Category Archives: books

Anthology Announcement: Stories of Strong Women

So you might have noticed a lack of posting around here. *watches tumbleweeds roll past* There are several reasons for that, including me getting distracted by my garden, but here’s the best one:

Under Her Protection edited by Siri Paulson

We at Turtleduck Press have been working hard to bring you our best anthology yet (okay, I might be a teeny bit biased). This one features four fantasy romance stories about women rescuing, well, dudes in distress:

Sometimes men are the ones trapped in a tower, or bound by a curse, or doomed to stay in the underworld. Damsels or not, they need rescuing too. And these are just the women to do it…

A swordswoman and a scholar.

A grim reaper and a dead man.

A maidservant and an inventor.

A new university grad and a prince.

Fantasy romance stories from four indie writers about strong women…and men who need their help.

Stories by Kit Campbell, KD Sarge, Erin Zarro, and yours truly. Full disclosure: I am also the editor.

As you can see from the above, we’ve written four very different stories (as usual!) — a paranormal, a fairy tale, and two secondary world adventures. But they all feature female leads who are strong in their own ways, and handsome love interests who are deserving of their affections.

In other words, just what (I hope) you’ve come to expect from Turtleduck Press.

Buy it direct from our printer here, from Amazon (Kindle or paperback) here, or in other ebook formats here. Enjoy!

 

New and Upcoming Books I’m Excited About: February 2014 Edition

So I’ve got to share some news. Not Turtleduck Press news — these are other people’s books I’m talking about. I’m excited about them and hope you will be, too.

First up, a new release by YA author Megan Crewe:

The Worlds We Make by Megan Crewe

Out now. This is the third book in her YA apocalyptic trilogy. In her world, society is brought to its knees by an influenza epidemic, leaving Kaelyn struggling to do the right thing, or even to know what the right thing is. It’s a quieter, more reflective series than is usual in this genre. I’ve read the first two books and can’t wait to read the finale.

Second, an adult fantasy novel by Katherine Addison, otherwise known as Sarah Monette:

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

Out in April. Monette is one of my very favourite authors. Last year I read a book she co-wrote with Elizabeth Bear, and loved it so much that I promptly flipped back to the beginning and read it again. The Goblin Emperor has been listed on her Wikipedia page as “forthcoming” for years. I’m beyond thrilled that it’s finally (almost) here.

Speaking of Elizabeth Bear, she writes a lot and, much as I love her, I have trouble keeping up, but this spring will see the conclusion of her current fantasy series:

Steles of the Sky by Elizabeth Bear

Out in April. It’s an epic fantasy trilogy set on a world inspired by the Asian Steppes. Need I say more? (The first book is called Range of Ghosts. You’re welcome.)

Finally, Suzanne Collins doesn’t really need my help with promotion, but I’m sharing anyway: Mockingjay is finally out in paperback as of next week! (Which may also mean the ebook will drop in price.)

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Your turn! What recent or upcoming books are you excited about?

Reading Recap 2013

A Companion to Wolves coverWelcome back to the blog! I hope you had a lovely holiday season and are getting back to real life with renewed vigour, or at least looking forward to the return of light and warmth. I know I am!

It’s time again to look back on a year of reading. Today I’m sharing the best books I read in 2013, and looking back on my reading and buying habits over the year. Because who says writers can’t also be numbers geeks?

Best Books in 2013

Disclaimer: I’m always playing catch-up in my reading, so these aren’t the best books published in 2013, just the best I read that year. For SF&F “best of” round-ups that are more current, check out Tor.com or io9.com.

And now, in no particular order, my top 7 books of 2013:

1. The Hair Wreath and Other Stories by Halli Villegas. Short story collection. My review is here.

2. A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin. My response from a writerly perspective is here.

3. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I never did blog about it, but this literary fantasy novel was popular enough when it came out that it probably needs no explanation.

4. Cripple Poetics by Petra Kuppers and Neil Marcus. Poetry chapbook co-written by two disabled people as they fall in love.

5. A Companion to Wolves by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear. My review is here.

6. XKCD by Randall Munroe. Yes, I follow the webcomic, so I’d read all the strips before, but it’s still awesome to have and read in book form. And it hits all my geek buttons.

7. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. My analysis of the book versus the movie is here.

