Jeaniene Frost has unveiled (hehehe) the cover for Ian’s book.
Go here to see it and read an interview. Night Rebel series. Woo-woo!
Grace Draven through Facebook: Hey, AMID THE WINTER SNOW anthology is up for preorder and I have a story in it. If I bribed you with two bottles of wine and a sacrificial chicken, would you be willing to mention the anthology in a blog post?
Me: Give me a snippet and I’ll do it.
Grace: Thank you. Do you still want the sacrificial chicken?
Me, calling: This has no sex or violence in it.
Grace, attempting to avoid a semi: I’ll send a different one.
Jeffe Kennedy through facebook: Hey, Grace said you wanted sex or violence.
Jeffe: This has tongue bits.
Me: Oh good.
Excerpt from Grace Draven
In The Darkest Night
Radimar started out as defender in the duel but turned the tide, becoming the aggressor as Alreed slowed, and his shield arm tired. Frustration replaced cool-headed calculation, and he began leaving openings in his defenses that Radimar exploited with zeal, landing blows that didn’t cut but bruised, beat, and wearied his opponent.
When Radimar smashed his boot heel into Alreed’s inner thigh, the champion’s bellow carried above the audience’s cheers. He staggered to one knee, shield and sword raised in full defense as Radimar battered him with both swords.
They had traveled from the arena’s center to its muddier edge. Intent on delivering a relentless beating to his adversary, Radimar didn’t notice until it was too late. One step landed him outside the straw and onto the slippery mud. He stumbled, and Alreed saw his chance.
With a triumphant shout he lunged forward, head-butting Radimar hard enough in the stomach to knock the wind out of him. Both men crashed to the groud, Alreed on top of Radimar. The champion abandoned his shield to rip at Radimar’s helmet and expose his head for a skull cracking. Radimar heaved to one side just in time to avoid the full impact of a blow as Alreed drove his sword pommel toward Radimar’s face. The pommel clipped the edge of his helm and caught the curve of his cheek just below his eye. For a moment, Radimar’s vision went black on that side, and the inside of his skull vibrated.
He had managed to keep a grip on his own swords when he fell and used their ends to slam them into into Alreed’s sides. A satisfying pop sounded, and Alreed groaned. It wasn’t enough to dislodge him. The swords were too long to maneuver in the close space between them. Radimar released one and used the heel of his gauntleted hand to smash it into the underside of his opponent’s chin.
This time Alreed screamed and hurtled backwards, but not before showering Radimar in a spray of blood, teeth and what he suspected were bits of Alreed’s tongue.
Radimar sprang to his feet, snatched up his sword and retreated back to the straw as he waited for Alreed to rise. The side of his face throbbed hard enough to make his entire head pound and he wiped away blood not his own so he could see properly. Had the champion’s blow struck him full on, he would have killed Radimar.
Alreed rose on a stagger, blood coursing from his mouth and down his chin in a crimson stream. He grinned at Radimar, revealing broken teeth and spaces where no teeth remained. His breathing gurgled, and he spat gobbets of blood into the straw. Animalistic growls vibrated from his throat as he retrieved his sword and shield. The man who said he’d take Jahna like a dog was transforming into one himself, made rabid by pain and fury.
Sensing that this duel, begun as an exercise of frivolous entertainment, had turned both personal and deadly, the crowd screamed for more. For Radimar, their screeching was nothing more than a whisper. There was only Alreed and his defeat.
It didn’t take long after that. The swordmaster of Ilinfan proved to all who witnessed the fight that those who trained with the Brotherhood of Ilinfan knew and understood the art of the sword like no other.
Alreed’s attacks had lost all finesse, becoming nothing more than the charges of a maddened bull. Radimar dodged them effortlessly, using his own swords either to deliver more of the shallow cuts or the pommel of the blades to land bruising strikes. When the disappointed king finally declared him the winner, Radimar had Alreed on his knees, facing the king, one of Radimar’s blades pressed to the champion’s throat in the sign of victory.
