Category Archives: Ebooks

Ten Books that Left Bite Marks

keep readingOver on Facebook, several people tagged me in the “list ten books that have stayed with you” meme. It has taken me awhile to get to it, in part because the moment I started, I realized I needed a list for childhood faves and a second one for books that had an impact since I’ve been an adult. Here’s the latter list, in no especial order:

Lincoln’s Dreams, by Connie Willis. When we were first married, Kelly and I took turns reading each other novels that were important to us. She got to the crisis in this book one evening, shortly before I had to head off to work at an all-night answering service. I phoned her as soon as things got slow and begged her to finish it over the phone. It took her until 1:00 in the morning. I started rereading it the next day.

How Few Remain, by Harry Turtledove. This was my first real introduction to long-form alternate history, and the first scene whereby a not-assassinated Abraham Lincoln is talking to trade unionists about their rights blew my brain right out of its skull. (I keep tchotchkes and TTC tokens there now.)

Mystery, by Peter Straub. This could just about go on the childhood list. It’s a book I’ve returned to, every couple years, since I was in my teen.

I have a love-hate relationship with Straub’s work, and with the Blue Rose novels particularly. This is the one I love beyond reason: it’s perfect, in terms of its writing and the story it tells, and the fact that he ret-conned the story later causes me actual physical pain.

Zodiac, by Neal Stephenson. Early Stephenson often makes me happier than later Stephenson, though I have mad love for Snow Crash, too. This one, with its poisoned lobsters and anti-pollution activists, goes straight to my enviro-geek heart.

The Shape of Snakes, by Minette Walters, absolutely fascinates me. I reread it just about yearly. The ending gets me every time.

In the Woods, by Tana French. I’ve gone on at length about this one, and its gorgeous prose and unreliable narrator, before.

The Blue Place, by Nicola Griffith. And its sequels. Lesbian noir, with a point of view so convincing it makes you feel as though someone’s reached inside your brain and rewired you.

The Rift, by Walter Jon Williams, a man who has written so many brilliant novels. And yet this is the one I love: a retelling of Huck Finn as a modern U.S. disaster novel. Heart, heart, heart.

The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde. An alternate world where people care about literature the way people here care about football. With time travel to boot. Oh Emm Effin’ Gee!

The Closer, by Donn Cortez. Another book whose final line just kills. This was written prior to Darkly Dreaming Dexter, but the concept is similar. Is it darker? Less dark? You decide.

I will not tag others–I’m coming late to this meme and figure everyone who wants to play has done so–but I will note for anyone who’s interested that I plan to post the childhood books list in the not too distant, so even if you did the above exercise, you can jump on that wagon too.

Here’s Moxy Fruvous to play us out:

Cover reveal: “The Color of Paradox”

imageTor.com has released the cover for a story I sold Ellen Datlow not long ago,  “The Color of Paradox.” The image is by Jeffrey Alan Love and it’s very creepy and appropriate. I feel as though I could fall into it, staring for endless hours… or possibly just until the kittens do something irresistible. (Attention spans are lamentably short at Dua Central right now.)

The elongation of the figure and its placement in the upper left corner draw the eye first, delaying the moment when you track down to the city and see that Bad Things are happening. The brushwork is delightfully scratchy, and naturally I headed right off to Love’s blog to see what the rest of his work looked like. He’s got an image for Tolkien’s Beowulf that is sheerly amazing, and I liked his take on Excalibur, “The Sword in the City” very much.

“The Color of Paradox” is a first attempt to write  something I have been trying to wrap my head around for years: a series or novel or some damned thing set in a universe where there’s time travel, but it only moves backward.  All of the missions are one-way missions. You can receive instructions and resources from the future, but your only option for responding is to essentially leave time capsules where nobody else will find them.

It is also one of those stories that grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. I dropped everything and wrote it in a bit of a mad haze. It’s very different from Stormwrack and the impulse was probably driven by a desire to write in a different key.

