Posts Tagged ‘Seanan McGuire’

So I’ve committed to my writing hommies, RSA Garcia and Drea James, to make a big push on In A Murphy Minute. That goal of getting a draft done by my birthday 35 days from now is still sorta reasonable. Tagging along with NaNoWriMo and making it NaFiTFuThiMo (National Finish The Fucking Thing Month) makes sense. Lots of the wordsmiths will be making a big push on their projects so why not us too?

Before I go dark on the blog for a while (cause I’ve been a regular posting fiend, eh? #sarcasm) I’m going to drop some book recommendations. I’ve hit a streak of very excellent books lately. Side note, as I sit here and tally them up, I realized it’s all SFF women authors since mid-summer(ish). So woo!

Anyways. Bite sized book recommendations incoming!

empireascendantEmpire Ascendant by Kameron Hurley

I have to start with this one. If you follow me on twitter, you can’t have missed me raving about Hurley’s work. Hurley is writing hands down, some of the best stuff out there. Period. End of sentence. I will throw money at anything she writes. Check out the round of up the big blog push she made for Empire‘s release. Specifically, this book is the second in the series that puts epic in epic fantasy. This of a sprawling plot that would make GRRM nod sagely but without a lot of the dated baggage that plagues epic fantasy. Battles, scheming and one of the most unique magic systems I’ve ever read. Hurley also dodges a lot of the Book Two Problems. You know the ones, book one is standalone-ish but book just just cuts off and the end of the page count, really being more of a single book in conjunction with book three. Yes, Empire ends with a lot of questions, it is a trilogy after all, but it is because the stakes are being raised constantly in this book. Hurley cranks up the consequences rather than filling out a page count and whoops, time to read book three. Seriously. Go get this book. If you haven’t read book one, go read The Mirror Empire first and then read this one. Read everything Hurley.

 

darkascensionDark Ascension by ML Brennan

Seems everyone is ascending lately. This is the fourth and final book in the Generation V series. This whole series is fun as hell and takes a cool spin on the vampire mythos. Even though the main character is a vampire, the series features more than the usual suspects for UF, which I appreciate a lot. It also is local. The book takes place in Rhode Island and I’ve been to most every spot mentioned in the books. In this fourth book, Fortitude Scott really comes into his own as part of the ruling clan of things that go bump in the shadows. He’s a lot more active as a character, which suits his evolution across the whole books when he started as extremely reluctant to even be a vampire. He’s now in a proper relationship with Suze, his kitsune counterpart. They are awesome together. I’d hang out with them.

 

undergroundUnderground by Kat Richardson

This Greywalker #3 which just goes to show how behind I am on this one because the series finished out at number 9 last year. Harper is a tough cookie of a PI and she can see the dead ghosts of Seattle. In this book, her techie friend Quentin asks if she can look into something that’s killing off the local homeless. She literally runs around under the city streets chasing down the beasties plaguing the city. I enjoy Quentin’s story now that he gets a chance to team up with Harper on this. One of the big selling points of Richardson’s books for me, is that I can pick up the next book in the series without reading cliff notes of all the books before hand. It’s tough to remind people what happened in previous books without an infodump. I always, always appreciate someone who can pull that off.

 

artificalnightAn Artificial Night by Seanan McGuire

Speaking of authors who are awesome at writing a series that you can pick up seamlessly between books, I read October Day #3. I discovered McGuire’s books when the InCryptid were just starting so I’m woefully behind on Toby. Ironic that I read this book so close to reading Underground because Toby and Harper are two sides of the same coin. Toby is an unofficial PI on the fairy side of the UF world rather than the human side. McGuire is one of the tops at being brutal to her characters and I feel bad for Toby because I know she gets put through the ringer six more times plus another three in the works. This book introduces May who is very rad and cranks things up with Tybalt who is bad ass.

 

breakoutBreakout by Ann Aguirre

Hey look! Another series book! Been reading a lot of these. This one is the third of the Dred Chronicles and I’m around 60% though this one. This book takes place in an unashamedly brutal world. All the characters are lifers of the worst sort on a space station where they are ignored and left to run amok and kill each other. These aren’t nice people but you’re rooting for them anyways. This is also one of a very few science fiction books where characters are allowed to romantic with each other. Aguirre has a wonderfully deft touch at plot twists that raise the stakes constantly. I highly recommend this whole series, starting with Perdition.