People roared his name and soon a hail of flowers, ribbons, scarves, gloves and hats rained down in the arena, pelting Radimar as he saluted the king and walked away from the now prone and bloodied Alreed. The sound of his name shouted in chant filled the night air, but the triumph he felt sprang not from the crowd’s adulation but the internal satisfaction of wreaking vengeance on the man who had insulted a woman so undeserving of the offense.
Once more he paused before Lord Uhlfrida whose jubilant expression assured Radimar he’d just made his employer a wealthier man than he had been earlier in the day. Jahna’s own features held a mixture of joy and fear. For him. She clasped her hands together and offered him a low bow, one mimicked by her father. Radimar bowed in return and tapped his shoulder where the brooch rested unharmed under his hauberk.
He exited the field, now littered with favors of every type and met a grinning Sodrin who looked ready to jump out of his skin from sheer elation. “That was incredible! I’ve never seen the like in any Exhibition!” He inhaled a long breath to calm himself. “And you defended my sister’s honor,” he said in a much more even voice. “You were right, Sir Radimar. You didn’t kill him, but you sure made him wish you had.”
Excerpt From Jeffe’s Kennedy, because she got roped into this and she isn’t even getting a chicken out of this deal.
The Snows of Windroven.
“I never intended to cause you pain, Ami,” I told the top of her head as she worked to clean the cuts. Brutally insufficient words to describe the depth of what I’d never intended. Beginning with laying a finger on her royal, unblemished skin. Even with her tending me out of simple sympathy, in broad view of the travelers on the main highway, the least brush of her fingers on my skin brought up the insatiable lust for her, hard and hot.
She looked up at me and creaked out a smile through still damp eyes. “I know that. And you’ve made me so happy.” She took a deep breath. “I always understood, though, that this was temporary.”
“We both understood that, from the first night by the lake.”
Her smile went tremulous. “When I seduced you, despite your better judgement.”
I laughed, though it never comes out right. It always sounds more like a groan scraping out of my scarred throat. “Everything with you has been against my better judgement, Ami. And I’ve never been able to help myself. You burn so bright.”
“Like staring into the sun,” she said, an oddly sorrowful crease at the corners of her eyes. Her innate magic made her beautiful even in tears and other extremes of emotion—and my passionate queen ranged through many extremes—so rarely did she look as she did now, smudged with unhappiness, dented by my careless handling of her. “Do you remember when you said that to me? You said you were afraid you’d come away burned and blinded.”
“I remember,” I allowed. I did so much better with silence. I should never have broken my vow. If I hadn’t, we wouldn’t have come to this pass.
“You said that if you stared into the sun too long, you’d be immolated, and the only freedom for you would be to stay far, far away.”
Never mistake that a mind sharp as a sword lies behind that pretty face. She likely remembered every word I’d ever said to her, both the wise and the incautious.
You get violence with tongue bits, I get chicken and wine, so we are all set.
I live on military SF set in deep space. You know, the kind where there are massive ships and dramatic space battles, and a small deadly team of space marines or space sailors is caught in the grinder of war and forced to become heroes almost against their will. It’s big and epic, but oh so human. You come to care about the team and then, if you are reading Tanya Huff, almost everyone dies, or if you are reading Jack Campbell, there are intrigues and politics and you get angry on behalf of the characters. Wave that in front of me, and I will download a sample. If there are aliens involved, I’m buying.
Yes, I’m a sucker, leave me alone.
Awhile ago I saw Jim Hines talk about his new book. It was a military SF, set in space, with epic space battles and a small team… you get the picture. I was like, “Ooo, let me google this.” I googled it.
Read the synopsis.
In his hilarious new sci-fi series, Jim C. Hines introduces the unlikely heroes that may just save the galaxy: a crew of space janitors.
