Thursday, January 28, 2010

Hilariously funny, fantasy author, Gail Carriger

Gail Carriger launched her first Parasol Protectorate book, Soulless, at World Fantasy Convention last October. When I saw the poster of the cover on the party floor of the hotel, I had to read the book. I could maybe have resisted the cover art --maybe, but there was no stopping me from buying a book with that tag line.

It was a funny, entertaining read. Read my review at Mostly Fiction. Make sure to read the book and don't skip the jacket copy.

I didn't get a chance to get to know Gail at WFC, so I'm glad for this opportunity to interview her so we can get to know her together.

AW: What made you settle on vampires, werewolves and ghosts in Soulless?

GC: For one thing, they just fit so well with the premise of the science of the soul. For another, they are all monsters with strong Victorian literature ties. I've read a lot of gothic lit over the years. Those three monsters in particular strike me as quintessentially Victorian. So I decided to twist it around and explore a world where such supernatural creatures were accepted as part of society ~ what, then, becomes the monster?

AW: Why parasols? Is there a long-standing family joke with parasols? Was it just a crazy juxtaposition that you thought up?

GC: Parasols were such a ubiquitous item for a fashionable young lady in the Victorian age and they do make a most excellent weapon, especially if you are inclined to bashing people atop the head. How could I resist? Also "parasol" is such a delicious word.

AW: Has your sense of humor ever gotten you into trouble?

GC: More times than I can possibly count. I always think I'm hilarious and I will open my big mouth at the most inopportune times. Wine, let me just say, does not help with this problem.

AW: Between the cover and the tag line ("A Novel of vampires, werewolves and parasols") I had to have Soulless. Did you pen the tag line?

GC: You know, I think the tag line is all Orbit's doing. I did, however, have a hand in the cover. Very few authors are so lucky.

I appreciated how Alexia was able to have a certain amount of freedom because of her mother having given up hope of her landing a husband with her long nose and Italian heritage. Was this your first choice for this device? If not, what were some of your other ideas and what made you settle on the nose and the Italian heritage?

GC: Difficult question. Alexia is Italian because of her name. That is to say, when I was coming up with the character I found that name and everything just followed after. I've had a love affair with Italy since I excavated there 15 years ago, so it was a natural choice for me. As to the nose and the skin, I knew she had to be atypical in appearance (and attitude and thought) so I could have her a spinster. Also, I don't like to write beautiful main characters, they're boring.

AW: What do you miss most about Europe? Why?

GC: I enjoyed how aware Europeans always seemed to be about the rest of the world. And then there was the food. And the fashion. Oh, and the shoes!

AW: I can imagine that you must have books by P.G. Wodehouse, Jane Austen, and Charlotte Bronte on your bookshelf. What author or books are on your bookshelf that would most surprise your readers? What do you like about them? Did they play some small part in forming your idea for the Parasol Protectorate?

GC: Ooo, books that would surprise, huh? Well I have a tidy little manga collection, and a whole shelf of YA. The manga probably wasn't that significant an influence (since it's mostly yaoi) but the YA certainly has an effect. I tend to think of myself as writing in a YA style, that is a straightforward character-driven plot with a side dose of world building.

AW: Where can we find a teaser for the next book, Changeless?

GC: Before you go read it, I should warn your readers that if you haven't read the first book, there is a spoiler in the blurb for the second. If that's OK, you can catch the blurb on my website,, or on Amazon. Changeless will be out March 31 and the third book, Blameless, is also due this year, in September. As for teasers, there is an excerpt from the first chapter of Changeless in the back of Soulless.

AW: Do you have an idea in mind for your next project? Will you pick another historical era to set future books in or stay Victorian?

GC: I'm working on three ideas at the moment ~ all Victorian. However, while I enjoy the Victorian era I'd love to dabble in turn-of-the-century Old West America. My archaeological studies have taken me to Etruscan, Roman, Greek, late Islamic Empire, Wari, and Inca times, so I consider any and all of those fair game as well. There just aren't enough hours in the day to write everything I want to write.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Hump day haps and Radcon

Here's SF news for this last hump day of January.

My friend, Kim Richards of Damnation books reports:

Damnation Books, LLC acquires Eternal Press

Santa Rosa, Calif., Jan. 21, 2010 -- On January 1st, 2010 Damnation Books, LLC took the reins of Eternal Press, moving the previously Canadian based publisher to the United States. Both companies specialize in ebooks and also paperback editions of their fiction. Read press release.

This isn't science fiction, but it used to be. It's that computer that you've seen on your favortie SF shows. It's real. But it has a much-maligned name. There is all kinds of snarking going on on in cyberspace over the iPad. But first watch the video. Here's a Washington Post article focusing on the name. It's snarky, too.

iPulpFiction has a short story by Ben Bova. Read "Bloodless Victory" on March 1st at Bova, one of my favorite SF authors, is a championship fencer. In "Bloodless Victory," he explores the "what if" of dueling as the method of legal justice.

