Lastest News & Blog Posts
September 16th, 2014
Is it just me, or is this internet quiz that purports to be able to “tell who you are in 20 questions” roughly the most inaccurate quiz ever designed by anyone ever?
I saw a link somewhere or other and zipped through the questions and . . . well, I do have brown hair. If you call “so dark it’s nearly black, and now graying besides” brown.
But otherwise? A teenage male who lacks confidence: not so much.
Anyway, mildly amusing how wildly wrong this quiz was for me. If you take it, does it get anything about you right?
September 16th, 2014
Okay, here’s the Broke and the Bookish theme which is making the rounds today: Top ten authors where you’ve only read one book by them, even though you loved that book.
Interesting theme! I like it! Here’s Shae’s list, and here’s Heidi’s — these are the two that I spotted this morning. Can you believe that both of these bloggers have read one-and-only-one book by Robin McKinley?
Does reading just one book by an author and then no more even though you love it show:
a) amazing self-control to parcel them out
b) amazing busyness
c) fear that the next book you read by that author won’t do it for you
I’m sure it varies, and I imagine (a) is not that common a reason. I might do that if the author is deceased. In fact, I do: I have never read KINDRED by Octavia E Butler, and there are several by Rumer Godden that I am putting off for the same reason. But I’ve read a lot more than one title by each author! But I am not fundamentally a parcel-them-out-slowly sort of reader. I’m a grab-the-whole-backlist-and-dive-in reader. Hence I had Martha Wells Month last year — or was it the year before? — where I read all her titles one after another, for example, and the same with Andrea K Host, and more recently with Melina Marchetta.
Of course sometimes you have only read one book by a great author not by choice, but because it’s their debut, and there ISN’T anything else, and isn’t that simply maddening? At least if you’re like me and tend to tracking down an author’s backlist the moment you fall in love with one of their books.
For me, the loved-the-debut category is represented by Jandy Nelson, whose debut was THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE.
Wow, I love that book. It’s contemporary YA, not a trace of fantasy, in case that is a dealbreaker for you, but I’ve actually given away three copies to people. And now here is Nelson’s second book, I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN, just popped up on my Kindle this morning, and I must say, I am actually a bit nervous about reading it, because what if I don’t love it? So that’s partly a category (c) book.
(c) is also stopping me from reading anything else by Stieg Larsson.
I really did enjoy THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. I didn’t think I would, because often super-mega-hit books don’t do it for me. But no, I enjoyed it very much. But I liked where the characters ended up, and I’m not at all sure I want to go along for the ride as Larsson puts them through the wringer in Book II, as I assume he will. So I have never picked up THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE.
A quite different reason to put off reading books by an author is that sometimes you read one book, love it, but hate pausing while reading series, so then you collect the other books as they come out until the series is complete. For me, this happened with Rae Carson.
I really loved THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS. I will say, the third book of the series came out last year, but (b) amazing busyness has prevented me from going on with the series. Heaven knows when I will get to it. I really want to. I could make October a Finish Series month because it’s not the only complete series I have on my shelves where I’ve read the first book but no others.
Straight up time constraints do more than anything else to make me put off reading books I’d really like to read, by any author. Two authors where I loved one book and simply haven’t had time to read any others — both contemporary, and oddly, both local authors — are:
Brian Katcher — I loved his ALMOST PERFECT, and I would really like to read EVERYONE DIES IN THE END. And also
Antony John — I enjoyed FIVE FLAVORS OF DUMB and would like to try his fantasy trilogy. And I will. But I’m not sure when.
How about you? Do any authors spring to mind where you’ve read just one of their books, and even though you loved it, haven’t (yet) read any others? And how about it, are you deliberately putting off other titles by that author, or are there just no other titles out there?
September 12th, 2014
I know, right? Like we don’t all have enough books stacked up to keep us going for the next ten years. Even so, some books are just too tempting to pass up.
In particular, I see a fourth MAGIC THIEF book has hit the shelves.
