Category Archives: books

My Top 5 Books of 2017

First, a quick note to say that my short story The House Robot is now up at Turtleduck Press!

blog-Kindred-coverAnd now, on to the main affair…my favourite reads of 2017. (I know, it’s already February 2018. Shhhh.)

Standard disclaimer: I’m often discovering older books for the first time, so when I do these yearly posts, I don’t limit myself to books published in that year. That means this is an eclectic mix of older titles. But hey, there’s no reason they shouldn’t still be celebrated!

Runners-Up

Octavia Butler, Kindred. A nuanced exploration of the Black experience of slavery — subtle where it needed to be, but pulling no punches — through a time travel story. Beautiful, heartbreaking, and utterly brutal.

Georgette Heyer, Cousin Kate. I know many romance readers love Heyer, but she’s new to me, probably because I’m not much of a romance reader (I prefer grand adventures with a side of romance, not the other way around). I am told that this one is atypical Heyer, being a Gothic, but I seriously enjoyed it — it hit all the same reader buttons for me as my top book of the year (more about that below).

blog-Safety Protocols-martinez-coverAngel Martinez, Safety Protocols for Human Holidays. Another romance! *gasp* This one is a novella, short and sweet, but it makes the list because it’s absolutely adorable and hilarious, and was just exactly the sort of comfort read I needed. It’s science fiction, set on a multicultural spaceship. The aliens’ attempts to figure out the inner workings of human culture and psychology were so perfect, and they balanced beautifully with the romance arc.

Maggie Stiefvater, The Scorpio Races. Okay, Stiefvater is not exactly an unknown fantasy writer, but again, she’s new to me. Really loved the writing style. She clearly knows horses, and she did a beautiful job of capturing both the normal horse-and-rider relationship and the fantasy angle of the dangerous but alluring water horses. Plus the sea. I was a sucker for Marguerite Henry’s books growing up (like Misty of Chincoteague) so this was a shoo-in.

The Winner

blog-To Say Nothing of the Dog-coverMy favourite book of the year was To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis. Ironic, because it was a gift and I wouldn’t have picked it out for myself. I had previously read Passage by the same author, and enjoyed it but found it overly slow for my taste. But since I had this book already, I decided to give Willis another shot.

And boy, was I glad I did! To Say Nothing of the Dog is a riff on Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat (which I haven’t read). It’s brilliant comedy writing (screwball, maybe? Madcap? Something like that). It’s also a time travel story in which, unusually, the time travel mechanism itself plays a central role and creates the main mystery of the book. Did I mention part of it takes place in WWII, which is definitely not treated like comedy, and yet everything hangs together? And it’s all very British-Edwardian-upper-class – even though Willis herself is American, she nails it. And, of course, the titular dog is adorable.

Honorable Mentions

blog-Ancillary Justice-coverTwo books that I found really intriguing but didn’t like quite as much as I wanted to: Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice and Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway. The first was a bit too dense for me to follow, and the second a bit too thin on plot for my taste (to be fair, it was a novella — not my favourite length — and I knew that going in).

I am planning to continue on with both series, if that tells you anything.

Common Themes

Every year I like to look back and identify the common themes in my reading — what did I love about these books that I identified as my favourites?

  • This year they actually fall into two categories — excellent but heartbreaking (Kindred and The Scorpio Races) and warm, fuzzy, and/or funny (all the rest).
  • Strong character relationships were at the centre of each — sometimes a dangerous dance, other times crackling dialogue.
  • Strong sense of place — I love stories where the location is so vivid it becomes a character.
  • Intimate stakes — some years I love big epic stories, but most of these are about the fate of one person, or one tiny community, or a family or found-family…but no less tense for all that.
  • Diversity — from the Black central characters of Butler and Martinez, to the asexual protagonist in Every Heart a Doorway, to the gender-in-storytelling experiment of Ancillary Justice, my reading is getting more diverse. This is not an accident, as I’m seeking out more diversity in the books I pick up, but I’m pleased to see that many of those are also turning out to be my favourites.
  • All of the authors are women — this is certainly not true every year, but in 2017 my reading was more heavily weighted towards women than usual.

