Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Review: Groom of the Tyrannosaur Queen

I recently read Daniel Bensen's Groom of the Tyrannosaur Queen. It's the kind of book that hits the ground running and doesn’t stop. It’s a time-travel romance that follows a team of paleontologists led by hard-bitten veteran Andrea Herrera. They dip into the distant past to research Mesozoic flora and fauna, but their trip is quickly interrupted by a horde of dinosaur-riding barbarians.

If that doesn’t sound like the start of a fun read, I don’t know what does.

I read Groom on vacation and found it the perfect book for a getaway—fun, funny, and fast-paced. The main characters are a world-weary commando who’s lost her taste for civilian life (and civilian bureaucracy) and a barbarian philosopher who’s stuck playing politics when all he wants to do is kill. The intelligence and charisma of both characters comes through in the witty, observant narrative voice.

Vague, minor spoilers below.

There’s a lot to like about Groom, and much of it comes through in the characters. Types that could have come across as stock—the burnt-out veteran, the bloodthirsty barbarian, the spoiled princess—instead have rich characterizations and deep inner lives. Their evolutions are an intrigue and a delight to follow.

There is, perhaps, one noticeable exception—a character who goes Heart of Darkness a little quickly—but the complexity and nuance of the other characters more than makes up for it.


The story itself mingles the personal, intimate concerns of the main characters with the fate of the fictionalized Mesozoic societies they encounter. This does, however, raise my other gripe, which is a certain plot-relevant oversight in the construction of the powersuits that Andrea and her contemporaries wear. Still, it’s a minor concern, and if you set it aside, you’ve got a real treat of a book on your hands.

Check it out here on Amazon.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Coming soon to San Francisco!

Hey, y'all!

I'll be in San Francisco this weekend, and it's going to be an action-packed weekend! Here's what's on the roster:

First, I'm stopping by Borderlands Books at noon on Saturday, November 14. I'll sign some stock (probably mine) and meet the fine folks of this illustrious establishment. It's all pretty informal, so consider yourself in-the-know.

Next, I'm thrilled to join Writers with Drinks, Charlie Jane Anders' legendary literary variety show! I'll read a bit from my own work and bask in the glory of Sarah Jeong, K. Tempest Bradford, Jessica Erica Hahn, S. Kay, and Michael Collins. This all happens in The Make Out Room at 7:30pm on Saturday, November 14.

Finally, I'll be at the San Jose Barnes & Noble at 3:00pm on Sunday, November 15 to sign copies of The Buried Life and Cities and Thrones!

If the fates (or furies) take you to any of these fine establishments this weekend, come on over and say hello!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Announcements: Nook special, Writers with Drinks, and Pillars stories, oh my!

I thought October was a crazy month, and then I looked into the future and into November.

But first, Nook special! For the rest of the week (through Halloween), THE BURIED LIFE is on special for $2.99 on Nook! If you haven't picked it up, now's a great time to do so, and if you have, write your review to let other readers know what you thought. If you don't have a Nook, you can also get the Kindle deal on Amazon.

Next up, I'm thrilled to announce that I'll be joining Sarah Jeong, Jessica Erin Hahn, S. Kay, and Michael Collins at Writers With Drinks in San Francisco! It all goes down on November 14 at 7:30 in The Make Out Room, so be there!

ALSO, while I'm in town, I'm looking forward to stopping by Borderlands Books around noon on the 14th to sign stock and visit. Come over and say hello!

Over the next few weeks, you can look forward to seeing some PILLARS OF ETERNITY short stories by Eric Fenstermaker, Paul Kirsch, and yours truly. "The Ratcatcher," starring Sagani (and Itumaak, natch) is already out!

And finally, I'll be at the World Fantasy Convention in Saratoga Springs the first weekend in November, where I'm looking forward to catching up with old friends and meeting new friends. It was one of the most social and fun conventions I went to last year, and I'm really looking forward to repeating the experience. Hope to see you there!

Monday, October 5, 2015

A brief list of books I've loved lately

Sharing is caring. Maybe not when it comes to salmonella, but definitely when it comes to excellent books.

With that in mind, here's a short list of books (in no particular order) that I've read and enjoyed lately:
If you've read something and loved it, tell others about it. Write a review of it. Not only does that help others discover something wonderful, but it also goes a long, long way toward ensuring that the authors you love can keep producing.

What have you been reading?