Sarah Prineas is either more reticent about tweeting new releases every hour on the hour than some authors, or else I happened to miss her tweets, because I found this out via Brandy’s comments on Twitter. Here’s her review. Sounds like the book is a treat! I really enjoyed the first three Magic Thief books and look forward to reading this one. I got it in paper because I have the others in paper, so it hasn’t actually *arrived* yet, but it’s on its way.
Okay, and this has been out for days and days:
Very exciting! Because I’m already familiar with the world and the characters, I will be able to read this while working on the KEHERA revision, so I will get to this soon. At the moment I am still working my way through Lindsay Buroker’s REPUBLIC, so it will be days before I get to STORIES OF THE RAKSURA. But I have been waiting for these!
Also, how about this?
I got this one because Smith’s comments about this title at Goodreads made it sound really interesting! I’m finding it hard to excerpt a tidbit from her comments that makes sense, so what the heck, here is the whole thing:
The impetus behind this story was to novelize the delightful journals of Betsey Wynne (with entries by two of her sisters), which I reread every few years. She had such a fascinating life, which began as a young girl in France as her restless dad used his fortune to extend his Grand Tour for his entire life. Betsey and her sisters learned from an early age to speak English, French, German, and Italian.
When the French Revolution occurred, they were near the French border, desperate for news from Paris—and when their dad decided to get away from the spreading Terror, unfortunately he had no idea that the French army would soon be overtaking them. They ended up in Naples, which had its own problems. But Betsey escaped the worst of them by marrying, as a teenager, the older Thomas Fremantle, one of Nelson’s captains. Her marriage was personally arranged by the fascinating, and infamous, Emma Hamilton, lover of Lord Nelson.
For a time Betsey sailed with the fleet, but that journal is lost; he soon landed her in England, where she and her sisters set about having a life (she had nine children) as Fremantle sailed cruise after cruise.
The problem, I discovered, was that though Betsey lived at the edge of great events, she was never a part of them. Her life was filled with small events, of great interest to her, of course. The letters between husband and wife demonstrated a strong marriage, in spite of her young age as a bride, and their many separations. Young as she was, she managed his estate quite successfully, as well as looking out for her sisters.
Her life was rich and full, but dramatic in a novelistic sense, it was not. One morning I woke up thinking about what would happen to a girl who had been a friend of hers, one caught in a situation where she was summarily married off, as happened to so very many girls of that time.
The idea of a girl caught by the tides of war, who had no sense of home, living on the edge of several cultures, was the next step. I had already done a ton of reading about life in Paris during the Revolutionary years for Revenant Eve, and when I chanced on a book about women writing opera during that turbulent time, suddenly everything was in place.
I knew the naval action at Trafalgar had to be a part of it, as Thomas Fremantle was there—his letter makes absorbing reading—though as the storyline developed, Betsey and Fremantle faded into the distance. The story was already getting too lengthy, because everybody wanted a voice: servants, dancers, chasseurs, midshipman, the French and Spaniards also at that battle—all the people who never get biographies written about them. Act three must then reflect how a couple of outsiders went about building a marriage, and defining love, duty, and family.
Okay, and on the shelves for any practical purpose (actually out next week):
I LOVED Nelson’s debut, THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE. In fact, I loved it so much I am a bit wary of this new title. What if I don’t like it? What if my expectations are too high? Nevertheless, I will have to try it eventually. Well, the early reviews at Goodreads look promising.
Despite the boring cover. Sorry, but for me, that cover isn’t doing the book any favors.
September 12th, 2014
I just wanted to share this with you because it is so remarkable. Everyone knows that infants can often handle quite serious brain damage, as the remaining part of the brain can learn to compensate for the injured part. But this?
“Woman in her twenties discovers that she was born without a cerebellum”
Wow. Just . . . wow. I would never have thought this was possible.