 

wakeofvulturesWake of Vultures by Lila Bowen

I’m waiting for this one to show up in the mail. (Amazon *still* hasn’t shipped the book even though I preordered it back in August and the book dropped last Tuesday. Thanks Amazon #sarcasm) Lila Bowen is the alter ego of Delilah Dawson who is super rad. I’ve read piles of her books and loved every one. She also taught that character building class I took over the summer. She’s influenced my writing a lot, and did before the class too. Honestly, I don’t even need to know what the book is about to buy a Dawson book. This one is Dawson doing Weird West, a genre mashup that I don’t see enough of so I’m eager for this one to show up on my door.

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I actually have some free time and today (edit, not really. I wrote half of this last Tuesday) so I am going to use it to talk about awesome books. Or at least, books I expect to be awesome. I’m not going to talk about books I’ve already finished this time. I’m elbow deep into Dance with Dragons anyways, so the previous read was a while ago. Today, I want to talk about the books in my To Read Pile. They’re sitting on the shelf, waiting to be read as soon as I finish this last GRRM tome. Of course, at the speed I’ve been getting books done lately, I’ll see October before I finish this pile.

toreadpile

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So that’s them, held up with a Medusa head. That’s how I roll. Time to talk about them. From top to bottom and left to right.

Generation V by M. L. Brennan – I think I first heard about her because Brennan was at NY ComicCon with Myke Cole. That sounds about right. Then I saw on twitter she was going to be doing a reading from the latest book in Providence and I was all like “Holy shit! People do things in Rhode Island! …. on days I’m unavailable…” One thing I’m seriously jazzed about, this book takes place in Rhode Island! New Yorkers can get blaze about urban fantasy happening in their backyard but after the author tweeted “Enjoy the RI locales”, I skimmed for where they were. The protag lives in Cranston, all of two miles from my house. I’m absolutely going to troll Cranston and take pictures of where the book happens. I’ve always wanted to do that (the pictures part, not trolling Cranston)

The Cracked Throne by Joshua Palmatier – This guy is a Shelf of Honor author with Well of Sorrows (as Benjamin Tate). This particular book is the second book in his first trilogy. Honestly, I often don’t read the back of the book for Shelf of Honor authors, or sequels to books I already liked. I don’t need any further convincing to buy them and the way the last book left off, the second should pick up pretty shortly after. I first saw him at Boskone 49.

Half-off Ragnarok by Seanan McGuire – This is book three in the InCryptid series. I think this will be the fifth of hers that I’ve read. I first started reading her books from a recommendation by Jim Hines. I started with InCryptid, instead of the Toby Daye books, because InCryptid was brand new at the time. McGuire was the Guest of Honor at the last Boskone and is pretty rad.

A Discourse in Steel by Paul S Kemp – Another sequel. Hrm, seems I have a lot of these. This is the second Egil and Nix book. They buckle swashes and kick asses. I’m pretty sure I learned of these books because anything published by Angry Robot is automatically on my radar.

Tricked by Kevin Hearne (a.k.a. Taco Pope) – Book four of the Iron Druid Chronicles, which is up to six or seven plus some novellas. I found Hearne off a recommendation via Sam Sykes (who was recommended by Scalzi). The protag, Atticus, and his dog Oberon are one of the best duos in the SF genre. There’s just as much humor in these books as the serious stuff. It makes the books refreshing.

In a Fix by Linda Grimes – This is a straight up bookstore browse find, the only proper one on the list. The protag is a “human chameleon” who pretends to be other people to fix things for them. Like getting someone to accept a marriage proposal. Shapeshifters and spies? Done. You don’t need any more to sell it.

The Cormorant by Chuck Wendig – Here’s some more awesomeness from Angry Robot Books. This is book three of the Miriam Black series, which just got picked up for a TV deal on Stars. Wendig writes with a lot of flair. And swears. So many swears. He’s also one of the go to people for writing shop talk. I read the first Miriam Black book when it was brandy new based off the trifecta of Lauren Beuckes, John Scalzi and the power of the Angry Robot.

The Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig – Copy and paste half of above right here. This is the start of a new series about gangsters and demons and magic.