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Review: Cat's Whirld by Rodolfo Martínez

Cat's Whirld is the new translation of La sonrisa del gato, a 1995 Spanish cyberpunk novel written by Rodolfo Martínez and translated into English by Steve Redwood. It’s an ambitious, fast-paced story about self-aware AIs, warring empires, and the ragtag band of hackers and cyberthieves caught between them, and it’s definitely worth a read for fans of cyberpunk and space opera.


The book is set in a spinning space station called the Whirld, a kind of wild west positioned between two highly regulated empires, Confederacy and Mandate. It’s a hotbed for the kinds of technological advances that both empires require (yet are too cautious and rule-bound to develop themselves). As such, the labs of the Whirld are filled with projects that are as dangerous as they are visionary, and the station’s busy corridors and seedy lounges are filled with operatives trying to buy, sell, or steal them.

Cat’s Whirld tells a big story on a refreshingly small scale. Even though the grand designs of rogue AIs and powerful empires are responsible for many of the inciting events of the book, the action follows a close-knit group of data thieves who call the space station home. This tight focus adds a layer of warmth and humanity to the circuits and corridors that dominate cyberpunk, though it does feel as if more concepts and conflicts are introduced than thoroughly explored.

But these characters are the true focus of the story, and it’s their relationships—rather than their ideologies—that drive them.

The frame story is an interrogation, which nicely teases the intrigues and developments of the central plot. Good frame stories are an art, and I found myself surprised by the full revelation of circumstances at the end. The interrogation narrative also nicely focused the events of the central plot, even if it leads to a bit of overly expository dialogue.

Cat’s Whirld clips along at a nice, quick pace, and it’s over almost before you know it. The chases through the hazardous space station, the games of cat and mouse between the thieves and the authorities, and the high-stakes gambling between resourceful humans and hyperintelligent AIs keep the story speeding forward. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

It was the best of times...

Who am I kidding, it was still a really good time.

For those of you who don't know, this year's Worldcon (or World Science Fiction Convention if you like to sip your tea with your pinky up) was beset with its share of catastrophes and controversies. It was almost overshadowed by the Sad Puppy/Rabid Puppy debacle, and it was literally overshadowed by smoke from the Washington wildfires. Many visiting authors and creators found themselves unable to get on programming, and those that did found aspects of said programming woefully problematic.

But many of us attended nevertheless, and we got the very thing that draws us to conventions in the first place: the company of fellow fans and creators.

As someone who's only been attending conventions for three years now, I can easily say that this was one of the most fun for me. In my experience, each con is better than the last because I have the pleasure of visiting with more and more old friends and making even more new ones. I don't go for the programming or even the travel--I go for the community, and this year was a great example of community coming together.

It's also a call to action for me to be more proactive about supporting the work that makes the SFF genre great. This year was a testament to the fact that every vote and and every voice matters, and if we want the conversations around our genre to be constructive, we all need to pitch in.

Most importantly, it's a reminder that the community is filled with thoughtful and delightful people, many of whom I got to see this weekend. So, to Tex Thompson, Eric Fischl, Jennie Goloboy, Annalee Flower Horne, Sunil Patel, Megan O'Keefe, Joey Hewitt, Lee Harris, Mike Underwood, Beth Cato, Andrea Stewart, Jeremiah Honer, Randy Henderson, Folly Blaine, Wesley Chu (and Paula!), Fran Wilde, Scott Andrews, Dan Wells, Cat Rambo, Jason Hough, Patrick Tomlinson, James Sutter, Kate Elliot, Jay Swanson, Luke Mathews, Melissa Olson, Tim Ward, Tina Gower, Matt Rotundo, Courtney Schafer, Kate Dollarhyde, Ramez Naam (and Molly!), Darusha Wehm, Rachael Acks, Arley Sorg (and Danny!), Marina Lostetter, RM Ambrose, Dominick D'Aunno, Tim Sussman, Amy Sisson, Paul Abell, Martha Wells, Lawrence Schoen (and Val!), Alyc Helms, Adam Rakunas, Andrew Barton, Josh Vogt, Cassie Clarke, D.L. Young, S.B. Divya, Austin DeMarco, Terra LeMay, Effie Seiberg, Coral Moore, Amanda Forrest, and so many others that I'm forgetting right now--cheers to you all!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Worldcon!

I'm noticing a Kimmy Schmidt-esque tendency to title all of my blog posts with exclamation points, but hey, I'm excited! Let's go with it.

I'm especially excited to be at Sasquan this weekend, where I'm making new friends and reconnecting with old friends. Controversies aside, it's still a great place to visit with a lot of wonderful people.