I got my itinerary for Radcon. I'm so jazzed. Check it out:
Writing non-human protagonists (and Larry Niven is also on this one!)
Short story markets
Writers vs. artists Pictionary
Compartmentalized characters
Trek memories
John Pitts birthday party
Bartending for Renovations 2011 party
Is it sci-fi, fantasy or horror?
Broad Universe Rapid Fire Reading
Book signing

Super panels and most excellent people to share them with!

I'm also going on a tour of Hanford Nuclear Facility. It will be a great field trip for one of my novels. Radcon rocks!

Look for my interview with author Gail Carriger here on Friday, to coincide with my review of Soulless on Mostly Fiction.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Abyss & Apex editor and writer, Wendy S. Delmater

I met Wendy at World Fantasy last year. We sat at the same table during the mass book signing. She was gushing over a particular story in an issue of Abyss & Apex because it was so fresh and well-written. Oh, to have an editor do that about one of my stories! Well, maybe they have when I wasn't listening. Anyway, I found Wendy a delightful tablemate and I am so glad of this opportunity to get to know her better and share her with my readers.

Wendy is the Editor in Chief for Abyss and Apex magazine and a speculative fiction writer herself. In fact, she just sold "Jack & the Beanstalker" to a new webzine called Uncast Shadows, publication date TBA.

AW: What or whom inspired you to write? To become an editor?

WD: My father was a reading tutor and he got me reading at a college level before fourth grade. And it was a lonely childhood: my mother was sick since I was three, and my father worked two jobs (and was often bitter and abusive). So I was an avid reader as a child; an avid reader who needed an escape into the worlds of Kipling, Frank Baum, Walter Farley, Louisa May Alcott, and Robert Louis Stevenson. I grew up with some very talented friends – but they were all authors.

Connie Willis once said that she had read so much she was no longer surprised, so she wrote stories to surprise herself. I found that to be a big part of the draw of writing. But I also wanted to write things that had that “aha!” moment, a reveal for the reader. To learn how, I joined the Del Rey Online Writing Workshop when it was about six months old. It eventually morphed into the Online Writing Workshop and I was a member for six years. I made lasting friendships there, people like author Charles Coleman Finlay, Melinda Goodin (who does the Locus Spreadsheet), Ilona Andrews, Ruth Nestvold, Marsha Sisolak (former editor of Ideomancer), copyeditor Deanna Hoak, writer (and blogger and editor) K. Tempest Bradford, and so many more you’d run out of space if I listed them all. You really bond with people when you share manuscripts: it’s like baring your soul and those who deal kindly and constructively with your faults are a treasure.

Oh, and by the way this meant I was no longer lonely: in writers and editors I’d found my “tribe”, as it were.

AW: When did you latch onto speculative fiction and why?

WD: Do you know what editor John W. Campbell called the golden age of science fiction? About twelve to fourteen years old. I was privileged to have a middle school right next to a public library and I dropped by several times a week. The new book acquisitions were done by a serious genre fan. She introduced me to Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, Pohl Anderson, Arthur C. Clarke, Clifford D. Simak and Ray Bradbury. I was thrilled to discover that Andre Norton was female. I was introduced to Tolkien and from there to fantasy authors like Lloyd Alexander, C.S. Lewis, Madeline L’Engle and more.

I was well and truly hooked. It was the worldbuilding that drew me in, and the “what ifs”. How would people respond to having magical powers or objects? How would human nature respond to this or that new technology or disaster?

AW: Are you often surprised by prose submissions? I mean in a good way. Something that is truly unique?

WD: *laughs* I’d better be or I’d never buy anything!

AW: Do you notice a difference in writing style between men and women?

WD: Nope. Next question?

Seriously, I am pretty much gender-blind. There have been many messy blog wars and accusations of bias made about other editors (who will remain nameless). Fur has flown on the issue. Genre watchdogs do headcounts on how many male vs. female authors a mag publishes, and to be honest my staff has some internal stats: percentage of male/female submissions vs. how many of each we publish. Me? I pretty much strip off the headers and go by the story itself. And I am no longer shocked at how well guys “get” what it means to be female, or how macho (if you will) a woman writer can write.

AW: Are women able to pull off a male protagonist as well as a female one, generally? And can guys get women protags right as easily as they can men? Do you think this is something writers struggle with?

WD: We’re writers. We make stuff up based on research and observing people. If we are good at it, they publish us. Anyone can observe the opposite sex or study them, and then writers can have someone of the opposite gender read a manuscript to see if it sounds authentic. Simple.

