Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Smugglivus this year

I am so behind in checking out the Book Smuggler’s Smugglivus guest posts!

But here are the ones that stand out to me so far:

FIVE BOOKS I READ IN 2017 ABOUT NICE PEOPLE TRYING THEIR BEST, from Jenny Hamilton.

A perfect theme to catch my eye!

Hamilton says, “In a year where the world has been so much on fire that California has been literally on fire, I’ve been on the hunt for books that make me feel comfortable and happy—not as easy a search as you might imagine!…here are five books I read this year that prioritize kindness and connection.”

Then she lists five books I’ve never heard of, one of which sounds like I would definitely enjoy it — Thorn, Intisar Khananim which is “a retelling of the Grimm fairy tale “The Goose Girl,” and like all of Khanani’s books, it offers characters who always, always try to choose light, no matter how dark their worlds seem.” The others include literary and romantic comedy, but the SF title, Mars Evacuees, also sounds good.

I would add that for “books that prioritize kindness and connection” — pick up Murderbot: All Systems Red if you haven’t already. The kindness and decency of the secondary characters is what draws the Murderbot into defending them even though it is normally completely indifferent to its clients, so that characterization is crucial to the plot. But those qualities also make this novella particularly appealing. I’ve read it three times already.

Also, here’s a post: 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE PRISONER, by Paul Weimer.

I haven’t thought about The Prisoner in ages, but Paul clearly has:

2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the release of one of the most interesting, convoluted, complex and controversial shows in television history. Filmed in 1966 and released in 1967, The Prisoner proves to still be one of the most iconic shows of genre television, and an inspiration and landmark for genre television ever since….

Click through if you were or are a fan of The Prisoner.

And then there is this post:

10ISH FAVORITE BOOKS – A SMUGGLIVUS LIST BY RACHEL NEUMEIER

As you may gather, I found it tough to pick out just ten. The list I put together for Smugglivus has a very definite history theme, which I didn’t see coming to start with but eventually decided to explicitly run with. It does surprise me a bit how many of my top picks for 2017 have some historical component to them.

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Do you want your child to grow up to be an author?

THEN DO NOT NAME HER THERESA.

Do you know how annoying it is to constantly have to look up Theresa Romain and see whether she has an “h” in her first name? (She does.)

Of course any sensible author is going to be happy any time fans refer to her books in social media or blog posts or whatever, even if they spell her name wrong. But think how much easier it would be all around if all authors had names with only one accepted spelling.

Or perhaps most people have an easier time than I do remembering individual spellings.

The same goes for Mathew vs Matthew, Sara vs Sarah, Catherine vs Katherine, and no doubt a host of other names I am temporarily forgetting.

Kaylee, Kayleigh, Kayley, Caylee — here’s a post which lists 79 spellings of this particular name. Probably not the very best choice for anyone who hopes to have Google locate her promptly and without effort.

Other names I have to look up every single time: Stephen. Or Steven.

Stephen Brust. Steven King. Oops … I mean Steven Brust and Stephen King. I can just never remember from moment to moment how either author spells his name.

Here’s another one:

Nichole vs Nicole. As in Nicole Kornher-Stace. Every single piece of that name is hard to remember how to spell. Google cannot track this author down if you type Nichole Koerner-Stacey (I just tried that variant and it didn’t work).

I don’t necessarily suggest a pen name for authors with names of that kind — I mean, Google will not find me if you type in Rachel Newmeyer, and it didn’t occur to me to go with a pen name. If your last name is spelled in some unusual way, there’s not much you can do about that if you don’t want to use a pen name. But surely it’s easier for authors whose first names at least are never spelled in any kind of creative way. Also for their fans.

By the way, by googling versions of her name just now, I learned that Nicole Kornher-Stace is working on a sequel to Archivist Wasp, so yay! It’ll be called Latchkey and it’s due to come out next summer. So that’s great news! It’ll be worth buying no matter how often I have to look up how to spell “Nicole Kornher-Stace” while writing a review of it.

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Tis the Season

Although I’m a total Scrooge when it comes to Christmas music — I overdosed many years ago and haven’t been able to enjoy most Christmas carols since — I always do enjoy wintry and Christmasy stories as we move through December. This year is no exception.