The Krakau came to Earth to invite humanity into a growing alliance of sentient species. However, they happened to arrive after a mutated plague wiped out half the planet, turned the rest into shambling, near-unstoppable animals, and basically destroyed human civilization. You know—your standard apocalypse.
The Krakau’s first impulse was to turn around and go home. (After all, it’s hard to have diplomatic relations with mindless savages who eat your diplomats.) Their second impulse was to try to fix us. Now, a century later, human beings might not be what they once were, but at least they’re no longer trying to eat everyone. Mostly.
Marion “Mops” Adamopoulos is surprisingly bright (for a human). As a Lieutenant on the Earth Mercenary Corps Ship Pufferfish, she’s in charge of the Shipboard Hygiene and Sanitation team. When a bioweapon attack wipes out the Krakau command crew and reverts the rest of the humans to their feral state, only Mops and her team are left with their minds intact.
Escaping the attacking aliens—not to mention her shambling crewmates—is only the beginning. Sure, Mops and her team of space janitors and plumbers can clean the ship as well as anyone, but flying the damn thing is another matter.
As they struggle to keep the Pufferfish functioning and find a cure for their crew, they stumble onto a conspiracy that could threaten the entire alliance… a conspiracy born from the truth of what happened on Earth all those years ago.
So, long story short, I twisted Jim’s arm for an advanced reader copy. The book is damn hilarious. It’s less Tanya Huff and more Phule’s Company in the best possible way. It’s witty and sharp, it sneaks in some social commentary, and it skates just on the right side of the line between clever absurdity and complete chaos. And the sanitation jokes. So many sanitation jokes.
Mops chuckled and approached the only occupied cell. Glowing letters in the wide, glassy door labeled it Cell 6. “Doc, how long until we jump?”
A narrow cot strained to hold Technician Wolfgang Mozart’s bulk. The guards had stripped Wolf of her equipment and harness, leaving her black jumpsuit bare and baggy. A short blue service stripe on her upper right sleeve marked her time in the EMC, just as the two short and one long red Lieutenant stripes on Mops’ denoted her twelve years. Wolf’s sleeves were pushed back to the elbows, exposing the tattoo of an Earth wolf on her left forearm. She flexed her muscles, and the reactive inks animated the wolf’s jowls, making it bare its teeth in challenge.
“I was just doing my job. The Glacidae should be in here, not me. They’re the one who started giving me crap.”
Mops folded her arms and said nothing. Anticipating her next request, Doc pulled up the incident report details on her monocle.
The cot creaked as Wolf sat up and ran thick fingers through her dark, sweat-spiked hair. She looked Mops up and down, probably trying to assess how much trouble she was in. “I mean that literally, you know. I was busting my ass trying to clear a jam in their toilet. The next thing I know, they’re shooting shit-pellets in my direction.”
“That wasn’t excrement. Technician Gromgimsidalgak was expelling unfertilized eggs.”
“Whatever. It was like a machine gun from their ass.”
“I’m sure Grom was as unhappy about it as you were.”
Since the book was tons of fun, and I invited Jim over for a guest blog post. Jim – Book Devouring Horde. BDH – Jim Hines. Enjoy!
Ilona was kind enough to read an advance copy of my book Terminal Alliance, which—by amazing coincidence—comes out this week. She was also kind enough to say, “I loved the book!” and to invite me to do a guest blog post.
I’m tempted to jump right into PLEASE BUY MY BOOK I’VE GOT CATS AND DOGS AND KIDS TO FEED (NOT NECESSARILY IN THAT ORDER) mode, but I’ll save that for the end. First, I want to chat about…let’s call it story snobbery.
I don’t mean hating a particular story. Some stories are just bad. (Case in point: almost all of my unpublished work from the mid-90s when I was first learning how to write.) But when you get into dismissing or looking down upon entire genres? That’s messed up.