September 11th, 2014
I’ve been wanting to share this recipe for whole wheat bread with you all for a while, in case you make your own bread. I don’t always make my own, actually, but when I buy bread I generally buy it from a particular woman at the local farmer’s market. Of course it’s a lot cheaper to make your own, but sometimes you just don’t want to bother, and in that case it’s good to be friendly with people at the farmer’s market, I find.
Personally, I have never liked whole wheat bread one bit. I never buy or use regular whole wheat flour (I like white whole wheat). The exception is this recipe that has become my mother’s standard go-to sandwich bread. It has a good, light texture and somehow completely lacks the unpleasant (imo) whole wheat taste, even when you are using ordinary whole wheat flour rather than white whole wheat. I’m sure there are many similar recipes out there, but somehow this one seems to work better and more reliably than any other recipe, which is why it’s become my mother’s standard. Both my mother and I cheat when making bread, as you will see from the recipe below:
Honey Whole Wheat Bread
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
3 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp butter or margarine (my mother uses margarine, I use butter)
1 tsp salt
1 C warm water
2 1/2 C whole wheat flour
Place all ingredients in your handy bread machine and set for dough. Hit go. You see, I said we cheat when making bread. As you may know, when using a machine, you must check several times in the first minutes of mixing and kneading, adding a bit of water or flour as necessary, because all kinds of things make it necessary to tweak proportions when making bread.
An hour and a half later, when the dough machine beeps, take the dough out, shape it into a loaf, and put it in a greased loaf pan. Cover the pan and set in a warmish place to rise for an hour or so, until roughly doubled. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees during the last bit of the rising time. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the loaf looks golden and sounds hollow when tapped. Cool a few minutes in the pan, turn onto a rack, and cool completely before slicing. Unless you can’t bear the wait. Then slice a bit off the loaf while warm and enjoy with softened honey butter. (Just a suggestion.)
Okay, there you go.
Now, if your mother just gave you bread for sandwiches, or if you bought some from the nice lady at the farmer’s market, then you have time to make other kinds of bread yourself. I suggest this kind:
2 1/4 tsp yeast
2 Tbsp warm water
1 C warm milk
6 Tbsp butter, softened
1/4 C sugar
1 tsp salt
3 1/4 C bread flour OR 3 1/4 C all-purpose flour + 1 Tbsp vital glutan OR whatever kind of flour you like
Put all the ingredients in a bread machine and set to dough. Adjust dough during the mixing and kneading stage until you get a soft, sticky dough. Interrupt the kneading cycle and remove the dough from the machine (I find about 20 minutes kneading in the machine is fine). If you are not using a machine, then just combine till you get a soft, sticky dough and don’t knead extensively.
Place the dough in a well-greased bowl. Cover and put in the fridge overnight.
In the morning, put the dough on an oiled counter and roll out to a 12 inch circle. Cut the circle into 12 wedges (I use a pastry cutter). Roll up each wedge starting from the wide end. Pinch the point gently into the roll so the butterhorn won’t unroll during baking (this happened to some of mine last time). Place on baking sheets and let rise about 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake for 15-20 minutes. Cool on racks. Serve with eggs for breakfast, with soup for lunch, or as dinner rolls. Or just eat as a snack.
There is no obvious reason why you couldn’t spread the wedges with, oh, a pecan and honey filling, or a walnut filling, or jam, or nutella, or whatever you like before you roll up the butterhorns. I will try something of the kind next time I make them. Which will be soon, because these were really good and quite easy.
September 10th, 2014
Nice theme from The Broke and the Bookish! Top 10 Underrated Authors in [Genre].
Naturally I am specifically happy to see Chachic’s list: Top 10 Underrated Authors in Epic Fantasy. Because, hey, fantasy. I know a lot more about fantasy than, say, contemporary YA. Though I feel like I’ve just read the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ANY genre, including fantasy. There’s nothing like a massive TBR pile + many many bloggers reviewing titles you haven’t gotten to + getting the SFBC mailings + Twitter to make it clear that you haven’t read even a decent fraction of all the books out there, of any genre.