Another thing about the story that delights me is having gotten to work with Ellen Datlow again, because she is a brilliant and generous editor and it had been too long since I had anything to send her.

It will be live on the Tor site and readable, for free, on June 25th, the same day Child of a Hidden Sea hits bookstores.

The Ugly Woman is now an e-book.

ugly woman smallMy recent Child of a Hidden Sea prequel, “The Ugly Woman of Castello di Putti,” is now available as an e-book. You can, of course, read it at Tor.com for free, but if you prefer your Kindle, Kobo or Nook, the story is up at Amazon, Chapters/Indigo, B&N, and in the iStore.

Here’s a taste:
“Had that soldier heard of you?” Parrish asked.

Few people took notice of Gale, or remembered her when they did. This was the work of a spell her parents had written when she was a child, making her forgettable, beneath notice. They’d meant for it to keep her safe. They hadn’t foreseen that it would lead to her into spying.

“I’ve fallen into a reputation here in Erinth,” Gale said. “When I moved into the mistress suite—”

“Excuse me?”

“There are buildings, near the palazzo, reserved for courtiers and special pets of the Contessa. My home—”

“Castello di Putti, they call it,” Royl put in. “In Fleetspeak, Strumpet Court.”

One of the things I sheerly love about having my stories come out as Tor Originals is this spill out to the e-book world. I tend to write long stories (though I have been working on brevity, of late), and I think my usual 8,500 word length fits well with the e-book format. At a buck, they’re rather a good deal. And the folks at the Tor site showcase their authors’ work so beautifully, with superb covers. It’s heady to have an attractive shelf of my fiction readily available to anyone who wants it.

In which I #amreading about the history of fingerprinting…

keep readingI am currently more than halfway through Suspect Identities: A History of Fingerprinting and Criminal Identification, by Simon A. Cole. The title’s pretty self-explanatory, I think.

This is research for the trilogy set on Stormwrack, the same world where “Among the Silvering Herd” takes place, and
I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned that early uses of fingerprinting tended to center around colonizing nations trying to tell their individual subjects apart (they thought all those non-white folks they were dominating looked alike!) I also learned how much of the early development of this technology was less about gathering fingerprints–either directly from individuals or in the form of latent prints on crime scenes–and more about generating a reliable filing system so that you could match the things.

I’d been craving a good non-fiction read and this has definitely delivered.

Here’s a short quote…

J. Edgar Hoover would reminisce fondly about the days when “too many law-enforcement officers were men of low intelligence, some of low morals, and, indeed, of a low opinion for anyone who sought to make science his aid and his standby in the pursuit of a criminal.”

Other books, so far this year –

1. The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2012, edited by Dan Ariely and Tim Folger
2. Throne of the Crescent Moon, by Saladin Ahmed
3. The Cat’s Table, by Michael Ondaatje
4. The Daughter of Time, by Josephine Tey (I read this partly because of the discovery of Richard the III’s bones and partly because of the Jo Walton essay “How can this be so gripping?

Short Stories
About Fairies,” Pat Murphy

Reading in 2012 – the whole shebang (#amreading)

Here’s all the books and many of the short stories I read in 2012

1. The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, by Stephen Greenblatt
2. Among Others, by Jo Walton
3. Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories, by Simon Winchester
4. Stone Spring by Stephen Baxter
5. Kat, Incorrigible (Unladylike Adventures of Kat Stephenson), by Stephanie Burgis
6. Remote, by Donn Cortez
7.The Pattern Scars by Caitlin Sweet
8. one awesome draft novel by a dear friend
9. Property of a Lady, by Sarah Rayne
10. Hark a Vagrant by Kate Beaton
11. Black Blade Blues, by J.A. Pitt
12. Redshirts, by John Scalzi
13. Broken Harbour, by Tana French
14. Sharp Objects, by Gillian Flynn
15. Are you My Mother? By Alison Bechdel
16. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
17. Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins
18. Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins
19. On Conan Doyle or The Whole Art of Storytelling, by Michael Dirda
20. Falling Angel, by William Hjortsberg
21. Between two Fires, by Christopher Buehlman
22. Black Diamonds; The Rise and Fall of an English Dynasty, by Catherine Bailey
23. The Warlock’s Curse, by M.K. Hobson
24. Little Star, by John Ajvide Lindqvist
25. Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
26. The Keeper of Lost Causes, by Jussi Adler-Olsen
27. The Sin Eater, by Sarah Rayne
28. How to Archer, by Sterling Archer