What I loved about these:

  • the numinous in unexpected places
  • sense of wonder in settings or concepts (e.g., a circus full of wonderful things)
  • sophisticated worldbuilding (e.g., fantasy politics in GRRM; wolf psychology in A Companion to Wolves)
  • psychological depth (e.g., the Girl on Fire coping with life after survival; poetry; the boy bonded to a she-wolf and facing the consequences)
  • sense of surprise – whether a really big twist or something that made me laugh

Catching Fire book cover

Reading Habits in 2013

And now, on to the stats…

Genres

I read 31 books over the course of the year — about 10 more than in each of the previous three years, thanks to having a six-month sabbatical from work. I expect that number to drop back down to normal levels in 2014, alas.

  • 9 were adult fantasy (4 last year) and 5 were adult SF (4 last year)
  • 1 was non-genre adult fiction (3 last year)
  • 2 were YA fantasy (0 last year), 2 were YA SF (3 last year), and 1 was non-genre YA fiction (0 last year)
  • 5 were non-fiction (1 last year)
  • 1 was an anthology or collection of short stories (3 last year)
  • 1 was poetry (0 last year)
  • 3 were “other”, in this case graphic novels or webcomics (0 last year)

14 of the books were from my to-read list (8 last year).

13 of the books were part of series (consistent with the numbers from last two year, though not the proportions, since I read so much more this year).

Authors

I read books by 23 different authors (not counting collaborations or travel guides), of whom 12 were new to me this year (6 last year) and 11 were new-to-me books by previously read authors (7 last year).

9 of the authors were male, 14 female. Last year was a 6/9 split – almost identical proportions.

To my knowledge, only 2 authors were persons of colour (both women). I keep resolving to do better in this regard and falling short.

Publishing

Of all 31 books, 14 were published in 2008 or later (last year, 12 were published in 2007 or later).

The only self-published books I read were the two Turtleduck Press novels and a webcomic anthology or two.

Buying

5 of the books were gifts, 2 were secondhand, 2 were borrowed. None of these were ebooks, obviously.

10/31 of the books were ebooks, including 4 travel guides and 2 from TDP. (The other four included one big fat fantasy novel that I didn’t want to lug around, two novels that I bought to bring with me while travelling, and one that I bought in ebook form for no particular reason.) Last year 5/21 were ebooks, so the proportion has gone up from about 25% to 33%, but the travel is skewing the numbers. We’ll see how it goes this year, especially since I now have a smartphone as well as a dedicated Kobo ereader.

Other Reading Recaps

If you’re the curious type and/or need more book recommendations to add to your list (excuse me while I die laughing…), here are some other bloggers’ reflections on their year in books:

And looking ahead:

Your turn! How did your reading go this past year? What were your favourite books in 2013?

A Tradition of Books for Christmas

Christmas with bookIn my family, we have a long tradition of giving each other books as gifts. I can’t remember a single Christmas where no-one has gotten or given a book.

Some years I’ve ended up with a big, delicious stack; other years, one or two volumes, or even none, as I’ve been a giver instead of a receiver of books. They’ve ranged from secondhand paperbacks to quality editions, from literary classics to Star Trek tie-in novels to the latest in whatever SF or fantasy or historical series I was obsessed with that year.

My family first discovered Harry Potter through a holiday catalogue put out by a local bookstore, the dearly departed and sorely missed Greenwoods’ Bookshoppe. That year, I read the description of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone — I’d never heard of it, nobody had back then — and decided to buy it for my brother, who was just the right age. He loved it. I might have loved it even more than he did.

Speaking of Star Trek tie-ins, I discovered Star Trek in 1992, just at the beginning of my teens. At that time Star Trek: The Next Generation was on its first run, so that’s what I watched, and initially what I read, borrowing all the tie-in books from my Trekkie aunt. But she was also an avid fan of the original series (TOS). For Christmas that year she gave me a copy of her favourite TOS novel, Uhura’s Song – getting me hooked on a whole new series.

More recently, my mom started giving my siblings and me books she hoped would serve us well as new adults heading off on our own — books of recipes, books on decorating your first apartment.

My immediate family doesn’t have any young children in it right now, but you can bet that if and when it does, I’ll be buying kids’ books for Christmas, and I’ll do it with glee.