Still, good theme. Plus, I’m biased because I’m on Chachic’s list. Instantly the whole list goes up in my estimation, naturally.
Seriously, though, this makes me immediately think about who I would put on such a list.
Which makes me pause briefly to define what Epic Fantasy is. For me, Epic Fantasy implies: big scale; possibly a longer timespan; probably multiple pov; and detailed, well-thought-out, consistent, complex worldbuilding. As far as I’m concerned, this kind of worldbuilding is an inextricable part of Epic Fantasy.
I would say I actually write high fantasy, but not epic fantasy (so far). I would say that Lindsay Buroker’s EMPEROR’S EDGE series is not epic fantasy, because the stories are more personal and smaller scale and also because the worldbuilding, while fun, has not created the kind of detailed, well-thought-out, consistent world that defines epic fantasy. (I would call this series adventure fantasy, if I had to pick a term for it; the equivalent of space opera SF).
Then as far as I’m concerned, you divide Epic Fantasy into these three categories: High Fantasy / Gritty / Grimdark. I’m not interested in Grimdark, so when I pick underappreciated authors, they are all either High Fantasy or Gritty. (As far as I’m concerned, Grimdark Epic Fantasy is overappreciated.)
Now, first: A Handful of Well-Recognized Epic Fantasy Authors so you know I know they exist and they are great, but I can’t put them on a list of Underrated Authors:
Tolkien — because, hello. I was talking about this with Craig last night and he pointed out that one unique thing you see from Tolkien is the insertion of a personal story into an epic fantasy. I think this is true. If TLotR was largely about Frodo and Sam, and all the other stuff was just around the edges, then it might be good fantasy story, but it would not be an Epic Fantasy. But I think that adding the personal plotline to the epic plotline is what drove the popularity of the story.
Guy Gavriel Kay — not so much for his earlier work; I particularly have in mind his UNDER HEAVEN and RIVER OF STARS.
Brandon Sanderson — I haven’t read much by him (I have some of his waiting on my TBR pile and in audio form), but I think it’s clear he’s writing epic fantasy, right?
Robin Hobb — no question; her books fit every part of my definition.
NK Jemisin — she doesn’t have that many books out, and I might change my mind and say “High fantasy but not Epic”. Not sure. But either way, she is not underappreciated, having hit the well-known category right out of the gate.
Scott Lynch — I just read his REPUBLIC OF THIEVES, as you may recall, and though it’s only his third book, it’s plain he’s writing excellent Epic Fantasy — on the gritty side, but definitely not Grimdark. But I think he must count as well known; he has 1700 reviews for REPUBLIC.
Daniel Abraham — He has 630 reviews for THE DRAGON’S PATH, plus I just think he’s well known. He’s one of those authors whom I like, and yet . . . somehow not enough to keep going with his series. But definitely Epic and very well written.
Brent Weeks — he has a lotof reviews on Goodreads for the first book of his Night Angel trilogy. Wow, now I feel inadequate.
Now, with that out of the way, how about this as a list of Top 10 Underrated Authors of Epic Fantasy. Some of these authors have about 200 reviews for a particular book on Goodreads, but nobody comes close to breaking a thousand (for the books I checked). But they’re all really good.
Sherwood Smith — the INDA quintilogy is clearly Epic Fantasy, and definitely worth reading.
Kate Elliot — I haven’t read a lot by her, but enough to know she is writing fine Epic Fantasy.
Elizabeth Bear — I have read exactly one of her books, but RANGE OF GHOSTS made me a believer.
Martha Wells — You all know Wells is one of my favorite authors. The Fall of Ile-Rien trilogy is clearly Epic Fantasy.
PC Hodgell — I have read some of her Kencyrath books, and for me Hodgell is like Abraham — I like them, I really do, but not so much that I have ever read the whole series.