If you want to catch up, here's where you can find me this weekend:

Thursday
 - Kaffeeklatsch, 5-6 pm
 - r/Fantasy's Drinks with Authors, 7-11 pm @ Black Label Brewing

Friday
 - pop-up r/Fantasy AMA, 11:30-12:00 pm, here
 - signing, 2-5 pm, @ the Angry Robot booth

Saturday
 - reading with Annalee Flower Horne, 1:30-2:00 pm, @ Room 301

Sunday
 - autographing, 11-12 pm, @ convention signing table

Thursday, August 6, 2015

THE BURIED LIFE is today's Kindle Daily Deal!

If you've been waiting for the right time to pick up THE BURIED LIFE, wait no longer. It's available for $1.99 on Kindle today!


And if you've already finished THE BURIED LIFE, there's this other book, oh what's it called...

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Come chat on r/Fantasy!

It's Thursday already! So what are you doing here? Head over to my AMA on Reddit. I'll be back at 8pm CDT to hang out.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Just for grins: CONvergence flash fiction

A good time was had by all at CONvergence this weekend.

I'm just gonna leave this right here.

This was my second year going, and I don't expect it will be my last. And while I fully expected to enjoy catching up with old friends, meeting new ones, and participating in some fantastic programming, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed a Saturday evening panel called "Ready, Set, Flash!"

In this, Tor.com editor Lee Harris challenged C. Robert Cargill, Paul Cornell, Kelly McCullough, Melissa Olson, and myself to write stories in five-minute sprints while he entertained the audience and taunted us as we hunched over our sweaty, sweaty keyboards.

Kelly posted his contributions here, so I thought I'd share mine, too. All were written with the energy born of terror.

First theme: "Reanimation"
It came in the mail. A little package, something the neighbors hopefully wouldn’t have noticed. As if to spite me, the mailman had laid it proudly on top of my doormat.
I remembered searching for it, my hands sweating onto the keyboard as I clack-clack-clacked my queries into the search engine. I must have opened and closed the purchase page a dozen times, feeling someone watching over my shoulder. 
I popped the pill into my mouth and swallowed. I heard her in the next room. “Is it working yet?” 
And then I felt it. Something stirring. Reanimation.

I was kinda surprised that no one else went there...

Second theme: "Steampunk Romance"
It started as a rumbling. Something distant but growing nearer. The ground was shaking.  
A whistle split the air, high and hot. Puffs of air like heavy breaths scattered across the horizon.  
The movement became a deep moan of metal, gears nibbling across each other with tiny, sturdy teeth. Pistons roared, thrusting back and forth across axles and cogwork. 
The train rolled over the tracks and passed by.
Trains. Yeah. Those are steampunk, right?

Third theme: "The Little People"

The little people had never much cared for the term. “Little” connoted things like “diminuitive” and “lesser,” and as they all knew, they were none of those things.  
They was just as much to them as there was to anyone else, it was just concentrated. 
The lobbyists told them they were wasting their time. There was no controversy, nothing to change, so why spend the money anyway? 
But the lobbyists were lawyers, and so when they saw money on the table, they took it. They had that much in common with their clients. 
CNN viewers scratched their heads at the coverage and the sight of all of these green-clad men and women marching across the floor of the senate, stepping up on podiums so that their voices could be heard.  
At least it was something the Democrats and Republicans could agree on.  
And with that a slew of signatures, they founded the Green Party.

Lawyer jokes are always classy.

Fourth theme: "Uncle Sam's Day Off" + mandatory use of the word "cocaine"

Well, you know where this is headed.
Uncle Sam scratched an armpit and rolled out of bed and made his way to the bathroom. 
He looked at his bloodshot eyes, underlined with bags. Red and blue, indeed. 
But there was something… 
He leaned closer and dusted his beard. Was that… cocaine? Well, there’s the white. 
He pulled a rumpled tee shirt over his gut and stumbled into the living room. 
Iran was passed out on the couch. Britain was frying up some eggs. That guy knew how to hold his liquor. 
He looked at the clock and remembered it was his day off. Thank goodness. 
His phone was buzzing. It was China. Looked like China wanted a party.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

CONvergence, here we come!

This weekend, I'll be attending CONvergence in lovely Minneapolis. I went last year and had some of the most fun I've had at any convention, so I'm looking forward to going again.

