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She is!

Which is the standard phrase by which you announce to your friends that a girl dog of yours has been confirmed pregnant.

Here’s MY beautiful girl, Anara Adornment (Adora):

See? Beautiful, right? Smart, too: she has four obedience titles so far and 1/3 each of two others. And the most wonderful personality, not that I’m biased!

And here’s the gorgeous daddy:

Champion and Canadian Champion and Grand Champion Closeburn Graham McInnes. Quite a guy, isn’t he?

So unless things go wrong — and unfortunately things can indeed go very very wrong, as Adora herself demonstrated last year — BUT, hopefully, this time around she will give me three (or maybe four) beautiful healthy puppies on December 11th. I can tell you, what I want for Christmas this year is three (or four) HEALTHY, THRIVING beautiful little puppies!

So, I’m sure you’re eager to know how a knowledgeable, dedicated breeder (coughs modestly) chooses a male, right? Good, ’cause I’m going to explain (though just briefly).

First, I wanted a gorgeous ruby male with lots of glamor. Even that’s not so easy, there aren’t that many great ruby males out there. Then I wanted a compact build because Adora’s a little on the long side and I don’t want puppies that look like dachshunds! Plus I have to have a boy with great structure and movement — no compromises there. And all his health certificates have to be in order, of course.

So I looked through the most recent CKCSC yearbook and there was Graham. I know his father, who’s nice but a bit long — but Graham is more compact. Interesting pedigree, though a total outcross for my Dora. Plus, a Closeburn dog? Definitely going to have all his i’s dotted and t’s crossed as far as heath checks go.

And so it proved when I contacted his owner. She was very easy to work with, we exchanged copies of health certificates and signed the contract and got all the paperwork done and now . . . nothing to do but wait to see if we get healthy gorgeous puppies. Crossing my fingers!

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Books you can’t buy yet

You know how many books are scheduled for release next spring? Lots. Seemed like everybody I talked to at the World Fantasy Convention has a book coming out next spring. (Me, too, of course!)

I tried to note down titles of the ones I most want to get, and here they are:

This is a YA — a girl gets possessed by the spirit of a samurai, and complications ensue. Doesn’t that sound cool? And isn’t the cover nice? I met Cole at Archon but her book wasn’t on Amazon yet; now it is.

A new MG story with a great cover — doesn’t that look like it would fly off the shelves into the hands of every horse-crazy fourteen-year-old girl? I really enjoyed the Magic Thief series, so I’m looking forward to this one.

Deb Coates’ first novel, I think the first of three. I met Deb last year and again this year and I’m really looking forward to reading her debut story. It’s an adult fantasy which got great blurbs from Patricia Briggs AND Sharon Shinn, so that’s promising!

AND —

Did you know R A MacAvoy has a new one scheduled for release? I had no idea. It’s not listed on Amazon yet, but really — due out sometime next spring. MacAvoy was at the WFC, which is why I know.

I loved TEA WITH THE BLACK DRAGON, I mean, there are no words! And LENS OF THE WORLD, if you’ve never read that, really, you have just got to go find a copy right this minute. MacAvoy was writing back in the eighties, I think? Not totally sure when her last book came out, but some time ago. I am so glad she’s back!

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More on voice

After my fairly extensive post on voice a few days ago?

Here’s a link to a post (from last year) of Nathan Bransford’s on the same topic that makes a great starting point for thinking about voice.

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Books I Need On My TBR Pile

I didn’t buy many books at the World Fantasy Convention. Not my fault! All those free books, and I wanted to fit everything into my carry-on bag.

But that leaves me with quite a few books I want to buy in the near future, including:

FAIRIE WINTER, sequel to BONES OF FAIRIE, by Janni Lee Simner. I liked the first book, now I need to pick up the sequel.

DRINK, SLAY, LOVE,
by Sarah Beth Durst, which was described as “vampire girl meets were-unicorn slayer boy”. Isn’t that hysterical? Love it! Gotta have a copy!