Partly by chance, I opened Patrice Greenwood’s latest Tearoom mystery a few days ago — Red as Any Blood. I hadn’t realized it was a Christmas-themed story, but it is. I liked it a lot, partly because it was perfect for the season. The title comes from The Holly and the Ivy, by the way. I hadn’t remembered the line, but it is —

The holly bears a berry
As red as any blood
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
To do poor sinners good

If I’d recognized that, I would have known it was set at Christmas. Well, it worked out perfectly even though I did not recognize the lyric.

Once reminded that I do enjoy Christmas-themed stories at this time of year, I recalled that waiting on my Kindle was a Regency titled A Christmas Gone Perfectly Wrong. Well, obviously this would be a good time to open it up. I like it so far — I like the falcons and I like the two lead characters. It’s going to be a pretty swoony type of romance, that’s clear, but I think I’m in the mood for that.

Speaking of Christmasy Regencies, I do recommend these novels by Theresa Romain. I liked all of them. She’s one of the few writers who can write a sex scene that I can stand to read.

Okay, segue to fantasy — of course The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe is a perfect choice to re-read at this time of year.

So is Wintersmith — not for Christmas, but for winter. It wasn’t my favorite of the Tiffany Aching stories, but I think that’s because I didn’t read it in the proper wintry frame of mind.

And of course this year an excellent story to try is Winter of Ice and Iron, which was just picked out as a great seasonal choice by Shana DuBois of the Barnes and Noble SFF Blog.

Rachel Neumeier’s Winter of Ice and Iron is one of the most satisfying fantasy reads I’ve enjoyed all year. I closed the book already aching for more of the characters and setting, and immediately settled in for a reread…

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Good News Tuesday

Okay, here’s a gene I would like inserted in my DNA immediately (but just on one allele, not both):

First Ever Anti-Ageing Gene Discovered in a Secluded Amish Family

Compared to the general Amish population, these 43 people had a 10 percent longer lifespan, and 10 percent longer telomeres (the DNA-protecting structures at the ends of our chromosomes that unravel when the cells reach the end of their lifespans). They also showed lower incidence of diabetes and lower insulin fasting levels. On top of that, the study showed a small indication of lower blood pressure and potentially more flexible blood vessels.

Homozygosity for this allele isn’t great, but heterozygosity is definitely good. It’s not the fountain of youth, but it’s a step in the right direction, hopefully.

Next, of increasing importance given the growing prevalence of resistant bacteria:

Synthetic Molecule That Could Be The Key to Ending Antibiotic Resistance

In a study published in the journal Scientific Reports earlier this November, this team of researchers from UdeM’s Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine explored a method that could block the transfer of antibiotic resistance genes.

The researchers focused on preventing a mechanism that allows for antibiotic resistance genes to be coded onto plasmids – which are DNA fragments that can carry genes that encode the proteins that render bacteria drug-resistant.

I like this next one the best; it’s so totally futuristic:

Tiny microrobots could be used to cure cancer

Known as “biohybrids,” the microbots can be controlled remotely to deliver life-saving drugs directly to affected areas for maximum efficiency. They are made from biological cells that are engineered with additional features so they can be guided through the bloodstream.

Isn’t that cool?

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Best of 2017

Tally of Books Read for 2017:

Fantasy: 30
Romances: 7
Urban fantasy: 5
SF: 3
Post-apocalypse: 12
Mystery: 5
Contemporary YA: 2
Literary: 6, all but one by Karen Joy Fowler
Historical: 3
Alternate history: 3
Caper novel: 1
Nonfiction: 4
Of this lot, re-reads: 10
DNF: 14

What an unbalanced year. I had no idea how little SF I read this year until I looked over my list. Which is a bit unreliable; there were some months I know I forgot to record some of the books I read. Still, this is a fairly accurate list of my reading for 2017.

Okay, favorites by month. I read from four to twenty books per month, so there’s a lot of variation in how competitive any given month was. Still, I’ll take a stab at picking out one favorite for each month of 2017.

Favorite January: Tomorrow, When the War Began series by Marsden (a re-read)

Favorite February: Hidden Steel by Durgin

Favorite March: Shadow Unit 15 by Bear and Monette and others

Favorite April: Shadow Fallen by Briggs

Favorite May: I read a whole bunch of books in May, lots of them good to excellent, so it’s hard to select one favorite read. But I have to go for the Freedom’s Gate series by Kritzer.

Favorite June: The Under a Graveyard Sky series by Ringo

Favorite July: Burn for Me by Andrews. I’d been saving this one for a reading slump. Loved it.