Zeus and Co. by David Lee Jones – This is an old one I scored on a Book Barn browse. That’s the seriously epic used book store down in Connecticut. The book is old enough that it doesn’t even have a picture on Goodreads. I can’t even find any sort of web page for the correct David Lee Jones. It’s about hackers and Greek gods. I love godpunk so I nabbed this right away. I’m sure the 20 year old tech is going to be silly in it’s oldness, but I’m hoping it holds up anyways.

 Fiddlehead by Cherie Priest – Buying this book was another no-brainer. Fiddlehead is part of the Clockwork Century series which was bequeathed (bequoth?) on the Shelf of Honor. The series is often considered the definitive books of steampunk. I also enjoy how they are all interconnected but still readable as individuals. That’s a nice trait when I don’t usually have time to go back and reread a whole series. I think I first put Boneshaker (the first Clockwork Century) on 2009’s Xmas list after reading a Scalzi Big Idea post.

The Killing Moon by N. K. Jemisin – This book takes place in a world where the dominant magic system is fueled by people’s dreams. That is bad ass. The practitioners of this magic, well they could heal you … or maybe kill you. Either way. That’s a temple that is definitely worth reading about. Jemisin also comes recommended by most of my twitter feed.

Reamde by Neal Stephenson – Here is another Shelf of Honor author (with Ananthem). This is another of his books set in the real world. Reamde is a cyberpunk deal about online gamers and wars with Chinese gold farmers that spill over into the real world. It will get me all nostalgic for my Warcraft and EverQuest days. I read my first Stephenson book years ago off a recommendation from my dad.

God’s War by Kameron Hurley – I swear I had this book on my To Buy List before it was nominated for all the awards. Freelancing ex-government assassins? That’s pretty sweet. “Alien gene pirates” alone would sell me on it. I know that was all part of a back cover marketing angle and there are a lot more layers to the book. Good. As it should be. I think I first heard about Hurley from Seanan McGuire. She’s also a great person to follow on ye olde twitter.

Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear – This is not my first book by Bear and I know it won’t be the last. I previously read Undertow and thought that Bear wrote one of the best alien POV’s I’ve ever read in decades. She even got the seriously obscure reference to the cheela I made when I talked about her well written aliens. Ghosts is the first book in Mongol / Eastern based fantasy rather than the same old Medieval British based fantasy world. Bear came recommended from most of my twitter feed and I finally bought some of her books after seeing her at Boskone 50 last year.

lextalionisIn The Mail – Lex Talionis by R.S.A. Garcia – I was recommended this book when a twitter pal said “Hey, my sister has an awesome book coming out soon.” I was all like “Ima gonna go check this out.” And I did. And I got super happy because Lex uses one of my favorite SF tropes, which I hardly ever see anywhere. Amnesiatic protags that have to discover their identity right along with the reader. I can think of all of four books that do this, and two of them (Nine Princes in Amber and A Thousand Words for a Stranger) are on the Shelf of Honor. So this book is totally happening. I’m pretty sure I would have found this book regardless because Elizabeth Bear has also given it her recommendation.

 

shatteringtheleyOn Order – Shattering the Ley by Joshua Palmatier – Remember above how I said he was a Shelf of Honor author? Still applies here. The magic system in this book is closely tied with the infrastructure of the world and I find that whole concept very intriguing. I’m excited to see an epic storyline set in the urban city of the book. Ley drops in July right before Readercon so I’m hoping Palmatier rolls in for that con and I can add to my signed shelf.

As my novel’s query letter goes off through the grist mill, worrying me into an ulcer, I feel the need to dust off my blog and stop neglecting it for a few minutes.

When writing, it’s as easy as the night is dark, i.e. goddamn very, to worry and doubt over every little thing about every word you’ve ever written. It’s pretty across the board no matter what stage of the career someone is in. Usually I can have confidence in my writing and brush off troubles with “I do tend to write weird quirky stuff, ‘course it’s gonna be trouble to find a home.” But it certainly doesn’t work all the time. Those rejection letters still sting.

Times like that are when it’s easiest to pull back into a bubble, but that’s when bubbles are counterproductive for both the person and the product. For all it’s problems, the SF community is a haven on the tough days.

There are a lot of writers out there in the SF community that are interactive and write fantastic books and blogs. Seriously, twitter is the best thing ever for that kind of stuff. I love to hear updates on projects and offer up digital high fives when people hit their word count. I love the blogs and the book recommendations and finding new authors to read. It’s all fantastic stuff that makes slogging through the word mines easier.