If your 4th of July plans include CONvergence, here's where you can find me:
  • Thursday, 7-9 pm: "Gaming with Authors" at Source Comics and Games. Mike Underwood, Jamie Wyman, Tex Thompson, Craig Cormick, Anne Lyle, and I will be playing games and signing books. Come roll with us.

  • Friday, 2-3 pm: "Dealing with Difficult People in Publishing." Every profession has its share of difficult people. What personalities and behaviors are the most challenging to work with in publishing and how do you handle it? What can we do to avoid becoming those difficult people as writers, artists, editors? With Elizabeth Bear, Wesley Chu, Lee Harris, and Michael Damian Thomas.

  • Saturday, 2-3 pm: "Creating a Dystopian Society in Your Writing" in DoubleTree Atrium 7. How do you create a dystopian society that is believable and forwards your character development and plot? How do you add a twist to your society that makes it original without losing realism in the world of your story? With Christoforo Pasquarette, Naomi Kritzer, Wesley Chu, and Eric Staggs.
  • Saturday, 3:30-4:30 pm: "Art of the Plot Twist" in DoubleTree Atrium 7. How do you set up a plot twist? What is soylent green? Who is Keyser Soze? And what's in the box?!?!? Feat. Patrick Marsh, Jack Reher, Lana Rosario, and Wesley Chu.
  • Saturday, 5:00-6:00 pm: "Ready, Set, Flash!" in DoubleTree Atrium 4. In which nefarious trickster kind-hearted editor Lee Harris challenges five writers WHO WERE PROMISED BEER to instead write flash fiction in front of an audience. Without beer. We who are about to write salute you. My brothers (and sister) in arms: Paul Cornell, Kelly McCullough, Melissa Olson, and C. Robert Cargill.

  • Sunday, 9:30-10:30 am: "Becoming a Game Designer" in DoubleTree Atrium 7. A room full of professional game designers will talk to you about being a game designer. Yes, I know it's early Sunday morning. But this is a job, you know--it's not all fun and games. Okay, maybe it's both. My fellow morning people: Shanti Pothapragada, Bill Bodden, Ian Price, and Jerry Belich.
  • Sunday, 12:30-1:30 pm: Reading with Craig Cormick and Anne Lyle in 2201. Craig Cormick, author of The Shadow Master and The Floating City and Anne Lyle, author of The Alchemist of Souls and The Prince of Lies, will read from their latest books. I'll give the first-ever public reading from Cities and Thrones.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Comicpalooza this weekend!

Hey, Houston!

This weekend, I'm at Comicpalooza, and I'm doing several panels, a workshop, and a signing. If you're at the convention, here's where you can find me:

Friday, May 22
1-2pm: Writing Unforgettable Characters - 352A
4-5pm: Comics & SF as Modern Mythology - 381C

Saturday, May 23
2:30-5:30pm: No Holds Barred Critique Workshop - 352A

Sunday, May 24
11:30am-12:30pm: Good Habits of Good Writers - 350A
1-2pm: Should You Self-Publish Your Book? - 350A
3-3:50pm: Signing at the Barnes & Noble table - Row 2000
4-5pm: How to Get Your Fiction Noticed by an Editor - 350C

Friday, May 8, 2015

"No Holds Barred" Critique Workshop at Comicpalooza!

There are two salient tidbits here:
  • First, Comicpalooza is just two weeks away, so I'll see you there wait you haven't registered yet what are you doing go register now.
  • Second, there will be a critique workshop YES YOU HEARD THAT RIGHT. If you are a person who likes putting words on pages and want to get some professional feedback on those words from writers, editors, and publishers, then boy have I got a deal for you. Read on...

Author Shannon Winton, writer and critic Kevin Ranson, Jason Aydelotte of Grey Gecko Press, author Diana Dru Botsford, and yours truly (yes that's me) will critique up to 10 works of up to 2,000 words each in a three-hour workshop. We will be gentle.*

The workshop will be Saturday, May 23 from 2:30 - 5:30 pm. Send your submission to literature@comicpalooza.com by May 15. And really, why wait?


*So it IS called the "No Holds Barred Critique Workshop." We'll provide candid, straightforward critiques, but our goal is to help writers hone their craft.

¡Ahora en español!

For all you hispanohablantes out there, the wonderful folks of the VerdHugos Podcast invited me to chat with them about books, The Buried Life, and all things spec fic! They're one of the premier speculative fiction podcasts in Spain, so check us out here!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Comicpalooza Schedule!