Short Stories (there were others; I’m just getting into this habit).
“Men Who Would Drown,” by Elizabeth Fama
“Six Months, Three Days,” by Charlie Jane Anders
“Nell,” by Karen Hesse (http://www.tor.com/stories/2012/09/nell)
“How to Make a Triffid” by Kelly Lagor (http://www.tor.com/stories/2012/11/how-to-make-a-triffid)
“Your Final Apocalypse,” Sandra McDonald, Clarksworld
“A Scandal in Bohemia,” Arthur Conan Doyle

Rereads
Faithful Place, by Tana French
Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer
Broken Harbour, by Tana French

This probably isn’t rocket science to any of you…

But since I started reading a lot of e-books, I stopped posting a lot of text fragments. It has taken me this long to figure out that I can highlight the good bit, hit SHARE, choose Twitter, and DM myself the frickin’ text I want without having to retype it.

So here, the successful experiment, from Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl:

I am not interested in being set up. I need to be ambushed, caught unawares, like some sort of feral love-jackal.

I chose it because it’s like the humor, and because it reminds me of the state a friend was in some years ago. She’s engaged now, so ha!

As I rebuild this prose-collecting habit, you’ll be seeing more of these. With longer notes. In the meantime, happy weekend.

I #amWriting, amReading, amRithmetic

Sometimes I can get through a book without ever having to print up a manuscript and make hard notes. Not so with the current book, though. I’ve run it off, divided it into five separate hundred-ish page segments, and am most of the way through a pink pen edit. This is not a sekrit publishing technical term. It just means that the next edit will be a green or blue or possibly orange pen edit. I am hoping to only read it this way twice, as the story came together pretty delightfully once the scribbling commenced.

Work in progress: DAUGHTER OF NO NATION

And speaking of delightful, I am now about 70% of the way through my shiny advance copy of M.K. Hobson’s heartrending steampunk novel The Warlock’s Curse, which will be available to the general public so very soon. This novel is the follow-up to the Nebula nominated The Native Star and its sequel The Hidden Goddess. I won’t say anything more about it until I’ve read that last 30%, except for this: damn you, Mary, you’ve gone and made me all emo! Those sodas at your Orycon launch party better be amazing! And also: guys, this is a superfun novel.

Instead of #amreading, here’s what I’m teaching in the fall…

Last week I read all three of Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games books. It may have been too much of the same thing at once, and maybe I’ll have more to say about them once some time has passed. I also reread Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer, but I’ve almost certainly written about that before.

Instead of treating you to semi-coherent Peeta/Gale mumblings or some variation on Wow, I sure don’t have what it takes to be a high-altitude climber!, I will tell you that my next UCLA extension course is Novel III, it starts on October 3rd, and there’s a discount available to people who sign up before the 24th. Here’s the description from the course catalog:

For those with a minimum of 50 pages of a novel-in-progress, this workshop guides you to generate at least 50 new pages as well as learn essential self-editing techniques, with the instructor and peers reviewing each participant’s project in detail. Refinements of character, structure, emotional content, and the development of the writer’s voice also are explored. The goal is to produce a substantial portion of your novel.

You can check out the syllabus here. (It’s subject to minor changes only.)

Or, if you’d rather, here’s a newsflash: the trees know that autumn’s on the way.
Autumn leaves in sun