FOX AND PHOENIX, by Beth Bernobich, which I saw somebody reading and it looks really neat. Alternate China, so there’s a neat setting right there.

THE CRYSTAL THRONE, by Kathryn Sullivan, whom I spent time chatting with at the convention. There’s a sequel out, too, so I hope I love this one!

ASHFALL, by Mike Mullin, which is a YA post apocalyptic story that was recommended during a panel.

The Seven Realms series, by Cinda Williams Chima, also recommended, though I need to sort out which one is first in the series.

PROMISE OF THE WOLVES, by Dorothy Hearst, because I saw a card about the sequel. Only thing is, with wolves as the characters and a wolf protagonist? Well, my actual degree is in animal behavior, you know? If the author treats her wolves like furry humans, I will notice and then I will hate this book. So not sure. Usually I don’t much care for books with animal protagonists. Except WATERSHIP DOWN was so wonderful, so I know it can be done. And actually Felix Salton’s original BAMBI was excellent, too.

THE FREEDOM MAZE by Delia Sherman got a starred review from Kirkus and laudatory blurb from NK Jemisin, so it’s on my gotta-try-it list.

GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS by Rae Carson, sounds great. Lots of excellent blurbs from writers I love.

AN INSTANCE OF THE FINGERPOST, by Iain Pears, which was very highly recommended by Emma Bull during a panel.

AMONG OTHERS, by Jo Walton, which must have been recommended by somebody, but I didn’t note who. Here’s what it says on Amazon, though: Startling, unusual, and yet irresistably readable, Among Others is at once the compelling story of a young woman struggling to escape a troubled childhood, a brilliant diary of first encounters with the great novels of modern fantasy and SF, and a spellbinding tale of escape from ancient enchantment. Doesn’t that sound great?

And last — but these were in no order of any kind —

DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE, by Laini Taylor. Looks wonderful — set in Prague, and I know Taylor can really write, too.

This is the sort of thing that keeps my TBR pile from noticeably diminishing.

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Free Books!

Are one of the things I’m sure everybody looks forward to from the World Fantasy Convention. When you register, they hand you fifty pounds (or so) of books. You then spend the weekend sorting them out and, man, on Sunday morning? Huge turnover at the exchange table as people get rid of the ones they don’t want to keep and grab copies of different books as others discard them.

For me, if the writing quality looks good on the first page, then I’ll read the first chapter or so and then decide whether to keep the book or not. Like, if the author can’t tell the difference between the past tense and the past perfect, I’m not likely to make it past the first page.

But I don’t keep all the ones that are well written, either. I didn’t keep, for example, MR SHIVERS, even though it was beautifully written, because I’m not into horror. Also, I wound up discarding AMERICAN GODS because I read the whole thing (I was waking up VERY early because of the time difference, so lots of time to kill every morning). I actually kind of liked it, but I don’t think I would read it again in a hurry, and I didn’t want the weight of another hardcover, so I put it on the exchange table. Where it was snapped right up, believe me.

I don’t remember most of the ones I discarded, but here’s the list of the ones I kept:

IORICH, by Brust — I read this after my flight home got canceled and I suddenly had time to kill before coming home. Loved it! I’d been wanting to get it, so I was delighted to see a copy turn up on the exchange table and grabbed it instantly.

THE HUNDRED THOUSAND KINGDOMS, by Jemisin — I already had it, but just in mm paperback and this was a trade paperback, so I kept it. I actually got to meet NK Jemisin! Whose name turns out to be Nora (if you were wondering). I so wanted her book to win the World Fantasy Award, but it didn’t (the one that did was the only nominee I haven’t read (WHO FEARS DEATH) so now I guess I’ll have to pick it up and see if I agree with the judges).

THE GODSTALKER CHRONICLES, by Hodgell — well written and I enjoyed it, but I see there are FOUR MORE books in this series and remember how I said I was epicked out for a while? Don’t know if I’ll look for the rest of the books any time soon.