Your turn! Do you buy books as holiday gifts? Have you noticed a theme or themes to your buying over the years?

If you liked this post, you might also like The Best Christmas Stories Ever, featuring my favourite seasonal books, movies, TV specials, and even a radio show.

Christmas Gift Ideas from Turtleduck Press

You knew I was obliged to do one of these, right? *winks* Don’t worry, we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled non-promotional content on Wednesday.

Turtleduck Press has been working hard at putting out good stories for the past three years, and we’ve amassed a variety of books designed to appeal to a range of SF&F and romance readers.

(All but one of them are available in your choice of ebook or print. Click on the covers below for more info!)

If you like…

…season-themed SF&F anthologies: you might like Winter’s Night (a variety of winter-themed stories and a poem) or Seasons Eternal (one longish short story for each season, set in a world where the seasons have stopped changing), edited by me and contributed to by all the members of Turtleduck Press.

Winter's Night anthology cover

…urban fantasy, paranormal romance, banter, or modern takes on mythology: then you might like Shards by Kit Campbell.

Shards by Kit Campbell

…science fiction set in space but with a focus on character, banter, or m/m (gay) romance: then you might like Knight Errant, His Faithful Squire, Queen’s Man, or Captain’s Boy by KD Sarge.

Knight Errant by KD Sarge

…science fantasy, genetic tinkering, or paranormal romance: then you might like Fey Touched by Erin Zarro (and watch for the sequel, Grave Touched, coming in April!).

Cover of Fey Touched by Erin Zarro

…poetry about broken love or about living with disability: then you might like Without Wings or Life as a Moving Target by Erin Zarro.

Without Wings by Erin Zarro

…YA novels about stepping through a portal into a magical universe: then you might like Hidden Worlds by Kit Campbell.

Hidden Worlds by Kit Campbell

We also have lots of SF&F short stories available to sample for free on our website, but if you’d like to support the authors and get your own copy (ebook only), we’ve collected our favourites in The Best of Turtleduck Press, Volume 1.

Best of Turtleduck Press, Vol. 1

And finally, if you’re not inclined or not in a position to buy one of these yourself this Christmas, but would like to support Turtleduck Press, you can still help by:

  • spreading the word — the biggest barrier to success in publishing (after quality, of course!) is getting noticed, and word of mouth is super important
  • leaving reviews – again, reviews on sites like Amazon, Goodreads, or LibraryThing, or your own blog if you have one, help authors get noticed
  • letting us know how we’re doing — if you want to see us do more of something in particular, or just want to send encouragement, we’d love to hear from you in the comments
  • buying or recommending another author’s book – Sure, we’re technically competitors, but really, the more people read, the better it is for all authors and the publishing industry as a whole…so go out and buy someone’s — anyone’s — books this Christmas!

Strong Girl Characters: YA and MG Classics

From Anna by Jean LittleA couple of months ago, I wrote about strong female characters in SF and F. Today I’d like to revisit some of the characters who inspired me as a younger reader and writer. If you have a budding reader — of any age — to buy for this season, consider the following recommendations lists…

Middle Grade Novels

Amy from M.M. Kaye’s The Ordinary Princess. Amy is a princess cursed to be “ordinary” – she’s not beautiful or good at embroidery or dancing like her sisters. But while lacking in traditional royal virtues, she has a wide independent streak. When her parents try to marry her off, she runs away into the forest to live on her own terms. No ass-kicking here, but plenty of resourcefulness and gentle humour, and an age-appropriate romance on her own terms.

Anna from Jean Little’s From Anna. Unlike most of the novels here, this one is historical fiction, following a German family who emigrates to Canada ahead of WWII. While the shadow of the Nazis lurks in the background, the plot rests solidly on the difficulty of fitting in to a new place. Anna is hampered by having bad eyes and poor English, but her stubborn streak may prove to be her greatest strength.

Cimorene from Patricia C. Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles. Like Amy, Cimorene is a princess who doesn’t want to be married off, so she runs away to cook and clean for dragons instead, and her life gets much more interesting from then on. Her employer, Kazul the King of the Dragons, is actually female, and she befriends a pretty awesome witch in the forest of the title. Even when she eventually does get married and have a child in subsequent books, her awesomeness is not diminished. (Fellow Turtleduck Press author Kit Campbell did a series of posts on these books, starting here.)

