Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Math geniuses in fiction

So, reading the Master Able Six series by Carla Kelly has made me try to think of other math geniuses in fiction. I can think of just a handful.

a) Archimedes, in The Sand Reckoner by Gillian Bradshaw.

You aren’t going to beat Archimedes as a math genius, period. The amazing thing is that Bradshaw turned Archimedes into such a great protagonist. You can really relate to him as he drifts off into reflections about how many grains of sand it would take to fill the universe or pays people compliments by comparing them to parabolas, or whatever. This is one of my favorite of Bradshaw’s historicals. Not my absolute favorite — probably — but it’s up there.

b) Cora in The Shadow Campaigns series by Django Wexler.

Cora is not one of the protagonists, but she is important nevertheless. She’s Raesinia’s secret weapon: a financial genius perfectly capable of destabilizing the economy of a nation in order to help Raesinia negotiate from a position of strength.

c) Lady Tehre in The Griffin Mage series

Tehre is not exactly a mathematical genius, but materials science is close enough.

That’s three — four, counting Able Six. Is there another fictional math (or finance, or materials science, or physics) genius anyone can think of? It’s a more exclusive club than the political or tactical geniuses we see scattered here and there in fiction.

By the way, I notice the Griffin Mage omnibus is $1.99 today in ebook form. I have no idea how long that will last, but if you want it in ebook form, now would be a good time to pick it up.

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“More habitable than Earth” is a high bar

Here’s a headline: These 24 planets may be more ‘habitable’ than Earth, astronomers say

Let’s take a look at the actual post …

Researchers identified these planets based on a list of specific criteria. Among them, the planets’ presence in the host star’s “goldilocks zone,” or the habitable orbit around a star where liquid water can exist thanks to the right temperature. Not only does the right surface temperature matter for the existence of water, but a surface temperature about 41 degrees warmer than that of Earth would be more suitable for life, thanks to the combination of higher temperatures and the presence of moisture.

Also, when it comes to planets, bigger is better. A planet that’s even 10% larger than Earth means it has more habitable land. Plus, one that has even 1.5 times our planet’s mass means it can keep its interior heating longer through radioactive decay, and would also have even stronger gravity to sustain an atmosphere (and hold down moisture) for a longer period of time.

FORTY-ONE DEGREES WARMER? Wow, that does not instantly strike me as “more habitable.” Even if you’re talking F instead of C, which I assume they are, that would have made the dawn temperature today, right here where I am, 93F. It would make the temperature of an ordinary August day, oh, say, about 132F. Who exactly defines that as “more habitable?”

You know, that would also put summer temperatures in ALASKA at 96F to 120F. Wow! What an improvement.

Okay, obviously if the entire biosphere evolved in this super-warm environment, those organisms would all find these conditions perfectly fine. But let’s say that one of these worlds is beautiful and filled with complex life and I would love to visit and observe and take notes — but the world also has 1.5x Earth gravity and is 41F warmer, I would definitely require a nice, air-conditioned habitat to which I could retreat to recover from the “more habitable” conditions.

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Recent Reading: The Unlikely Master Genius by Carla Kelly

Okay, so sometimes Carla Kelly writes these meticulously researched historical novels with an additional romance plot, and sometimes she writes a romance novel in a historical setting … and then sometimes she writes ridiculous, but charming, novels that are sort of like historical romances, but not really.

Here’s the description from Amazon:

Sailing Master Able Six, Royal Navy, is a man like no other. To call him a mere polymath is to sell him short. Someone with his extraordinary gifts should rise to the top, unless it is the 1800s, where pedigree and money govern Regency society, as sure as Napoleon seeks world domination. A bastard raised in a Scottish workhouse with nothing in his favor except his amazing mind, Able must navigate life ashore on half-pay during the uneasy Truce of Amiens, and find a way to provide for his charming bride Meridee Bonfort, a gentlewoman to be sure, but lacking a dowry.

Assisted by two sea captains acquainted with his startling abilities, Able finds himself teaching mathematics and seamanship at St. Brendan the Navigator School, which is itself an experiment, taking boys like Able from workhouses and training them to serve the fleet in wartime. Meridee has agreed to invite four lads who need extra attention into their home in raffish, unsavory Portsmouth. Calling themselves the Gunwharf Rats, these St. Brendan lads show promise in an unpromising world. Can a sailing master-turned-teacher uncover their potential? Can Meridee find a way to nurture young hearts bruised too soon by life? What will happen when war breaks out again? And what is it about Able Six, the unlikely master genius?