And then a bunch I haven’t read yet and know nothing about except they looked good enough to add to my carry-on burden:

MAYAN DECEMBER (Cooper); THE HAMMER (Parker); THE DROWNING CITY (Downum); OUTLANDER (Gibaldon); GLITTER ROSE (de Pierres), which looks like short stories and may not be my thing but was small and pretty; UNPLUGGED (Horton, ed.) which is short stories from the web and includes Merrie Haskell’s great story The Girl-Prince, which is why I kept it; CAN’T CATCH ME (Cadnum), which also looks like short stories but I think I might like them. I think that’s it.

I also bought a copy of THE KINGDOM OF GODS by Jemisin, which I’m loving so far. What a fabulous trilogy, really, there are no words, you have to read this! I didn’t get a copy of MASTIFF, the third book in Tamora Pierce’s Beka Cooper trilogy, because I was pretty sure I’d pre-ordered it. Yep, good thing I held off, because it was waiting for me at home, so no need to haul it around.

So! I know I said I was taking October off to read books? And October is over? But there’s no way I’m stopping before re-reading the first too Beka Cooper stories and then this third one that just arrived.

Plus, also waiting for me — SILVER PHOENIX, by Cindy Pon. Who is a very nice, vivacious person, by the way; met her at a panel on Saturday. Gotta fit that one in sometime soon, too.

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From the air —

You know what’s fascinating about flying from St. Louis to Denver and then from Denver to San Diego?

On the first leg to Denver, there is nothing below you but fields and pastures laid out in geometric squares and circles. I mean, the WHOLE way. You start to believe that there isn’t a square inch of the country that isn’t already in use. (It turns out, looking at a map later, we probably flew over Kansas the long way.)

Then the second leg, from Denver to San Diego? That’s hundreds of miles of mountains and then broken plateaus and desert — Colorado and then Arizona — all with hardly a TRACE of human activity, and you start to believe that your plane might have flown back in time and there might not be another person anywhere on the continent. Nothing but the occasional highway breaks the illusion.

Very cool.

I kept thinking about Louis and Clark and how they must have felt when they hit the Rockies. I mean, whoa.

But imagine crossing Arizona and hitting the canyon lands? That would have presented at least as big a challenge, surely? From the air you can see just how far people on horseback would have to go to get around some of the canyons. It looks impossible to get down into the canyons and then back up.

If I ever send a protagonist on a quest across unknown lands . . .

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When reviewers disagree —

With each other, I mean.

Sometimes it’s just a matter of taste, like when one reviewer of THE FLOATING ISLANDS prefers Araene, and the next thinks it’s really Trei’s story, and the third says how his favorite part was the interaction between the two cousins (which is exactly what the first three reviews I read said). So I was happy about that, of course, since obviously both characters worked well.

But what if, as Marie Brennen says, “Mileage doesn’t just vary; it hardly seems to have gone over the same road.” ? How to explain that?

Brennan offers a neat idea about one factor that might underlie some of the more flatly contradictory opinions readers sometimes offer about a book.

She says: As I am a fairly reserved person, my characters’ idea of demonstrative floods of emotion may not look like much to the extroverts out there.

She goes on: I, not really being the sort to wave flags when I’m excited or angry or whatever, don’t tend to wave them for my characters, either. Or rather, I do — by my standards of measurement. And maybe if you’re a similar sort of person, then the things I intend to be flags register as such, and voila, you see depth of emotion. But people who are more used to wearing their hearts on their sleeves will only see a faint tick on the psychological seismograph, and think the character is made out of wood.

Doesn’t that sound just so plausible?

Lots of great essays over at Marie’s site — check ’em out.

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Troubled Waters . . .

. . . actually came out last year, but I only just now got around to reading it. Actually, a year on my TBR pile is not that long. I should figure out the proportion of books I read within days of getting them, but it’s not that high.

Sometimes even I’m sure I’ll love a book, I’ll put off reading it just because I like the anticipation. Plus I want to be in a guilt-free place in my own writing schedule. With chocolate!

So, TROUBLED WATERS.

Loved it!