 

And there you have it! Have you read any of these? What were your favourite books last year?

 

If you enjoyed this post, check out my previous reading recaps: 2017 reading stats | 2016 reading recap | 2015 reading recap | 2014 reading recap | 2013 reading recap | 2012 reading recap

 

 

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Reading Recap: 2017

blog-Kindred-coverHere I am to return this blog to its non-marketing roots! My most popular posts are the ones where I geek out about books and movies, with occasional appearances by travel posts. Luckily for you, that’s exactly what I have planned. To kick things off, here’s Part 1 of my annual reading recap (read my 2016 reading recap).

I read 21 books last year, one more than the previous year. That’s a little lower than past years, but it seems to be my new normal.

Genre breakdown is as follows:

  • 6 adult fantasy (same as the last 3 years!)
  • 4 adult SF (same as last year)
  • 3 unclassifiable/other adult speculative fiction* (2 last year)
  • 2 YA fantasy (same as last year)
  • 1 YA SF (same as last year)
  • 2 non-SFF adult fiction (same as last year)
  • 2 non-fiction (1 last year)
  • 1 anthology (same as last year)

Ever Touched final cover 3-30-17* This includes genre mashups like Justin Cronin’s The Twelve (near-future vampire apocalypse) and Erin Zarro’s Ever Touched (futuristic world with fey), as well as stories where something inexplicable happens but it’s not clearly treated as either SF or fantasy, like Octavia Butler’s Kindred. I usually put magic realism and other literary stories into this category as well.

13 of the books were parts of series – about three-quarters of my genre reading. In last year’s post, I declared my intention to focus on series I was already in the middle of. That had middling success – I started 7 new series. (Some of them I won’t be continuing.) I didn’t actually finish any series, but I read 4 middle books of series with defined ends (trilogies or tetralogies). So 2018 will be the year of finishing. …And starting more new series, because who am I kidding?

Author Breakdown

14 of 20 books were by women (the 21st was an anthology), a slightly higher ratio than my reading in most years. I attribute that to the political climate.

blog-Profession-of-Hope-Butler4 of the authors were people of colour, one more than last year – Tobias Buckell (Crystal Rain), Jenna Butler (A Profession of Hope: Farming on the Edge of the Grizzly Trail), Khaled Hosseini (The Kite Runner) and Octavia Butler (Kindred).

Only 2 of the books were by fellow Canadians. That wasn’t a metric I was particularly paying attention to this past year.

6 of the books had strong LGBTQIA+ representation – my new metric to track.

11 of the authors were new to me, same as last year. I love discovering new favourites, but it does explain why I’m not getting through the backlists of authors I already know and love! This year will require more Lois McMaster Bujold, Naomi Novik, and Elizabeth Bear.

Publishing Years and Formats

Of the 21 books I read, only 7 were published in the last 5 years (and 17 were published in the last 15 years). That’s slightly better than last year (5 and 11 respectively), but still not good for a writer like me, who needs to keep up with the market. I’m pretty good at hearing about new books, but not so good at reading them in a timely fashion!

blog-Twelve-Cronin15/21 were ebooks, or 71% – the highest ratio of ebooks to paper books ever (I’ve had a Kobo ereader since 2012).

This is for a variety of reasons. One of the biggest is that a lot of books in my genre are no longer coming out in mass market paperback size, and I find the larger sizes uncomfortable to hold, especially since I do a lot of my reading on public transit, when I may be standing up. I have started buying the occasional trade paperback (mainly in an effort to support my local indie SFF bookstore, Bakka-Phoenix Books), but only the lighter ones – anything that’s bigger or heavier gets bought as an ebook. I’m looking at you, Cixin Liu’s and Justin Cronin’s publishers!