And possibly CS Friedman — I haven’t actually read anything at all by Friedman, but her Coldfire trilogy, sure looks Epic to me. And I’ve heard a lot of good things about this author. Not sure I can really declare she’s underappreciated without, you know, reading some of her books. Say: Suspected Underappreciated Epic Fantasy Authors.
Now, let me reiterate: there’s no way to read everything and I know I’ve read only a small fraction of the great epic fantasy out there.
So: Anybody have an author who ought to be on this list? I’ve only got six. Who are four more?
September 8th, 2014
At least for now, I am done with KERI. I mean THE WYVERN KING. Or whatever its title turns out to be.
Sent it to my editor this morning. One week before the deadline! Not bad, all things considered.
Whoosh, gone, out of my hands. I always feel like I should have done a bit more, fiddled around, tweaked here and there. But at some point you just have to call it done and send it off.
Anyway, though I am fairly sure she will like it — she approved the first six chapters, after all — I imagine that I will be doing some fiddling and tweaking later after she has a chance to look it over. She is a perfectionist. Which I like in an editor, btw.
So I’m taking a couple days to finish Lindsay Buroker’s EMPEROR’S EDGE series. About which, let me say:
The Emperor’s Edge — self contained
Dark Currents — self contained
Deadly Games — self contained
Conspiracy — WHOA MAJOR CLIFFHANGER HERE
Blood and Betrayal — finishes the Conspiracy arc, so these two books together are self contained
Forged in Blood I — MAJOR CLIFFHANGER, obviously, because otherwise why would it have a (I) after the title?
Forged in Blood II — last book.
I’m just starting Forged in Blood II and I must say, I have really enjoyed this series! Yes, Sespian (the Emperor) does become a more interesting character. Yes, we do have another good female character join the gang. In some ways I think Buroker really hits her stride in Conspiracy. These are all fast-paced adventure stories; they work well at the duology length that we see in #4/#5 and #6/#7.
Every book utilizes one secondary pov in addition to Amaranthe’s; the Forged in Blood actually gives us Sicarius’ point of view for the first time. I think this works really well, and in fact much better here at the end than it would have earlier in the series. I particularly love Sicarius’ interaction with Sespian. He has such trouble with normal human interaction!
Okay, next for me: after finishing the Emperor’s Edge series, naturally I have my other revision project waiting: KEHERA. I will need to write a couple short scenes at the end and make sure the plot flows through that section and revise the last chapter AND THEN go back to the beginning and run through the whole thing one more time. Then it will go back to Caitlin, who wants to see it again before she sends it to a particular editor she has in mind for it. Always exciting when your agent has a Plan for a new manuscript. Anyway, that’s why I am kind of in a rush to get this finished. I think I can get this done before the end of the month. After which, regardless of any other pressing jobs waiting for me, I am taking October OFF. I have been working pretty much nonstop since the beginning of June, so, yeah, I’m due for a break in here somewhere.
Although someday I must finish up those Black Dog short stories and get ‘em formatted for self-publishing …
Update: Also, Caitlin reminds me that I meant to try to finish revising a partial for the OTHER manuscript I owe Random House, before the end of the month. I have it! 100 pages of a different story! But I should do a little revision before sending it to Michelle. So, okay, a) revise KEHERA (biggish job); b) revise THE WHITE ROAD OF THE MOON partial (smallish job, as I recall). Before October.
Seriously, I am going to NEED a break.
September 5th, 2014
Because all right-thinking people agree that dogs shouldn’t die at the end, yes? Did you notice how in the (fabulous, beautiful) movie UP, not a single dog died? Because even the bad-guy dogs got little parachutes? Naturally, because dogs shouldn’t die even if you drop the human bad guy to his death without a qualm.
So! Heidi Frederick says something of the same thing over at tor. com, in her column about SPIRIT’S KEY by Edith Cohn.
Spirit’s Key is the poignant tale of both a girl coming into her family power and her relationship with a much beloved dog. Edith Cohn’s solution to the much feared dying dog issue? Bump him off before the book even begins — genius!