But there are a few authors that have passed on a jolt of momentum thought the smallest of gestures. Things that have effected my productivity, my writing and my whole outlook on this shared passion we all have. I doubt most of them would remember those small gestures that helped me out, but I sure do. It really doesn’t take much for established authors to really help out someone who is striving to be their peer. A digital high five, a couple words of luck and encouragement. Little things like that mean a lot to me. More so because my first author interaction back in the wild west days of the internet called the 90s was a very negative one that discouraged me from writing for the better part of a decade.

When (not if) I get my book out into the world, It’s someone I’m going to make sure to pay the positive forward.

I also believe that as a community, the SF world needs to celebrate the good in addition to addressing the bad. I want to take the time to publicly offer up high fives to a handful of authors who have encouraged and motivated me thought the smallest of gestures. This is by no means an exhaustive list of those who inspire me, but this is an important subset of that list to me. I’ve gotten through bad days in the wordmines because of these small things.

First off are Lauren Buekes and Tobias Buckell. I’ve never actually met either in person, but my sister has gotten transcontinental book signings from them for me. She told them I am a writer and they put words of encouragement in the books for me. They didn’t just dash off their name and write “To Mike” on it and leave it at that. I thought it was pretty awesome that a couple of authors who had barely a couple of twitter conversations with would take the time to do that.

Delilah Dawson not too long ago took a few minutes to answer some “after the book is written” questions on getting things published. A lot of people wouldn’t take the time or effort to do that sort of thing. Putting your work out there finally is a daunting task with big steps. Those little questions I asked have helped me get to the stage I’m at now, (which is actually still trying to give me an ulcer, but in a good way)

Saladin Ahmed and Myke Cole have been such an influence on my work, each one has a specific scene in my novel specially dedicated to them. I’ve mentioned before, last time I went to Boskone, how Myke Cole is super approachable and a hell of a nice guy in person and online. Cole and Ahmed both will both challenge you to think. My output has been better for it. I had my some of my novel’s beta readers call out the scenes they inspired as some of the best in my book.

The last public thank you today is to Seanan McGuire that also prompted this post. Yesterday on twitter she was talking about how fan fiction shouldn’t be looked down on, but rather as a positive fan engagement when treated correctly. She likened it to “Hey, you’ve got all the cool toys, can I come over to your house to play?” It was something that really hit home for me. When I was in high school, I was dabbling with it a bit and first starting to really enjoy the whole writing thing. It was the Wild West days of the internet and authors were still just the mythical paragraph at the end of the book. My first interaction with an author was “You’re bad for even thinking of fanfic!” I’m sure being an awkward teenager had a bit to do with it, but it was still such a bad experience to me, I didn’t pick up a pen to try to write for eight years and didn’t dream of taking it seriously until meeting my wife a couple years after that. I related the tweet sized version of the story to McGuire said “Whoever said that to you was wrong. I am sorry. Hear me teenage Mike? You are awesome for ficcing!” It struck a chord real hard and shifted me into a much more positive mindset.

So thank yous, high fives and fist bumps (with the explosion pow) all around.

When (not if) I get my book out there and get to leap to the other side of the fence to be a peer of the community, know that you had a small, but definitely not insignificant, part to play.

My last batch of books brought a lot of sequels home lately and I’m continuing today with the InCryptid series by Seanan McGuire, specifically, Midnight Blue-Light Special. She’s a very prolific writer. Her big October Daye series has its eight book due this fall and she won a metric ton of awards and nominations for the Newsflesh series writing as Mira Grant. I started in when InCryptid was brandy new via recommendations from Scalzi and Jim Hines.

The series is really hitting its stride with Midnight. We’re getting right to it with Back of the Book time!

Bam!

Telepathic mathematicians. Chess-playing dragons. Boogeyman nightclub owners. Talking mice. The Price family has spent generations studying the monsters of the world, working to protect them from humanity – and to protect humanity from them. Verity Price is just trying to do her job, keeping the native cryptid population of Manhattan from getting into trouble, and doing a little ballroom dancing on the side. But her tenure on the East Coast is coming to an end, and she’s still not sure what she wants to do with her life.