Favorite August: Knife by Anderson

Favorite September: Walk on Earth a Stranger by Carson

Favorite October: The Last Mage Guardian by Chase

Favorite November: The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Valentine

Favorite December: I haven’t really been reading many books this month, so I guess I’ll leave this space blank for now. If I read something fabulous in the next three weeks, I’ll be sure and review it.

Favorite of the Year: Out of the whole year . . . drumroll . . . I have to pick out Freedom’s Gate series by Naomi Kritzer as my overall favorite book or series for 2017.

***

Okay, now to break the favorites down a little differently:

Favorite male lead: Um, here I’m going to go with Innisth Maèr Eäneté in Winter of Ice and Iron. I generally avoid including my own books or characters in these lists, but hey.

Favorite female lead: Lauria from the Freedom’s Gate series by Kritzer.

Favorite lead who is neither male nor female: The murderbot protagonist from The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells. There’s not a lot of competition for this spot, obviously, but the Murderbot would be a great protagonist whatever its gender or lack thereof.

Favorite romantic couple: Lucien and Elena in Kiss of Lavender by Florand

Most unexpected plot twists: Knife by Anderson

Story that surprised me the most, in a good way: The remarkably readable Under a Graveyard Sky series by Ringo. I wouldn’t have expected to enjoy a series that hardly bothers with characterization and sometimes suffers from clunky writing plus overt political Messages. But I did.

Favorite secondary fantasy world: The Harbors of the Sun by Wells. Hard to beat the Raksura world.

Favorite fairy tale: The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Valentine was not exactly a retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, but I liked it a whole bunch and it did echo the fairy tale.

Favorite contemporary: Hidden Steel by Durgin

Favorite historical fantasy: Steel Blues by Graham and Scott

Favorite alternate history: The Eagle and Empire series by Smale

Favorite SF setting: The Murderbot Diaries: All Systems Red by Wells

Favorite UF/Paranormal: Burn for Me series by Andrews

Favorite romance: A Kiss in Lavender by Florand

Favorite mystery: As Red as Any Blood by Greenwood

Favorite Georgette Heyers: False Colors, which I listened to for the second time.

Favorite YA: Thick as Thieves by Turner

Favorite MG: The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart by Burgis

Favorite art book masquerading as a novel: Above the Timberline by Manchess

Favorite Cover Art: Winter of Ice and Iron. It’s nice enough online, but you have to see it in person to appreciate the lovely metallic sheen this cover has – it shifts from greys to blues depending on the angle of the light. Saga sure did give me beautiful covers.

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Black Dog is Free on Kindle

So, you all probably already have a copy, but just in case you don’t — I’m making Black Dog free for this pre-Christmas season.

Amazon seems to want me to make a book free for only five days at a time. So Black Dog will definitely be free from now until the 12th, but I will attempt to make it free for another five days, and another after that — right up until Christmas.

So if you don’t have a copy, grab one now. Got a friend (or a hundred friends) who might like it? Now’s the time!

Black Dog by Rachel Neumeier, 2016 edition

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The Seven Wonders of the World

So, I happened across a post at the NYT about the New Seven Wonders of the World.

Hold onto that idea for just a moment.

To review, as you may know, the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World were:

1. The Great Pyramid at Giza, Egypt, which I’m sure we can all visualize but keep in mind that originally they were covered with white limestone. That must have been just incredible to see.

2. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, which were a seventy-five-foot-tall terraced garden.

3. The Statue of Zeus at Olympia, Greece, a forty-foot-tall statue depicting Zeus seated on his throne, with robes of gold.

4. The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, which was 425 feet high, 225 feet wide, supported by one hundred twenty-seven 60 foot columns, and inspired awe in everyone who visited it.

5. The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, which was 135 feet tall and ornately decorated with fine sculpture.

6. The Colossus of Rhodes, which was a statue of the god Helios that stood over 110 feet high, overlooking the harbor of Rhodes.

7. The Lighthouse at Alexandria, Egypt, which stood close to 440 feet high and was the third tallest human-made structure in the world; its light (a mirror which reflected the sun’s rays by day and a fire by night) could be seen as far as 35 miles out to sea.

I got all those details from the linked site, btw, it’s not like I knew offhand how tall the Temple of Artemis was.