The romance novel took place earlier. There’s a prequel novella in A Country Christmas, and I gather that’s the one where Able Six meets his beloved. In THIS book, they get married right at the beginning and the story is not at all a romance novel. Able and Meridee are very happy and never have a moment’s doubt about each other. This is much more a story about found family than a romance story. And a school story, of course, since we’ve got this sailing-master-turned-teacher thing going too.

In this story, all the boys are diamonds in the rough; all the intimidating tough-looking characters have hearts of gold; the wealthy, influential people backing the school are (mostly) competent and (always) generous; the villains are totally villainous so we can cheer when they predictably get what’s coming to them; and so on.

Given the story’s warmth and charm, the reader can ignore or set aside the ludicrously obvious subplot involving the villain, Master Blake. How anyone with half a brain, far less a polymath genius, could conceivably fail to put the whole villainous scheme together instantly, is hard to fathom. But never fear; justice is done in the end, as was utterly certain to happen.

There are a smallish number of authors who have written books I would NEVER have guessed were by the same person. Carla Kelly now joins that number. I would never have guessed that the same author who wrote this story had also written My Loving Vigil Keeping, which is one of those meticulous historicals with some romance, very much set in real history. An Unlikely Master Genius, while Napoleonic-era-ish, doesn’t have the depth of a story grounded in real history. The brushstrokes are too broad, I guess, both in painting in the history and the characters.

Overall, a delightful story. Not a lot of depth, but that’s sometimes fine, and so it is here.

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TUYO makeover

So, while I was at it, I also found a different cover artist for TUYO. What I wanted was a much more epic-fantasy cover, something that would really evoke the broader landscape. Here’s the new cover, which I should soon be putting on the ebook and paperback.

I’ll show you paperback cover, which gives you the biggest sweep of scenery:

The audio cover — the audio version is still being recorded — but I will show you that cover too, because this square audio cover gives us a slightly closer, more detailed look:

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Makeover for the Black Dog series

Okay, so! I have been going back and forth on whether to mention this yet, but here it is: I’m having brand-new covers done for the Black Dog series. The first new cover went live yesterday:

I wasn’t going to mention this until the four novel covers were all finished. Then I was going to put the new covers on all the books, just in time for Copper Mountain to be released. But I’m ALSO scheduling Black Dog free for October 30 – Nov 3 and running various free-book promotions during that time, and it turns out that to schedule those promotions, I needed the new cover on the book. So instead of waiting, I will be switching the covers as they are finished.

What I wanted:

–A style of cover that was more genre-specific. I think — I hope — that this new cover screams URBAN FANTASY / PARANORMAL.

–A very simple cover, with figures that are eyecatching and a black dog with plenty of sheer size and monstrousness, but not too werewolf-y.

–Super-readable title and author at thumbnail size.

I think this cover ticks those boxes. I hope you all like it, and I REALLY hope that prospective readers like it and find it clickable. The Pure Magic cover is very closely related to this one. It’s also finished and should be going up in a few days; the artist is starting the cover for Shadow Twin now.

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Rumpelstiltskin retellings

Here’s a post at tor.com: Five Retellings of “Rumpelstiltskin” — A Very Odd Story, Indeed

That really is a strange fairy tale. Not one of my favorites, possibly because everyone in the story is a villain in one way or another.

The father is inexplicably stupid for claiming his daughter can spin straw into gold, then sticking to that lie even when it puts his daughter in danger. The king is a villain, for obvious reasons. Rumpelstiltskin is a villain for extorting the promise of a child from the daughter. The daughter is a villain for agreeing.

So when someone decides to do a retelling, it’s not surprising that they generally re-cast the story elements so that somebody gets to be more heroic.

For example, The Rumpelstiltskin Problem by Vivian Vande Velde evidently presents a collection of retellings in which one character after another gets to play the role of the hero — that sounds like fun.

The only one of these five I’ve actually read is A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce. I liked it, but … not that much, I guess? Because I’ve never re-read it and don’t remember that much about it. The problem may have been that Rumpelstiltskin is just not a fairy tale that appeals to me very much.

I do mean to read Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik one of these days, but just have never quite picked it up and opened it. Good to be reminded about it.