Nancy Blackett from Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons. In this series set (and written) in 1930s England, two groups of children sail small boats around a large lake and have adventures that include a strong dose of imagination. Nancy Blackett is the captain of the boat named Amazon, and she lives up to the name – she’s the ringleader of all the adventures, and a fearless pirate whose favourite expression is “Shiver me timbers”. Who says girls can’t be pirates? (Though you will notice her strength is fairly masculine in form.)

As a bonus, Nancy isn’t the only strong girl character in the series — Titty Walker from the Amazon‘s rival boat, the Swallow, is a thoughtful dreamer who gets her moments to shine, and a later heroine, Dorothea Callum, is a writer and storyteller to balance her scientific-minded brother Dick.

Ronia the Robber's Daughter by Astrid LindgrenRonia from Astrid Lindgren’s Ronia the Robber’s Daughter. Lindgren is better known for creating Pippi Longstocking, but I have just as much love for the less off-the-wall Ronia. She grows up in a castle in the woods, running wild among a band of robbers and befriending a boy from a rival band. Pure fantasy? Yes…but what’s wrong with that?

(I’m not going to list all the best-known classics about girls here, but I’ve mentioned some of my favourites over here.)

Young Adult Novels

Kim from Patricia C. Wrede’s Mairelon the Magician and Magician’s Ward. In this Regency world with magic, Kim is a street urchin (masquerading as a boy to avoid the inevitable fate of a girl on the London streets) who’s hired to burgle the wagon of a performing illusionist. But his magic turns out to be real – he’s no circus hack, but a true magician who’s gone incognito after being framed. Soon she’s learning how to do magic herself while helping her new friend clear his name. There’s some romance, especially in the second book (which has more about London Society and less running around in a circus wagon), but the real fun in this duology is the madcap capers that ensue.

Dragonsong by Anne McCaffreyMenolly from Anne McCaffrey’s Harper Hall trilogy. Forbidden to pursue the music she loves, Menolly runs away from home (sensing a theme here?), befriends some fire lizards (think tiny dragons – a more YA-friendly and more mellow version of Danaerys from Game of Thrones), and follows her dreams to Harper Hall. This series has been a gateway to adult SF&F for many a young reader, but beware — while the Harper Hall trilogy is safe, some of the other Pern books get pretty mature in their subject matter.

Vesper Holly from Lloyd Alexander’s Vesper Holly series. Think of Vesper Holly as a teenaged version of Amelia Peabody – a nineteenth-century adventuress who travels to exotic locations and solves mysteries. ‘Nuff said? (Lloyd Alexander is one of my all-time favourite MG/YA authors, and he has written a lot, so if you get someone hooked on him, he’ll keep them busy for a while!)

(This part of the list is shorter because when I was growing up, there wasn’t a Young Adult genre the way there is today. I went more or less straight from Anne of Green Gables to Anne McCaffrey, A.C. Crispin, Isaac Asimov, and other YA-friendly SF&F authors — and I think I’m pretty typical. But if you have more YA classics about girls that I’ve missed, please chime in!)

Picture Books

I also had a few favourite picture books about girls, both fairy tale retellings by Robin Muller. Tatterhood features a cursed but fearless princess who scours the world for her beloved sister, while Molly Whuppie and the Giant stars an equally fearless woodcutter’s daughter who rescues her two older siblings from certain death. Both of them got read to pieces in our house; they are utterly wonderful, if you can find them.

Your turn! What classic books about girls can you recommend for younger readers?

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like one of the following:

Turtleduck Press Cover Reveal: Shards

I’m excited to unveil the new novel release from my indie publishing house, Turtleduck Press. Shards, by Kit Campbell, is an urban fantasy/paranormal romance featuring an inquisitive Latina university student and a handsome guy who’s keeping supernatural secrets…secrets that have to do with her, and with a past she doesn’t remember.

Intrigued? Here’s the cover:

Shards by Kit Campbell

Shards comes out on December 1, and Kit will be guest posting here that week. In the meantime, you can read more about Shards over at Kit’s website.

(Apologies for the brevity of this post. I’m deep in the throes of novel editing…)