 

If you can’t get enough of book stats geekery, check out 2017 Books in Review by my City of Hope and Ruin co-author (and fellow Turtleduck Press author), Kit Campbell. And stay tuned for Part 2, wherein I discuss my favourite reads from 2017…

 

New Book Promo: The Stark Divide by J. Scott Coatsworth

I’m signal-boosting for another author today! Sacramento-based J. Scott Coatsworth is celebrating the release of his science fiction novel The Stark Divide.

blog promo - The_Stark_Divide_Updated-2

On his website, Scott says:

I write stories that subvert expectations, that seek to transform traditional sci fi, fantasy, and contemporary worlds into something new and unexpected. I also run both Queer Sci Fi and QueeRomance Ink with my husband Mark, sites that bring people like us together to promote and celebrate fiction that reflects our own reality.

My writing, whether romance or genre fiction (or a little bit of both) brings a queer energy to my stories, infusing them with love, beauty and power and making them soar. I imagine a world that could be, and in the process, maybe changes the world that is, just a little.

That sounds a lot like my own writing philosophy, although mine isn’t focused around solely queer ideas (and my spouse isn’t the same gender as I am, but who’s counting?). So I’m delighted to host Scott and celebrate what we authors call his “book birthday”. Happy book birthday, Scott! Take it away…


Some stories are epic.

The Earth is in a state of collapse, with wars breaking out over resources and an environment pushed to the edge by human greed.

Three living generation ships have been built with a combination of genetic mastery, artificial intelligence, technology, and raw materials harvested from the asteroid belt. This is the story of one of them—43 Ariadne, or Forever, as her inhabitants call her—a living world that carries the remaining hopes of humanity, and the three generations of scientists, engineers, and explorers working to colonize her.

From her humble beginnings as a seedling saved from disaster to the start of her journey across the void of space toward a new home for the human race, The Stark Divide tells the tales of the world, the people who made her, and the few who will become something altogether beyond human.

Humankind has just taken its first step toward the stars.

Book One of Liminal Sky

blog promo - The_Stark_Divide_banner-10-10

Excerpt:

DRESSLER, SCHEMATIC,” Colin McAvery, ship’s captain and a third of the crew, called out to the ship-mind.

A three-dimensional image of the ship appeared above the smooth console. Her five living arms, reaching out from her central core, were lit with a golden glow, and the mechanical bits of instrumentation shone in red. In real life, she was almost two hundred meters from tip to tip.

Between those arms stretched her solar wings, a ghostly green film like the sails of the Flying Dutchman.

“You’re a pretty thing,” he said softly. He loved these ships, their delicate beauty as they floated through the starry void.

“Thank you, Captain.” The ship-mind sounded happy with the compliment—his imagination running wild. Minds didn’t have real emotions, though they sometimes approximated them.

He cross-checked the heading to be sure they remained on course to deliver their payload, the man-sized seed that was being dragged on a tether behind the ship. Humanity’s ticket to the stars at a time when life on Earth was getting rapidly worse.

All of space was spread out before him, seen through the clear expanse of plasform set into the ship’s living walls. His own face, trimmed blond hair, and deep brown eyes, stared back at him, superimposed over the vivid starscape.

At thirty, Colin was in the prime of his career. He was a starship captain, and yet sometimes he felt like little more than a bus driver. After this run… well, he’d have to see what other opportunities might be awaiting him. Maybe the doc was right, and this was the start of a whole new chapter for mankind. They might need a guy like him.

The walls of the bridge emitted a faint but healthy golden glow, providing light for his work at the curved mechanical console that filled half the room. He traced out the T-Line to their destination. “Dressler, we’re looking a little wobbly.” Colin frowned. Some irregularity in the course was common—the ship was constantly adjusting its trajectory—but she usually corrected it before he noticed.

“Affirmative, Captain.” The ship-mind’s miniature chosen likeness appeared above the touch board. She was all professional today, dressed in a standard AmSplor uniform, dark hair pulled back in a bun, and about a third life-sized.

The image was nothing more than a projection of the ship-mind, a fairy tale, but Colin appreciated the effort she took to humanize her appearance. Artificial mind or not, he always treated minds with respect.

“There’s a blockage in arm four. I’ve sent out a scout to correct it.”

The Dressler was well into slowdown now, her pre-arrival phase as she bled off her speed, and they expected to reach 43 Ariadne in another fifteen hours.

Pity no one had yet cracked the whole hyperspace thing. Colin chuckled. Asimov would be disappointed. “Dressler, show me Earth, please.”