Enter Dominic De Luca, an operative of the Covenant of St. George, and Verity’s on-again, off-again boyfriend. When he tells her that the Covenant is sending a full team to assess how ready the city is for a purge, Verity finds herself between a rock and a hard place. Stay, and risk her almost-certain death, or flee, and leave the cryptids of New York with nothing between them and the Covenant.

It’s not the kind of choice that ever comes easy. With allies and enemies on every side, an no safe way to turn, it’s going to take some quickstepping for Verity to waltz out of this one. There’s just one question on everyon’s mind: Is this the last dance for Verity Price?

Point blank, I liked this one better than the first book, Discount Armageddon, which I blogged about before I really hit my groove with these posts so I’m not going to link back to it. There’s a lot of establishing world building that had to take place in Discount even though it’s a variant of New York. There’s Price family history, Covenant history as the baddies, plenty of different cryptids to describe and their whole interaction with the world around them. All those things are already done. Even with a year since I read Discount, I never felt any sort of steep learning curve with Midnight. I forgot a couple of names but McGuire caught me up without having to drop into an infodump, one of the hallmarks of a great sequel. You could get away with reading Midnight cold, but since Discount is a good book in its own right, there’s no real reason to.

The more of McGuire’s work I read, the more I think she is to urban fantasy as Cherie Priest is to steampunk. This series is everything that urban fantasy should aspire to. Granted, UF is somewhat of an umbrella term for a large swath of subgenres, but I still hang my hat on that statement. The InCryptid books should be considered a high water mark, a Tome for urban fantasy.

Let’s get specific to Midnight now though. There’s a Romeo and Juliet thing going on in this book which telescopes certain parts of the plot out ahead of you. This completely being flagged as a personal preference thing. If you like sneaky foreshadowing and romantic plot threads on the down low, you might get a bit annoyed. It doesn’t bother me one bit, the romance or picking up on what’s coming up. The Romeo and Juliet kind of romance certainly isn’t new, nor is it subtle, but it works. There’s a reason the world still reads the Bard after all these years.

Before anyone gets all in a wad over romance, first of all, get over it. People like each other. It creates conflict. Conflict creates good stories. The relationship plot thread certainly isn’t the only one in this book. There’s problem solving, ass kicking and shit hitting the fan (which involves more ass kicking). I think because the heavy lifting of the world building was done in Discount, all those plot threads were able to breathe a little bit better in this book. Verity’s supporting cast got more room to move around in Midnight too. Sarah, Verity’s adopted cousin and psychic cryptid herself, got POV chapters. McGuire was able to deftly pull off the “almost human but not quite” voice for Sarah. There was also a whole lot of Istas who is thoroughly awesome. She’s essentially an Inuit werebear that loves gothic lolita fashion. She pouts when she’s told she’s not supposed to talk about bloody carnage more than once per conversation with regular people. I would read a whole book about Istas.

I want to take some time to talk about the cover art for Midnight before I’m done. This may well turn into a full blog post later

Midnight Blue-Light Special by Seanan McGuire

Midnight Blue-Light Special by Seanan McGuire

but since this book has the cover I want to talk about, it’s appropriate here. Science fiction and fantasy as a whole suffer from an image problem when it comes to covers with women on them. Look at Jim Hines’ blog as it’s something he talks about in the most humorous ways while always having real valid points. Short version, SF doesn’t usually seem to realize that women can look good AND be tasteful about it at the SAME TIME. Urban fantasy as a subgenre seems to carry the stigma in its own special way to boot. It all too often has this “Buffy rip off” look about it. I think these things are starting to get better, particularly the Buffy look, but it’s still prevalent in the genre. The cover art for Midnight  breaks the mold in all the ways it should have been broken a long time ago. The characters are accurate to the story and they are entirely tasteful. Verity is wearing a regular cut shirt and jeans. Appropriate and practical ass kicking attire. Sarah is on the cover with Verity and she’s wearing a long sleeve sweater and a long skirt. Regular clothes. Entirely appropriate to a character that’s a self defined math nerd. While I think it’s unfortunate that tasteful and true to the story cover are a note worthy thing and not just the standard MO for the genre, I think it’s more important to point out the good examples of the genre thinking the way it should be than just harping on the bad. This cover art by Aly Fell is a cover that should be aspired to.

Doesn’t hurt it’s for a novel that should be aspired to as well.