We're less than a month away from Houston Comicpalooza! I'll be participating as an author guest this year, so here's where you can find me at the con:

Friday, May 22
1-2pm: Writing Unforgettable Characters - 352A
4-5pm: Comics & SF as Modern Mythology - 381C

Saturday, May 23
2:30-5:30pm: No Holds Barred Critique Workshop - 352A

Sunday, May 24
11:30am-12:30pm: Good Habits of Good Writers - 350A
1-2pm: Should You Self-Publish Your Book? - 350A
3-3:50pm: Signing at the Barnes & Noble table - Row 2000
4-5pm: How to Get Your Fiction Noticed by an Editor - 350C

See you there!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Blog Tour for The Buried Life!

It is now officially release week; The Buried Life will be among us this Tuesday! Now, I may be keeping mum around here, but several kind folks have been gracious enough to allow me to share Recoletta, Jane, Malone, Arnault, and more from The Buried Life at their online abodes.

Also, brisket.

More to follow, but here's where you can keep up:

February 26: Giveaway of The Buried Life @ Just a Guy That Likes To Read
February 27: Author Query Redux: On Delays and Surprises @ A Fantastical Librarian

Monday!
March 2: Eating Authors: The BBQ Road Trip @ Lawrence M. Schoen
March 2: 2015 Debut Author Challenge @ The Qwillery

Tuesday!
March 3: Memoirs of a Young Bureaucrat (An Excerpt) @ The Book Plank
March 3: Five Favorite Weird Metropolises @ Tor.com
March 3: Listmaking: My SuperpowerThe Skiffy and Fanty Show

Wednesday!
March 4: Book Bites: Cheesy Chicken Broccoli Casserole @ Fran Wilde
March 4: Wednesday Geek Woman @ geekfeminism.org

Thursday!
March 5: My Favorite Bit @ Mary Robinette Kowal
March 5: Five Things I Learned Writing The Buried Life @ Chuck Wendig's terribleminds
March 5: The Perfect Sidekick @ All Things UF

Friday!
March 6: The Big Idea @ John Scalzi's Whatever

Saturday!
March 7: 2pm Signing and Launch Party @ Mysterious Galaxy San Diego

March 8: Unlikely Influences, or What I Learned about Writing from Scuba Diving @ Kate Heartfield's blog

March 9: Talking 'Bout Book Launches @ The Kingdoms of Evil with Dan Bensen

March 11: InterviewThe Qwillery

March 12: Podcast "The Buried Life of Broken Souls" @ Dungeon Crawlers Radio

March 16: I Can't Believe It's Not Steampunk! @ The Tex Files with Tex Thompson

March 20: Podcast and Interview @ The Skiffy and Fanty Show

March 30: Gaslight Geeks @ Generations Geek

Saturday, January 10, 2015

New year, new release date

2014 was a fantastic year. A lot happened. I finished my second novel, Cities and Thrones. I got firmly settled into my fantastic job as a narrative designer at Obsidian Entertainment. I went to a handful of SFF conventions and made some incredible friends. And I got my first whirlwind taste of pre-launch book promotion.

And yet, there's one thing in particular that didn't happen. The Buried Life, my debut novel, did not come out.

If you follow industry news, you may already know that my publisher, Angry Robot, was sold last year. This was the reason behind the delay of my book and several others.

I learned about the delay roughly a week before the scheduled release and shortly before I went to Detcon. I didn't say anything. I'd been specifically asked not to - the details of the sale weren't public information, and I certainly didn't want to start any speculation that might compromise a deal.

So I kept my mouth shut and my fingers crossed for a quick resolution.

Fortunately, the sale was announced September 30, and all is well in Robot Land. The Buried Life drops March 3 (March 5 in the UK), and a whole slew of other tasty new novels will come out in the spring, too.

I'm glad operations are back to normal, and in a way, I'm also strangely grateful for the delay. In the initial publicity push, The Buried Life got some fantastic reviews and press - in Publishers Weekly, The Guardian, SciFiNow, and io9, to name a few. It was tough to see so many of those mentions appear when I didn't even know the final release date of the novel, but I'm also grateful to have them now that the launch is on the horizon. And after getting a taste of pre-release madness, I'm better prepared for the next two months.

And on that subject, here's the part where I mention that The Buried Life will be back on NetGalley starting Monday.

All in all, I'm excited to finally share The Buried Life with the world in March, and I'll be thrilled to share the sequel, Cities and Thrones, just a few short months later! 2014 was great, but here's to a wonderful 2015.