A small blue dot appeared in the middle of his screen.

Dressler, three dimensions, a bit larger, please.” The beautiful blue-green world spun before him in all its glory.

Appearances could be deceiving. Even with scrubbers working tirelessly night and day to clean the excess carbon dioxide from the air, the home world was still running dangerously warm.

He watched the image in front of him as the East Coast of the North American Union spun slowly into view. Florida was a sliver of its former self, and where New York City’s lights had once shone, there was now only blue. If it had been night, Fargo, the capital of the Northern States, would have outshone most of the other cities below. The floods that had wiped out many of the world’s coastal cities had also knocked down Earth’s population, which was only now reaching the levels it had seen in the early twenty-first century.

All those new souls had been born into a warm, arid world.

We did it to ourselves. Colin, who had known nothing besides the hot planet he called home, wondered what it had been like those many years before the Heat.

DSP Publications (eBook) | DSP Publications (paperback) | Amazon | iBooks | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | QueeRomance Ink | Smashwords | Goodreads

Author Bio:

blog promo - j-scott-coatsworthScott spends his time between the here and now and the what could be. Enticed into fantasy and sci fi by his mom at the tender age of nine, he devoured her Science Fiction Book Club library. But as he grew up, he wondered where all the people like him were in the books he was reading.

He decided that it was time to create the kinds of stories he couldn’t find at his local bookstore. If there weren’t gay characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends.

His friends say Scott’s mind works a little differently – he sees relationships between things that others miss, and gets more done in a day than most folks manage in a week. He loves to transform traditional sci fi, fantasy, and contemporary worlds into something unexpected.

Starting in 2014, Scott has published more than 15 works, including two novels and a number of novellas and short stories.

He runs both Queer Sci Fi and QueeRomance Ink with his husband Mark, sites that bring queer people together to promote and celebrate fiction that reflects their own lives.

Links to learn more about Scott and follow him around the Internet:

Scott’s website

Facebook (personal)

Facebook (author page)

Twitter

Goodreads

QueeRomance Ink

Amazon


Book News: Third Place in Queer Sci Fi’s Renewal Anthology Contest

QueerSFanthology-third-place-winner-badge-Sept13-17Hi folks! I’m coming out of blog hiatus to share some good news that’s been a looong time coming — my first sale to a publisher! (Turtleduck Press is co-run by me, so it’s a different ballgame.) Technically it was a website contest, but I’m getting paid and my work is appearing in an anthology, so it’s the same thing as far as I’m concerned.

Here’s the part that’s even more awesome: I placed third in the contest, out of over 200 entries.

And equally awesome: my story got an illustration. How cool is that?

The piece in question is a 300-word flash fiction SF story called “Urban Renewal”. I’ve rarely written stories that short, so I’m very pleased with how well this one turned out.

Content warning: some of the stories in the anthology may be sexually explicit, although mine is not one of them.

Full info about Renewal is below. It’s available in ebook or B&W paperback, with a full-colour version to follow. (If you’re not in the US, be patient — it may take a few weeks to appear on the international Amazon sites.)


QueerSFanthology-Renewal-cover-Sept13-17

The website Queer Sci Fi has a new book out, the latest in a series of flash fiction anthologies:

Re.new.al (noun)

1) Resuming an activity after an interruption, or
2) Extending a contract, subscription or license, or
3) Replacing or repairing something that is worn out, run-down, or broken, or
4) Rebirth after death.

Four definitions to spark inspiration, a limitless number of stories to be conceived. Only 110 made the cut.

Thrilling to hopeful, Renewal features 300-word speculative fiction ficlets about sexual and gender minorities to entice readers.

Welcome to Renewal.

Mischief Corner Books (info only) | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Goodreads


Renewal Banner

Excerpt

Because these stories are only 300 words each, we’re not supplying long excerpts, but here are the first lines of several of the stories. Enjoy!