AW: I imagine that you have to contend with a lot of overused phrases and devices. What was the 2009 crop like? What phrases and devices should writers avoid in 2010?

WD: Anything derivative. I mean that! Editors watch TV and movies, and they know what’s hot and what’s not. Your Twilight fanfic or your thinly veiled Famous Role Playing Game scenario with the filed off serial numbers? We see right through those, yes we do. And it does not endear you to us at all. Please do not copy the Next Big Thing. We are looking for originality.

AW: What is the Abyss & Apex guidelines instruction most often ignored by writers?

WD: It’s a tie: about half of them ignore the “no horror” admonition and the other half ignore our reading periods.

AW: What was your favorite story in A & A? What made it stand out above all the others?

WD: I have to pick one? I had trouble picking a dozen, and they went into The Best of Abyss & Apex, Volume one from Hadley Rille Books.

I guess I am always fondest of the current edition. The First Quarter 2010 edition of A&A leads with Lisa Koosis’s “How We Fly,” which (as I was telling Gardner Dozois at the SFWA reception) is an amazing story. You know that sense of wonder, that human connection, that awe and tears that the reality of our humanness can create? It’s all there.

AW: Do you still find time to write? Are you working on something now?

WD: I just quit my engineering job in NYC, got married, moved to the Deep South, and terraformed my house. Yes, I still write a little, but although I have novels nearly done it’s just short fiction at the moment. It looks like I sold a story this week but I will not mention where until they send me that all-important contract. (This was the aforementioned "Jack & the Beanstalker". )

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Motivational surroundings and miscellany

I had a productive weekend. I finished two story rewrites, a book review (Soulless) and brainstormed with my buddy Aidan and my hubby on my new Awesome Lavratt story. I also sent out interview questions for Soulless author, Gail Carriger. I probably could have phrased that better. Gail isn't soulless.

This Friday I'm posting an interview with Abyss & Apex editor, Wendy Delmater. The following Friday is my interview with Gail to be posted in tandem with the Soulless book review at Mostly Fiction. Stay tuned.

I moved my dry erase calendar downstairs to my writing computer area and populated it with my interview schedule, conventions, story subs, etc. I don't really spend time in our home office any more. Not to write, anyway. I do that in my zero grav chair with my laptop. At the writing convention in October, Steve Hockensmith had some excellent ideas regarding keeping your writing space motivational. I'm going to go to Office Depot (aka my toy store) and get a white board to plot out my stories, track my progress on novels, post questions that need answering about characters or the tech or worldbuilding etc. and a cork board to display my acceptance letters, copies of my first checks for stories and my reviews and first royalty check for Awesome Lavratt.

Enough about me. Need a SF news fix? There's a rumor that Joss Whedon may be giving FX a whirl with a new show. Read the story at hitfix. Keep your fingers crossed Browncoats!

Oooh! And Gail won an award for Soulless!

I just discovered that Kage Baker is in the hospital following surgery for a cancerous brain tumor. Here is an open letter from her caregiver who asks for emails of support and prayers for Kage.

And for my writing readers, you might find this post by Marie Brennan helpful when writing the domesticated woman character. Home is where the hero isn’t

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Interview on PodioRocket of yours truly and Avatar - again

Well, now it's my turn. Due to various emails going astray, my scheduled interview for tonight is postponed. What's up with gmail anyway? Or is it on their end. Hmmmm. Anyway, Brian Rathbone interviewed me during World Fantasy and the interview just posted on PodioRacket yesterday. It's with an interview with one of my cohorts, Andrea Howe of Blue Falcon Editing.

Give it a listen.

Of course this reminds me that I have one-hour interview at a local radio station that I still need to edit down and break up. I read a complete short, short story during the interview. I was going to pull that out and edit the thing down. I can make the whole thing available, too, but that would be huge file.

But when? I have to catch up on writing, reading and reviewing.

For anyone who still hasn't seen Avatar. Are you kidding me? Go! Now! But you'll have to buy tickets in advance and get there early for a good seat. I still need to make the trip to an IMAX theater to see it. I'm so ready to see it a third time. It's setting all kinds of records. According to an article in BBC News, it may be the most successful movie - EVER!

Official Avatar Movie

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Science fiction hump day haps

Since I'm currently in a winter slump, apparently, with no news of my own, I thought I'd share some news from my fellow writers:

David Brin reports that the movie option on his short story, "Detritus Affected" was just extended. You can read the story in his anthology, Otherness.

According to SF Awards Watch, Cherie Priest's steampunk novel Boneshaker (Tor), won a 2010 Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award.

