Cavalcade of Audiobooks

The Infinite Sea audiobook coverI didn’t start out thinking I would discount the entire Chaos Chronicles series in audiobook format. But when Chirp Books approved a special promotion on The Infinite Sea (just $2.99! right now!), one thing led to another. They suggested I steeply discount some of the other books in the series to keep the hoped-for wave of sales going, and I thought that sounded like a fine idea. By the time I was done, I’d put the entire series on sale! Even Blackstone Audio, which publishes the first book, Neptune Crossing, has graciously joined in.

That’s six audiobooks, all discounted at up to 80% off list price. All narrated by the incredible Stefan Rudnicki. Limited time, folks. Limited time only. These prices will never be lower!

If you’re not familiar with Chirp Books, it’s an audiobookstore owned by Bookbub, and they offer daily super-deals of really good books, just like Bookbub. Except in the case of Chirp, they actually sell the books, and don’t just advertise them. (You need the Chirp app to listen to them. But it’s a good app, similar to the Audible app. I use it myself, all the time, because I like deals on audiobooks.)

SNAP THEM UP NOW

Seriously, though, why am I doing this? With these discounts, I won’t make much on any individual sale. But it can help put these books into the hands (ears?) of lots of readers. And that’s the real reason. I want people to be able to download, and enjoy, the whole series without spending a fortune. And, I hope, the resulting momentum and reviews will spur further sales—and help me earn back the cost of producing these books within my lifetime.

So, if you try these books and you enjoy them, please do me the return favor of posting reviews. It really makes a difference!

By the way, probably because I’m out of my mind, I’m also applying a similar special promotional discount in the Apple store. So all you Apple purists, come on down!

While supplies last, limited time only!

Cover Reveal: For the Good of the Realm

My fantasy novel For the Good of the Realm is coming out from Aqueduct Press on June 1. Here’s the cover, designed by Aqueduct’s Kath Wilham using art by Ruby Rae Jones.

Cover of For the Good of the Realm

I am very happy with the cover along with being very happy to have a book coming out. Continue reading “Cover Reveal: For the Good of the Realm

Science Fiction Story Bundle from SFWA!

SFWA Story Bundle - book covers

A terrific new Story Bundle has just been released, and I’m part of it! It’s called the The Expansive Futures Sci-Fi Bundle, and it’s curated and sponsored by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). It’s a great way to get a big pile of great new books for almost nothing, and support a good cause in the process. It’s a terrific deal. https://storybundle.com/scifi

I’m going to let Amy Duboff explain it. She’s the one who oversaw the curation of the package: Continue reading “Science Fiction Story Bundle from SFWA!”

The Great Gatsby Isn’t

[Author’s Note: I read recently that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short novel The Great Gatsby is now in the public domain. That makes me hope that someone will write a version of it that demonstrates how destructive the Gatsbys are to the world in which we live. Or at least, that someone will pen a vicious parody.

Though perhaps it would be even better if it faded away into irrelevance. Back in 2013, after hearing a radio program lauding the book, I wrote the following post. My opinion hasn’t changed. You will note that I mentioned Donald Trump in this piece, so I remind you that I wrote it long before he spent four years wrecking our country. The last line of this piece feels horribly prophetic.]

The radio program Studio 360 devoted an entire hour in 2013 to The Great Gatsby as part of its American Icons series. Various writers and scholars, including Azar Nafisi, author of the delightful Reading Lolita in Tehran, and the novelist Jonathan Franzen, waxed poetic about the book, which the Studio 360 website describes as “the great American story of our age.”

At some point in the program, one of the speakers — I think it was Franzen, but there’s not a transcript available and I’m not willing to listen to the whole show again to check — said something to the effect that Gatsby was a great dreamer. As I understood it, he thought the story was about someone with a great dream who got shot down for it.

“No, no, no,” I said to the radio (I yell at the radio a lot). “The trouble with Gatsby is that he had the wrong dreams. He wanted the wrong things.”

At least, that’s how I remembered the book. Gatsby’s obsession with being rich and being taken for a person with “old money” seemed to me to be worthless dreams. But the only time I’d read the book was back in high school and the only thing I remembered about it was Gatsby showing Nick and Daisy around his mansion.