“Griselda pulled the weeds from between the rows of Valerianella locusta plants in the garden, careful not to disturb the buds that would grow into the babies that were her only real income-producing crop.” —The Witches’ Garden, by Rie Sheridan Rose

“I didn’t know how truly the world was in trouble until I went journeying to look for Anisette’s bluebonnets.” —Bluebonnets, by Emily Horner

“The ship’s drive malfunctioned at the worst possible time.” —The Return, by Andrea Speed

“Before we continue, there’s a rather macabre fact about me I should share.” —Rejuvenation, by Christine Wright

“When I died they buried me at the bottom of the garden and returned to the fields.” —Below the Hill, by Matthew Bright

“The world is ending and I can’t look away from your eyes.” —Sunrise, by Brigitte Winter

““Losing one’s superpowers to your arch nemesis sucks donkey nuts, I tell ya. And trust me when I say I suck a lot of them.” —Rainbow Powers, by Dustin Karpovich

“The day I was born again was damp, rainy—a good day for rebirth, all things considered.” —The Birthing Pod, by Michelle Browne

“Intwir’s twelve eyes roved over the container, taking in the cracked outer lock and the elasticated fabric stretched tightly over its exterior.” —In a Bind, by S R Jones

“‘You’ve reached Androgyne HelpLine. Press one to start service. Press two to interrupt or cancel service. Press three—’” —Auto-Renew, by Ginger Streusel

“The doctor tells me that my wife is dying, but I already know.” —I Will Be Your Shelter, by Carey Ford Compton

“‘San Francisco was the first to go dark, followed by Los Angeles.’” —When Light Left, by Lex Chase

“My fingers lingered on the synthetic skin, trailing soft patterns across my work.” —Miss You, by Stephanie Shaffer


Included Authors

‘Nathan Burgoine
A.M. Leibowitz
A.M. Soto
Abby Bartle
Aidee Ladnier
Alexis Woods
Andi Deacon
Andrea Felber Seligman
Andrea Speed
Andrea Stanet
Anne McPherson
Bey Deckard
Brigitte Winter
Carey Ford Compton
Carol Holland March
Carrie Pack
Catherine Lundoff
CB Lee
Christine Wright
Colton Aalto
Daniel Mitton
Dustin Blottenberger
Dustin Karpovich
E R Zhang
E.J. Russell
E.W. Murks
Ell Schulman
Ellery Jude
Eloreen Moon
Elsa M León
Emily Horner
Eric Alan Westfall
F.T. Lukens
Fenrir Cerebellion
Foster Bridget Cassidy
Ginger Streusel
Hannah Henry
Irene Preston
J. Alan Veerkamp
J. P. Egry
J. Summerset
J.S. Fields
Jaap Boekestein
Jackie Keswick
Jana Denardo
Jeff Baker
Jenn Burke
Joe Baumann
John Moralee
Jon Keys
Jude Dunn
K.C. Faelan
Kelly Haworth
Kiterie Aine
Kristen Lee
L M Somerton
L. Brian Carroll
L.M. Brown
L.V. Lloyd
Laurie Treacy
Leigh M. Lorien
Lex Chase
Lia Harding
Lin Kelly
Lloyd A. Meeker
Lyda Morehouse
M.D. Grimm
Martha J. Allard
Mary E. Lowd
Matt Doyle
Matthew Bright
Mia Koutras
Michelle Browne
Milo Owen
Mindy Leana Shuman
Naomi Tajedler
Natsuya Uesugi
Nephy Hart
Nicole Dennis
Ofelia Gränd
Patricia Scott
Paul Stevens
PW Covington
R R Angell
R.L. Merrill
Rebecca Cohen
Redfern Jon Barrett
Reni Kieffer
Richard Amos
RL Mosswood
Robyn Walker
Rory Ni Coileain
Rose Blackthorn
Ross Common
S R Jones
Sacchi Green
Sarah Einstein
Shilo Quetchenbach
Siri Paulson
Soren Summers
Stephanie Shaffer
Steve Fuson
Tam Ames
Terry Poole
Tray Ellis
Vivien Dean
Wendy Rathbone
Xenia Melzer
Zen DiPietro
Zev de Valera

The Evolution of a Series by Erin Zarro

Ever Touched final cover 3-30-17This week I’m featuring a guest post by fellow Turtleduck Press author Erin Zarro. Erin is celebrating the release of Ever Touched, the third book in her series of…futuristic paranormal romance? urban science fiction? Here she is to tell you about how she got this far…

So, when I first set out to write the first book of my Fey Touched series, Fey Touched, I was feeling pretty good. It was to be an experiment in self-publishing. But as I wrote the book, it sort of took over my life.