Of course most of these ancient wonders were eventually destroyed, often by earthquakes but sometimes by deliberate vandalism.

So now, after that review, what about these “New Seven Wonders”?

1. The Great Wall of China.

2. The Taj Mahal

3. Petra

4. The Colosseum in Italy

5. The statue of Christ the Redeemer in Brazil, which stands 125 feet tall and stands atop a 2000 foot hill.

6. Chichén Itzá, Mexico

7. Machu Picchu, Peru

…Okay, as far as I’m concerned, SOMETHING needs to go off the NYT’s modern list to make room for the Great Pyramid of Giza, which even without its limestone facing definitely belongs on any list of Seven Wonders. I guess room should be made by removing Chichén Itzá, because does one really need two super-impressive pyramids on a single list?

But I would be willing to replace the statue of Christ the Redeemer instead, because a 125-foot statue constructed with reasonably modern techniques and materials does not seem as impressive to me as Chichén Itzá.

Also, there are way bigger statues in the world. This list presents the seven largest statues in the world. As far as I’m concerned, the Laykyun Setkyar in Myanmar are big, but a touch gaudy. That might be an effect of the light or something, but I much prefer the Spring Temple Buddha, which is waaaay impressive.

Also, the list ought to include Mount Rushmore. If that’s not in the top seven, make a top ten list instead.

Click through if you like and pick the ONE statue that should be on a list of Seven Wonder of the World. The Spring Temple Buddha is the biggest, but is it the one you would pick?

The picture on that list of the Guan Yin statue is not great — here is a better picture of that one:

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Metaphors

Here at Kill Zone Blog, an interesting post about metaphors:

I don’t want to burst your bubble, but coming up with metaphors and similes is hard. Bad ones are a dime a dozen and coming up with good ones is like banging your head against a brick wall. You will be tempted to farm the over-tilled soil, tread the road already taken, resort to the tried and true. But you have to look through the rain to see the rainbow.

The author of the post, PJ Parrish, draws especially on TS Elliot for examples of metaphors — also Carl Sandburg:

Elliot’s fog — “a yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes, licked its tongue into the corners of the evening.”

Compared with Sandburg’s fog, which — “comes in on little cat feet and sits looking over the harbor on its haunches before it moves on.”

I remember that last line, which stood out for me in high school. In general I didn’t care for anything assigned in high school, but I did like poetry. I still do, though I don’t often seek any out.

You know what stands out to me for beautiful use of metaphor and simile in a contemporary work? The Sky is Everywhere by Nelson. The whole story is like one extended poem about grief and recovery. If that doesn’t instantly appeal to you, let me add that it’s one of best books I’ve read in the past decade. The use of language is definitely one reason why that’s true:

His face is more open than an open book, like a wall of graffiti really.

According to all the experts, it’s time for me to talk about what I’m going through….I can’t. I’d need a new alphabet, one made of falling, of tectonic plates shifting, of the deep devouring dark.

Silence tick-tocks between us, as it does lately.

My eyes move from the lilacs cascading down the path to the several parties of daffodils gossiping in the breeze to the indisputable fact that springtime has shoved off its raincoat and is just prancing about.

I can’t say I’d want to read prose like this all the time — it’s certainly not suitable to every kind of story — but it’s perfect in Nelson’s lovely book. I’ve bought two extra copies to give away so far, to people who were dealing with grief, but you certainly needn’t have suffered a recent bereavement to read The Sky is Everywhere.

In fact, you might enjoy Nelson’s novel more during a happy springtime when the very possibility of bereavement seems inconceivable.

Here at the start of winter, you might prefer this one:

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The first Roman invasion of Britain

This is interesting: Archaeologists find first evidence for Julius Caesar’s invasion of Britain

The first Roman invasion of Britain by Julius Caesar in 55BC is a historical fact, with vivid accounts passed down by Tacitus, Cicero and Caesar himself.

Yet, despite a huge landing force of legionaries from 800 ships, no archaeological evidence for the attack or any physical remains of encampments have ever been found.

But now a chance excavation carried out ahead of a road building project in Kent has uncovered what is thought to be the first solid proof for the invasion….

I hadn’t been aware that Julius Caesar ever invaded Britain.

For novels set during or after the later conquest of Britain, my favorite is Gillian Bradshaw’s wonderful Island of Ghosts. I wonder if she’s ever considered writing one set during this earlier invasion?

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