Figuring that I might have missed something back then, I re-read it. And had the same reaction. Continue reading The Great Gatsby Isn’t”

Some Days…

My brain is switched on to food references this week. I’m writing a paper on food in Australian fantasy novels. Even if I’ve read the novel before, I’m re-reading it, because I need to apply that brain-switch and analyse everything for food. It’s hard work. I’m placing references into ten different categories. The net result of this was I had no energy to cook yesterday or today.

This never happened when I was younger.

I was going to write a long screed describing food, because it’s my current (and absorbing) work, then I changed my mind and wanted to explain that chronic fatigue is impacted by emotional fatigue, which is why food research led to such a state of exhaustion. The events of the last eighteen months welled up and I missed all my lost friends and I became a mewling mess. I decided you didn’t need a long piece today, for the world is a difficult place right now.

Take this as a moral. Have early nights when life is stressed. Eat comfort food. Cry when you have to.

And I’ll be working on foodways for a bit longer, so maybe one day I’ll tell you about how writers use food to create miracles in fantasy fiction. Except when they don’t.

A New Book

coverThe humans in the treehouse think they can sneak things past us, but we crows see all. One of the humans, Pati Nagle, has just published a book, Intermezzo: Household Matters by Patrice Greenwood. That’s not the name she uses around here, but humans are funny sometimes.

This is a short book, all about characters in a series of mysteries. Here’s the announcement she tried to sneak by us.

She calls this an ebook, which seems to mean that it exists only in the imagination, but she says there will be a version on real paper soon, with a shiny cover. Those are more fun for us.

Etsy and Me, and Coffee* Makes Three!

Chaos 1-4 Tor hardcovers

Back in the day, I used to sell autographed copies of my books from my website, by way of a simple pricelist page that could be printed and mailed to me. I didn’t sell a lot, but it helped me connect with some readers. Then the web got more complicated, and sales tax got more complicated, and I gave up on that model. Now, I’m selling autographed books through Etsy! Yes, that place you go to (statistically more likely if you are female) to buy crafts and things. It turns out you can sell books there, too, and a number of authors and booksellers do just that. Now I am, too.

Here’s what I’ve got in my StarRiggerBooks store so far:

All autographed and personalized as requested. Great gift ideas, right? Come and be my customer! Or share it with a book-loving friend!

*You didn’t think I could build an Etsy store without the help of coffee, did you?

Gillian Polack Wins A. Bertram Chandler Award

Gillian Polack at work The Australian Science Fiction Foundation has named Dr. Gillian Polack the 2020 winner of its A. Bertram Chandler Award for outstanding achievement in Australian science fiction.

The Chandler Award, which is juried, is given for lifetime achievement in science fiction. In announcing the Gillian’s selection, the Foundation noted her significant work in fandom as well as her outstanding fiction, including her Ditmar-award-winning novel The Year of the Fruit Cake.

We here in the Treehouse are delighted to see Gillian’s multifaceted skills and projects recognized by the Foundation. Congratulations to Gillian for the award and to the Foundation for making such an excellent choice.

Short Book Reviews and a Personal Story: Three Tales of Swans

Occasionally I find myself reading books with such similar themes or elements that the reviews naturally group themselves together. Below, on the other hand, are two very different stories that involve swans. Not as metaphors for supernal grace and beauty but as aquatic birds with nasty tempers. When my younger daughter was five, we took a family outing in a park that had swans. Because it was spring, the swans had young cygnets. I cautioned my daughter to not approach them, and she was being very careful when a mother swan took umbrage and came at her, hissing, beak extended. Without hesitation I jumped in front of the swan. I remember thinking I didn’t want to use my fists because that would bring my face within reach of the swan’s beak. I stood up and aimed a round-house kick at the swan’s neck. I have no memory of actually kicking the swan (although family members assure me that I did), only the swan backing away, wings flapping, still hissing madly. Here endeth the first tale of swans.