But in a good way, of course. 😉

You see, Fey Touched was technically a rewrite of a previous novel I’d written in 2003, except I changed a lot of the worldbuilding and preternatural creatures. They were originally vampires. Then I changed them to Fey (the creatures of myth). Then one day at work it hit me SO HARD. Why not write about creatures based in science? And everything fell into place then: the Fey Clans, the Breeding Queens, the Fey Touched. The inciting incident, and what followed.

The book almost wrote itself. I saw the things happen, and wrote the story accordingly. In fact, I was superstitious about plotting, thinking it would wreck the spell I was under. Until the last ten percent, when I got stuck on how exactly to end it.

It was an exciting time. And Fey Touched was the fastest book I ever wrote and published at just nine months (when a book for me takes from first draft to publication an average of two years).

And it sold moderately well, which spurred me on.

So then came Grave Touched, which was a bit of a departure. There were science-y things in it, but it leaned more toward paranormal with ghosts. This is where things kind of went off the rails. I’d been experiencing excruciating eye and face pain (which I learned later was trigeminal neuralgia*) and I’d just started revising Grave Touched‘s first draft. And I found I could not do it. The pain was excruciating (I would not get a diagnosis for almost three years). In despair, I broke down and told my fellow Turtleduckers that I couldn’t make my deadline. I hated doing it, but I just wasn’t able to turn in my best work with pain and stress screwing with my mind.

So plans were made to fill the hole, and I was given a new deadline, a year into the future.

Except…I had to quit writing for three months. I feared it would be forever. But it wasn’t, and when I returned to it (out of necessity – I was quite literally losing my mind), things were tough. I had to work myself back up to the higher wordcounts I’d once written in order to make my deadline. It was rough going because I was still in pain, but I managed to make it – and Grave Touched was rejected by my editor. [Siri’s note: Full disclosure: that was me.] It wasn’t my best work, and deep down, I knew it. I was given the opportunity to rewrite it and resubmit it, which I took.

My muse was not on board this time, and it took months of incremental progress to get going, but once I hit my stride, I was all right. I was still having pain, and very little relief, but I worked on it because there was nothing else I could do. This book had to be done and it had to published, come hell or high water. I believed in the story, and I was not about to blow another deadline. My editor had given me a list of things to consider as I rewrote, and I used it as my guide.

I turned it in, and it was accepted.

That book was probably the hardest I’d ever written, so when it was released on 5/1/15, I was elated. I’d managed to do the thing I didn’t think I could do – write to a deadline and publish with severe eye and face pain. Whoa.

And finally, we come to my current release, Ever Touched. I’d just gotten my diagnosis and was on medication so things were better, but not perfect. Ever Touched was a bit of a departure again – but this time, new beings in the Fey Touched world. It came as a tiny whisper as I closed up after work one day, “Old but new. First Fey. Holographic wings.” And with that, the Ascended were born! (And there is another new race of people as well, but I won’t spoil it.)

Ever Touched wasn’t plotted much – very loosely, and I liked it that way. Throughout the process, I wondered if I’d pushed things too far, or maybe, hell, it sucked. The whole thing with GT had shattered my confidence some, so there was always the question of whether or not I could do it again. I believed in myself, and my fellow Turtleduckers believed in me, but there was always that little voice inside that said, “Maybe it really does suck, and everyone’s afraid to tell you.” Which made no sense, because my editor, Siri, the one who’d rejected GT, would indeed give it to me straight. And the others would, too. We’re about quality and we’re professionals and we’d be fine. But I wondered.

When I turned EvT in on December 1st, it was with trepidation. This would be it. Was EvT worthy of publication? I was also trying to avoid another three-year gap between books. Marketing-wise, it was suicide. Thankfully, it was accepted, and I was shocked to discover that it didn’t need many rewrites at all (thank you, Kit!) and was pretty sound as is.