And if you have your own steampunk novel you've been shopping around, send a query to Junior Agent Sandy Lu at L. Perkins Agency. She's hungry for steampunk. (nods to Cynthia Ward for the tip)

More news from the Pacific Northwest: Jay Lake received the John Dalmas award. The award is in appreciation for his many years of support for Radcon and fandom in general. I'll be there, Jay, to see you receive it. :)

Stephanie Osborn reports: The Y Factor, best-selling ebook and sequel to Dream Realm Award winner Human By Choice, is an EPPIE finalist, just released in print. Book 3 in the series, The Cresperian Alliance, will be released as an ebook around 1 Feb.

Apparently reports of Kirkus Reviews' demise were exaggerated -- or rather overridden? Read about it at Locus.

As I reported on Friday, IROSF (Internet Review of Science Fiction) is closing up shop. But they're going out with a bang. Don't miss the last two issues. Read January issue now.

And here's some science without the fiction news from Daily Mail: What on Earth was that? Mystery space object whizzes past our planet Experts disagree on what it was.

Here are the books at the top of my TBR list. Most will be reviewed at Mostly Fiction.
Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett (currently reading)
Are You There? And Other Stories by Jack Skillingstead (currently reading)
Starbound by Joe Haldeman (author interview in the works, too)
City at the End of Time by Greg Bear
Able One by Ben Bova

Next interviews up:
Michael Hanlon, Daily Mail science editor and author of Eternity
Wendy S. Delmater, Editor in Chief of Apex and Abyss magazine
Joe Haldeman, SF author
Deborah J. Ross, Fantasy author

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Friday, January 8, 2010

Friday funk and other junk

It was a grey January day in "sunny" California. I had a horrible day to end a lousy week. But why dwell? Let's wallow, shall we?

I just read over at Locus that Internet Review of Science Fiction is folding after its February issue. So sad. Here's the story.

On the trying to make it as a SF author front, here are some recent posts about why editors and agents say "no":

My novel, Awesome Lavratt, is supposed to now be available through Baker and Taylor, Ingrams, etc. Please let me know of sightings in bookstores. Meantime, buy one straight from me and I'll even sign it and ship it for free. See my website for details. I'm sure a book sale or two would cheer me up. We writers are really a sad, validation-seeking bunch, aren't we?

I just watched the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still again. It certainly wasn't better the second time. I do like the whole step-mom thing, though, being one myself. And of course, Keanu Reeves saying, "Your planet?" And Kathy Bates. Gotta love her! Even when she's the bad guy.

I had a dream several days ago that we had a cage that had these outside branches like bird perches. Inside the cage were are pet miniature dinosaurs. On the branches were other dinosaurs that looked like tree frogs with brontosaurus necks. One got out, bit my husband and I was trying to track it down. Talk about saved by the bell! I was never so glad to wake up! I'll stick with my 2 dogs and a cat any day. I wonder if there's a story in there somewhere?

And I solved a nagging mystery. That thing that Dr. Who says is allons y. It's "let's go" in French. What would we do without the internet?

This weekend will find Horace Whistlestop (of Awesome Lavratt fame) enslaved by a 7' lizard and fighting off aliens in search of Aranna. I must get a healthy chunk completed for my crit group, the Speculative Fictionators.

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Friday, January 1, 2010

A SF welcome to the New Year

Happy 2010! And to begin the year on the proper Science Fiction footing...

Patrick Stewart has been knighted! Congrats to Sir Patrick!

And it's now Sir Peter Jackson as well. Sir Peter is the acclaimed film writer/director of Lord of the Rings fame.

I was sent this by a co-worker this week and it blew my socks off. 50 examples of masterful CGI.

I neglected to mention regarding District 9: Beware of the F-Bombs. It's the most frequently used word in the film besides articles. Would have enjoyed it more without them, personally.

For my writer readers, here's a blog entry on rookie mistakes sending ARCs for review. Thanks to Jason Sanford, for sharing it on Facebook and Matt Staggs for composing it.

Here's a sneak peak at the new Doctor for Doctor Who.

Not to be a downer. I just happened to run across this on my Facebook wall as well and thought I'd share. For my horror fan readers, here are the 2009 Horror Obits.

If anyone has a similar list for science fiction, do share. I'm sure someone has already compiled such a thing somewhere. I know we lost many greats last year.

My review of Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde has the honor of being the first review posted at Mostly Fiction Book Reviews. Don't forget to read my interview with Fforde as well, if you haven't already.

Also posted this week on Mostly Fiction is my review of Immortality Factor by Ben Bova. It was first entitled Brothers and was re-released as a contemporary novel.

I'm fully immersed in Soulless by Gail Carriger. It's a real page-turner. Review to follow. It's the cover and tag line that sold me on this book. Soulless: A novel of vampires, werewolves and parasols.

It's the parasol that cinched it.

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