One week it might be a NYT book columnist dismissing science fiction and fantasy as empty, juvenile nonsense. The next week, we SF/F geeks console ourselves by ripping on those literary writers and their plotless, metaphor-laden wankfests. And it seems like everyone wants to take a shot at romance novels. (Isn’t it odd how romance, one of the most universally sneered-at genres, is also one of the genres most aimed at women? Coincidence, I’m sure…)
I’ve talked before about my development as a writer, how I started out wanting to write “important” stories. To me, that meant serious, literary science fiction and fantasy. I bought right into the story snobbery. I loved SF/F, but I wanted to avoid those “lesser” forms.
I hated trying to be that writer. It wasn’t me. Eventually, I said the heck with it and started writing stories that were more fun, stories about nearsighted goblins and flaming spiders and magic librarians and kick-ass princess and, most recently, space janitors. What I thought of as your basic junk food fiction.
Those were the stories that sold.
It used to be when I talked about my path, that was where I’d end it. I’d discovered my voice, thrown off the yoke of important stories, and built a career. I found happiness in my little ghetto of “bubble-gum fantasy,” as one reviewer put it. I lived happily ever after, eventually hitting the NYT bestseller list and getting those big Hollywood deals and earning enough money to buy Hawaii. (I write fantasy. I’m allowed to dream…)
What took me longer to figure out was that those bubble-gum books mattered too.
I started to understand when a teacher from the west coast emailed me about one of her students who hated reading. He wouldn’t read anything. And one day, she left a copy of Goblin Quest on her desk. He was intrigued. Not only did he end up finishing it, he went on to read the whole trilogy. He wrote a report on the books. Later, he sent me a letter about them.
My book—my book!—was the book he needed. It changed him. That revelation shook me. To quote Keanu, “Whoa…”
In recent years, I’ve seen another type of dismissal: not of a specific genre, but of a story type. “Not another Mary-Sue,” bemoans the long-suffering (usually male) critic, complaining of yet another too-competent girl or woman. “So unbelievable,” he sneers, setting the book aside to watch the latest incarnation of Batman.
Screw that. We need Mary-Sue stories too. We need stories of uber-competent women. And when people complain it’s just blatant wish-fulfilment, so what? Why shouldn’t women be allowed to fulfil their wishes too?
There are no unimportant genres. The world needs romance and fantasy, literature and poetry. We need comics and tie-in work and mystery and thriller. We need densely written epics and one-day comfort reads.
It took me far too long to start breaking down my own prejudices, to recognize the power and importance of stories I’d dismissed in the past.
Never underestimate the impact of story. Maybe it’s a depressed teenager finding escape in a romance novel. Maybe it’s a little kid finding dreams and inspiration in sci-fi. Maybe it’s an old man in hospice finding comfort in the poetic language of literary fiction.
Stories are everything. They shape how we understand the world. They give hope and comfort and joy. They create empathy and compassion. They bring people together in amazing ways.
Even, I hope, stories about space janitors. About Lieutenant Marion Susan Adamopoulos (“Mops”) and her team of utterly unqualified humans having to figure out how to fly the ship when the rest of the crew is incapacitated. (They also have the ship’s Glacidae computer tech, a yellow worm-like creature who spends too much time playing video games on the bridge viewscreen.)
Terminal Alliance isn’t deep literary fiction. It wasn’t meant to be. I wrote it to be fun, to bring a bit of happiness and maybe even hope to people. I wrote because I wanted to challenge certain SF tropes, and I wanted to show Mops overpowering attackers by hotwiring a space station’s sanitation system.
Thanks for reading. And thank you Ilona for loaning me your platform.
Read well. Read widely. And no matter what you read, read unashamedly.
Jim website can be found here: http://www.jimchines.com/
Excerpt of Terminal Alliance can be found here: http://www.jimchines.com/project/janitors/
Buy links for your convenience. Please remember that your mileage may vary, so always try a sample before you buy.