I do rather like the idea of this historical:

This non-magical retelling is set in 1880s New York City and follows the story of Bertie, a young Irish immigrant who becomes a seamstress in the employ of a textile tycoon. She becomes entangled with Ray Stalls, who mysteriously uses an old spinning wheel and crimson thread to create dresses that look like they’re spun with gold. There’s romance, but it’s sweet and subtle rather than front and center.

A sweet romance = a much nicer implication about that first-born child, doesn’t it? That story sounds charming. I think I’ll pick up a sample.

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Science!

Okay, this is fun:

Supermassive Black Holes Might Really Be ‘Traversable’ Wormholes, Astrophysicists Suggest

Of course they are. We knew that already. How else would we be able to have a proper space opera universe?

Neuralink: Elon Musk unveils pig with chip in its brain

The device the company is developing consists of a tiny probe containing more than 3,000 electrodes attached to flexible threads thinner than a human hair, which can monitor the activity of 1,000 brain neurons.

If we’re in the right (or wrong) SF world, then in ten years we’ll be seeing a headline about the accidental creation of superintelligent pigs who interface with one another via the chips in their brains.

Russian Scientists Battled A Seemingly Intelligent Creature Under The Antarctic Ice, Claims This Report

You know it’s true because they named the creature “organism 46-B.” Who would make that up, am I right?

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Casting for a Sandman tv show

Here’s a post on tor.com: Tom Sturridge In Talks to Star in The Sandman

In July, Gaiman told Collider that season one of The Sandman would cover the first two volumes of the comic, Preludes & Nocturnes and The Doll’s House. As he explained, getting very famous actors to commit to a series is a process that takes years of planning. “Whether we wanted Michael Sheen as our Lucifer on the TV or not, getting somebody of that stature available when you need them is really difficult,” Gaiman said.

Casting every member of the Endless—Dream, Death, Desire, Despair, Destiny, Despair, Delirium/Delight, and Destruction—is no small task, especially when fans have incredibly strong ideas about what these beloved-for-decades characters look like. But if they’re getting close to landing their Dream, then more news can’t be far behind.

That’s something I’d probably get Netflix to watch.

I have to say, casting Dream and Death are important. I don’t think I’d tend to care too much about who was cast for the other Endless.

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Other novels called “Copper Mountain”

Pete’s comment that there are a bunch of steamy romances called COPPER MOUNTAIN made me laugh — and wonder just how many there might be, and what other novels might have that title.

Which, yes, I suppose I should have Googled before picking that title, but it’s all right, especially since my COPPER MOUNTAIN is part of a series.

Anyway, in case you are curious, there are a whole bunch of cowboy romances in the Copper Mountain Rodeo series, starting with this one:

Chelsea Collier wants nothing more than to save the old depot built by her railway baron ancestor and turn it into a museum—until it’s sold out from under her.

Jasper Flint made himself filthy rich in the Texas oil business by the age of 35. Now he wants a quieter life and building a microbrewery in Marietta, Montana is the perfect project.

Oh, one of THOSE male leads — young, handsome (I assume), no doubt witty, and also SUPER RICH. I always feel that is an unnecessary step too far in a romance. I’m generally inclined to say: pick three of the four, and if you’re going to ditch one, make it the Amazingly Rich trope because that is actually annoying as well as unnecessary.

The Copper Mountain Rodeo series actually includes romances by multiple authors, so no doubt the novels vary in many ways, but I expect they’re all along the same lines.

Then there is a series by Jeannie Watt called the 78th Copper Mountain Rodeo series, and ANOTHER series, this one by Sinclair Jayne, called the 79th Copper Mountain rodeo series. Ah, yes, I see that this is probably the same kind of multi-authored themed romance series

All the above probably explains why Pete saw so many Copper Mountain romances on Goodreads.

In addition, there’s this:

This one isn’t a romance, though, or at least not the same kind of romance. The description on Amazon:

Talented in business and the arts, Lera risks her life to escape an abusive husband so she can keep her unborn baby, find meaning in her life and win the man she should have married — a doctor who cannot remember his past. Romantic suspense set in Gunnison, Colorado.

I point to this one only to say that not EVERY other novel called Copper Mountain is a steamy cowboy romance.

Not that there’s anything wrong with cowboy romances, of course! But if I were pointing out one of those, I would be pointing to one that was heavy on the historical setting and light on the steam; eg, Softly Falling by Carla Kelly.

Come to think of it, maybe it’s about time for me to pick up another romance novel by Carla Kelly. Even though I don’t believe she’s written one called COPPER MOUNTAIN.

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