This blew my mind. I’d expected some rewrites. But for it to be pretty clean…this was amazing (and a first. I have always had to rewrite books. Always).

Ever Touched may or may not be the final book in the series. I wrote it so it could be either, because I couldn’t decide at the time. But for me it feels like coming full circle. I started out all excited to be experimenting, was hit with serious health adversity, almost gave up writing altogether, and now have emerged triumphant and better than ever. In the book, there is also a big triumph over a cruel, horrible enemy. And I wonder if this enemy was a symbol for the trigeminal neuralgia – that the Fey Touched’s victory over him is a parallel to my victory over the TN. It certainly feels that way at times. On the whole, writing this series has had its ups and downs and tears and frustrations, but it has also been one of my greatest joys. I always tell people that I am not doing this for the money (and really? I haven’t sold much more than the average indie) but because I simply love it.

This book also has a special place in my heart because the two main characters, Brianna and Cobra, are two of my favorites. It took me three books to discover both their secrets, and I’ll be honest, I got a bit teary writing some of their scenes (especially one in particular). I discovered their theme song, “The Sound of Silence” (as covered by Disturbed) after writing three-quarters of the book. I was writing a certain scene while the song was playing, and it was so perfect that I was stunned. (You’ll understand when you read it).

Ever Touched is a book I am proud of. It took a lot of guts to do what I did in it, and to stretch the science in the way that I did, but I am glad I did it and didn’t give up till I found some cool stuff to work with. That’s all my muse, and my love of science, which is what started me on this back in 2011. Why not combine science and fantasy and see what develops? I’m so glad I took a chance on this series.

I can’t tell you what’s coming for my Fey Touched folks, but I can say this: I am probably not completely done with them, or their world. Stay tuned.

*Trigeminal neuralgia: an excruciating inflammation of the trigeminal nerve, which supplies sensation to the face in three branches. It is also called the “suicide disease” because people have attempted suicide to be free of the pain. Mine is atypical; that is, it’s not a usual presentation. I have mainly eye pain and some face pain; it’s usually face pain mostly. And that’s how I discovered it myself. The pain feels like someone is poking my eyeball constantly. Hard. And it never went away. Never, unless I was sleeping. And no one could figure it out, until I did last year. I finally have medication that reduces the pain significantly, but does not eradicate it. I am beginning to have more pain these days, which is to be expected as it is a chronic, progressive condition.

Siri here: I’m so proud of Erin for fighting through and getting Grave Touched and now Ever Touched out into the world! You can buy Ever Touched at Turtleduck Press, or if you’d rather start with the first in the series, Fey Touched is available here.

 

 

Cover Reveal: Ever Touched by Erin Zarro

Hi folks! Today I’m excited to give you a sneak peek of the novel I spent last month copyediting. (You might have seen hints on my Instagram.) This is the next Turtleduck Press release, due out May 1st. It’s book 3 in the Fey Touched series, but it stands alone pretty well — each book in the series tells the story of a different couple within the same group of badass, genetically engineered, crime-fighting humans. (Call it…urban science fiction? Or Earth-based science fiction romance? We at Turtleduck Press love genre-bending!)

So, without further ado, here are the lovely cover and book description / back-cover copy for Ever Touched:

Ever Touched final cover 3-30-17
One secret remembered, another forgotten…which one will explode first?

Brianna has two problems: she cannot remember her past, and she astrally projects to another woman who has predictions tortured out of her. As a result, she is lonely and feels distanced from her co-workers — the only family she has ever known — the Fey Touched Hunters. She is their intelligence gatherer, and her episodes are interfering with her ability to do her job.

When Fey Touched Hunter Cobra, her friend, finds her alone and injured from an episode, she accepts his help. But she’s terrified of doctors and of being thought mentally ill, so she refuses to tell him what’s wrong or let him take her to get medical help. Still, Cobra continues to help and protect her. They find themselves falling in love.

But Cobra, too, has a secret that could rip their fragile bond apart.