My top three Sharon Shinn books? At the moment, that would be THE SHAPECHANGER’S WIFE, THE TRUTH TELLER’S TALE, and now TROUBLED WATERS.

If you love Patricia McKillip, then you should definitely read THE SHAPECHANGER’S WIFE. If you love YA fantasy, you should definitely read THE TRUTH-TELLER’S TALE. And if you love peaceful, flowing, beautifully written fantasy that doesn’t rush you along too fast and lets you enjoy your stay in a charming non-gritty world? Well, then, hey, TROUBLED WATERS.

I was so going to use a river metaphor for talking about this book, it’s hard not to, in fact, only a commenter on Goodreads , Laura, beat me to it:

Reading this book is like taking a relaxing boat ride down a smooth, wide river, where the current is just fast enough to continuously present new scenes of wonder and delight yet slow enough to allow you to take in all the details of each vista. Any unpleasantness in the story is like a small rock in that river, rising just high enough to cause a small ripple without creating any dangerous rapids or exposing any sharp surfaces which might damage the boat. (And I have officially run this metaphor to ground.)

And what can I say? I hope I would have put that as well, because that’s exactly how I felt.

The “blessings” were a charming idea and I loved how Sharon Shinn used them in the story, and I loved the way they are all, like, blessings, and not EVER in an awful monkey’s paw kind of way, either, but actually positive. I loved the understated divination thing Shinn did with them. And the elemental associations and powers? Very cool.

And of course the characters are well-drawn. I mean, Sharon Shinn, right? Of course the romance is obvious from the start, but it’s obviously not supposed to come as a surprise and it’s fun to see how it works out. The twist at the end, you can really see why he might not be sure how she’d take that, right? So he really would be tense about that.

TROUBLED WATERS was exactly what I was in the mood for. I know Sharon wrote this as a stand-along because I asked her, but I hope she eventually finds time to write a sequel or two for it, because there’s obviously more she could do with this world. I’d especially like to know a little more about those odd non-elemental blessings . . . lots of room for cool stuff with those.

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reading to relax with

So, ACROSS THE GREAT BARRIER? Much more relaxing and just, you know, purely enjoyable than a long, gritty-ish, complicated, multiple-viewpoint epic fantasy. As I knew it would be, of course.

The first book — THIRTEENTH CHILD — is still my favorite of the two because the character development and world building is so wonderful. We’ve got this great version of the American West where magic has SEVERELY limited exploration of maybe the western two-thirds of the continent (steam dragons are my favorite!). And history is different, too, so everything is recognizable but at a slant from how it was in our world. It’s a really fun world to set a story in!

In the sequel, of course, the character and world are both already in place and so though it’s fun to see how the character changes and what gets revealed about the world during the course of the story, that’s not the same.

Of course, slipping into a story where you already know the characters and the world can also be really comfortable, which is no doubt while neverending urban fantasy series are so popular. And even more neverending mystery series, of course. Both of which I love, so don’t think I’m knocking the neverending series thing, because I’m not.

But I really love the first book in a series, if it’s well done, which THIRTEENTH CHILD was really well done. I read it the first time just to enjoy it and then went back and studied how Patricia Wrede did her “time-is-passing” scenes, since she grew her protagonist up from about five years old to eighteen in the course of a very slim book.

Wrede also has to do the time-is-passing thing in ACROSS THE GREAT BARRIER, but not as much so because only a year or two pass in the course of the story. The problem the protagonist (Eff) is going to be facing is obvious from the very first glimpse we have of the animal “statues”, but it’s fun to see how things work out.

My favorite detail? I LOVED how the scientist in the story, Professor Torgeson, is SO PERFECTLY A SCIENTIST. All that obsessive, methodical precision and record keeping is EXACTLY right. Loved it!

It’s definitely set the scene for a third book, in which I expect we will finally learn what in the unknown far west has been driving weird and dangerous critters east toward the settlements and towns. Can’t wait to find out!

Next up: TROUBLED WATERS by Sharon Shinn

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