In other words, a ghost dog! I agree, that sounds like a clever touch.
Heidi doesn’t declare this MG title is flawless, but she does declare that it’s charming — and that there’s no need to worry about the dog. I’m sure I would have loved this story when I was a kid. I probably would have liked it’s possibly oversweet ending, in fact.
My favorite MG dog story: DOG’SBODY by DWJ. Also my favorite story by DWJ. I still can’t believe you can cram the Wild Hunt, sentient stars, and a dog story all in the same short book and have it work, but DWJ managed.
I also like this note from Heidi at the end of her post: Heidi Frederick is known to dock one star rating for every dead dog. Sky didn’t count. Read more at her blog, Bunbury in the Stacks, or send cute dog pictures to her on Twitter.
She doesn’t know how many cute dog pictures I have available, though!
September 5th, 2014
I finally remembered to get this recipe from my mother! You don’t have to go to Kentucky to get really good bread pudding, because here, this is it: excellent old-fashioned bread pudding. This recipe turns out to be from a very old and tattered Betty Crocker cookbook, btw.
Old-Fashioned Bread Pudding
3 to 4 C slightly stale firm cubed bread (Mom and I like firm bread pudding and always use a generous 4 C.)
2 C milk
1/4 C butter, melted
1/2 C sugar
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon or nutmeg
1/2 C raisins (which neither Mom nor I would dream of actually putting in, but there they are in the recipe.)
Place bread cubes in a 1 1/2 qt baking dish. Combine remaining ingredients sans raisins and pour over. Stir in the raisins if for some reason you feel raisins would improve the bread pudding. Place baking dish in a wide flat pan of hot water (ideally 1 inch deep water) and bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes, until a knife an inch from the edge comes out clean. Serve warm, room temp, or cold. You can certainly serve this with whipped cream or ice cream, but I like it plain. In fact, I like it plain and cold for breakfast. Thus my statement earlier that Real Desserts can also serve as breakfast and that fudge and other candies can’t really be considered desserts.
Okay, while we’re on the subject of old-fashioned but excellent desserts, here is my my mother’s recipe for apple dumplings, which is also from Betty Crocker, although she does not follow the exact recipe. I’m going to give you her variation. These apple dumplings are substantially better than most you can get in restaurants. Her variant includes more syrup than indicated in the recipe and, as you might imagine, she makes her own pastry.
Mother’s Apple Dumplings
8 medium tart apples
2 C sugar
4 C water
6 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2/3 C sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp butter
Enough pastry for 2 two-crust pies
Combine 2 C sugar, 4 C water, 6 Tbsp butter, and 1/2 tsp cinnamon in saucepan. Bring to a boil. Boil three minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
Peel and core apples.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Roll out pastry a little less than 1/8 inch thick and cut into more or less seven inch squares. Set an apple on each pastry square. Combine the remaining sugar and cinnamon and fill the apples with this mixture. Put a dab of butter on top of the sugar mixture for each apple. Bring up the corners of the pastry square and overlap edges, dampening and pinching them to seal. Carefully lift each dumpling and place in baking dish. Pour hot syrup around dumplings (not on top of dumplings). Bake for 40 or 45 minutes until pastry is nicely browned. Serve warm with syrup and, if desired, whipped cream or ice cream.
Again, I like these at room temp for breakfast the next morning.
September 4th, 2014
I am definitely still a fan of Steven Brust’s Taltos series, despite the epic fail that was TECKLA.
If you are, too, then here’s an excerpt of HAWK, over at tor.com.
I’m not going to read the excerpt because I don’t need a teaser. I expect I will buy the book when it comes out, in October. This bit from the back cover copy makes me pretty sure I’ll like it:
For years, Vlad has run from one end of the Empire to the other, avoiding the Jhereg assassins who pursue him. Now, finally, he’s back in the imperial capital where his family and friends are. He means to stay there this time. Whatever happens. And whatever it takes.
Sounds very promising!