When Brianna discovers through her episodes that someone has plans to destroy the Fey Clans, the Fey Touched decide to put their hatred aside and help them. But it’s not just a matter of someone with a grudge: there are other, more powerful players — beings thought to be legend.

As they unravel the mystery, Brianna’s episodes become more frequent and more dangerous until she is faced with a choice. To find the mystery girl and help the Fey Clans, she must risk opening herself up to the Hunters and to Cobra, and put her own life on the line. But is she prepared for the answers she’ll find?

Siri here: Ever Touched will be available May 1st from Amazon et al. While you’re waiting, here’s a preview of what’s in store. Keep an eye on the Turtleduck Press site for buy links!

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Genre-Bending Books (Redux)

The Passage by Justin Cronin coverI’m a fan of science fiction. And fantasy. And everything in between…sometimes especially the books that fall in between. I’ve written before about science fantasy, about works that blend speculative fiction and realism, and of course, steampunk. But that was all several years ago, and now I’ve got a whole new crop of genre-benders to share with you…

Futuristic Fantasy

Start with the present day. Fast forward a few decades, or maybe a little more. You can see a clear connection to our own world, including geography. The technology level might be similar to ours, or higher in certain areas, or maybe lower, depending on what might have happened between now and then. (Gotta love verb tenses when talking about futures that may never arrive…) But there are also fantasy creatures or tropes–magic, gods, vampires. In this category we have:

The Passage series by Justin Cronin

This is what literary agents call a “high-concept” book with a “strong hook”. Two words: vampire apocalypse. Cronin starts in the present day, where a vampire virus has just been discovered. Then he fast-forwards through time, pausing for a while here and there to dip into the lives of a set of characters, some of whom pop up again and again. The books veer between thriller and literary drama–what agent Donald Maass calls “breakout novel” territory. That’s a lot of genres, but somehow it all works.

Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinsonblog-brown-girl-hopkinson-cover

Toronto in the future, or at least Hopkinson’s version of the future, is a lawless place controlled by a drug lord. Infrastructure and social safety nets are all but gone. The placenames and layout of the city are still recognizable, though much decayed. But at the same time, the voodoo gods are drifting around, looking for a chance to get involved…

Above by Leah Bobet

Another story set in Toronto, but this one starts out sounding much like Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, if the young protagonist had been from the underworld peeking out instead of our own world peeking in. It goes on to deconstruct stories like Neverwhere and a whole lot of other things. I can’t say too much about it without being spoilery, so instead I’ll just give a bonus shout-out to Bobet’s second novel, An Inheritance of Ashes, which is more…

Fantasy with Hints of Technology

A fantasy-seeming world that hints at not being a straight-up secondary world a la Tolkien. Or a world with some futuristic trappings that’s clearly more interested in fantasy tropes and telling fantasy stories. (Think Pern or Dune.) Or some mad blending of the two.

Who Fears Death by Nnedi OkoraforCover of Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

Like Brown Girl in the Ring, this is a compelling near-to-mid-future story of a young black woman coming into her own magical powers. I’ve placed it here not because it’s set in Sudan (which looks more like fantasy to Western eyes) but because it’s less interested in the tension between magic and technology than Hopkinson’s novel is. It’s a classic fantasy quest story, with powerful sorcerers and training sequences and visions and even a band of misfits trekking long distances. There just happens to be advanced technology here and there.

The Tearling series by Erika Johansen

Girl living a quiet life in the forest learns she’s the heir to the throne and is whisked away to start her new life in the palace. (That’s not much of a spoiler–it’s all in the first few pages.) Another classic fantasy tale, modernized for today’s reader? Maybe…except that the heir occasionally uses words like genetics. The second book in the series delves more into why this is so, losing the tight focus on character but adding worldbuilding context.

The Fey Touched series by Erin Zarroblog-erin-zarro-fey-touched-cover

Finally, I have to put in a plug for Turtleduck Press author Erin Zarro. Her fantasy world looks not unlike ours…except that there are vampire-hunting fey…and occasional evil scientists performing genetic experiments and the like. Intrigued? Book 3 in the series will be out May 1! I’ll be posting more about it as the date draws closer.

 

Are you a fan of genre-bending books? Please share!