty-four hours. I know that for some of you in foreign countries, eBay’s estimated shipping costs were prohibitive, since they don’t calculate that according to the cheapest methods. To make up for that, I’m doing a giveaway of my own, with no purchase required. All you have to do to enter is be signed up to my mailing list; both current subscribers and those who sign up now will be included in the pool. On Friday I’ll use a random number generator to pick a winner. (If you win and don’t want the book for whatever reason, e.g. you haven’t read any of the series or you already got an ARC through other means, you can decline and I’ll pick a new recipient.) Here’s your chance to get a signed ARC for free!

. . . but you should still donate if you can. You don’t want Isabella to lose a finger, do you? >_>