 

The Glass Magician, by Caroline Stevermer (Tor). What a delightful tale, set in an early 20th Century world in which humans are divided into ordinary Solitaires, shape-shifting Traders, and ecology-minded Silvestri. The story focuses on Thalia, a magic performer, and her manager, Nutall, who’s acted as a parental figure after the deaths of her parents. When a rival stage magician gets them booted from their gig using a noncompete clause, their future looks grim. Then the rival turns up dead and Nutall is the prime suspect. To make matters worse, Thalia, who has always believed herself to be a nonmagical Solitaire, under the stress of a trick gone dangerously wrong, shape-shifts (“Trades”). Newly fledged Traders are not yet in control of their powers and become the prey of magic-consuming manticores. Now Thalia’s very life is at risk until she can master her magic, at the same time she’s determined to prove her mentor’s innocence and unmask the real murderer. The world and its characters are beautifully, charmingly drawn, with the effortless skill of a consummate storyteller.

There’s a lot of very cool stuff about stage magic, fine characterization, a murder mystery, and a slew of plot twists. The thing that impressed me most, though, was the subtle use of swan imagery.  Thalia Trades into the form of a swan, hissing in irritation at the unfairness of life when she’s not preening her feathers. But swans also appear here and there, like bits delicate, snowy down.

 

The Wild Swans, by Peg Kerr (Endeavour Venture).  Silence = Death

At first, I experienced a bit of disconnection in these two parallel stories: one, a re-telling of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Wild Swans,” in which a devoted sister undergoes a terrible ordeal – about which she must remain silent – to free her brothers from an enchantment that turns them into swans by day, men by night; and a heart-wrenching coming-of-age story about a gay teen at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. I found myself engrossed in Elias’s tale, which brought up memories of gay friends during that fearful time. The difference in my reading experience was partly due to my experience as a friend and ally, watching one after another of my friends become sick and die, remembering the atmosphere of fear and homophobia, the all-too-often rejection by families, and partly because in the Andersen tale, I knew what was going to happen. Since I was familiar with the story, I had no worries that Eliza, the sister, would prevail and that her brothers, once more restored to themselves, would rescue her from being executed as a witch. I didn’t know that not only would Elias’s lover, Sean, contract AIDS (and die), but that Elias himself would fall victim to the HIV virus. This journey, from Elias initially finding himself homeless after his family kicks him out for being gay, to meeting Sean and being welcomed into the gay and gay-friendly art and music community, to the evolving love story, engrossed me attention as it engaged my emotions.

For much of the book, I was puzzled as to the relationship between the two stories. There were a few obvious intersections, homophobia or rather hatred of homosexuality being one of them. It wasn’t until I closed the last chapter and mulled over the experience that I understood the deeper connection: Silence = Death. In order to break the spell, Eliza must cut, thresh, and weave nettles into shirts for her brothers, a long an excruciating process. I’ve brushed up against nettles, and the stinging is no joke (although to be fair, poison oak is worse). During that time, if she utters a single word, her brothers will remain swans forever. She cannot explain or defend herself, not even to save her own life.

HIV didn’t evolve because gay people hid who they were and whom they loved (for very good reason), but it flourished in an atmosphere of silence born out of fear. Eliza’s faithfulness arose out of love for her brothers, and the loyalty and solidarity of the LGBT+ community gave rise to movements like ACT UP that demanded action, and respect.

Part of the power of this story lies in the subtle resonances between fairy tale and contemporary tragedy. I say, “part,” because Elias speaks for himself. His story alone would have been an engrossing, heart-rending read. The juxtaposition of the Andersen story created a thoughtful, beautifully written pas de deux.

Real Life Imitates History

HildI just finished reading two books that made me realize that some people’s ideas about how to exercise power date back to the First Millennium of the Common Era.

One of those books was Maria Dahvana Headley’s wonderful new translation of Beowulf, and the other was Nicola Griffith’s Hild, historical fiction about the life of St. Hilda.

I have read other versions of Beowulf. Hild was a re-read for me. Looking at both of these stories in light of current political crises and my recent reading of Daniel Lord Smail’s On Deep History and the Brain  made me hyper aware that the concept of power held by the pathetic excuse for a U.S. president we’re stuck with until January 20, 2021, is similar to that of the kings (or, more accurately, warlords) in 6th Century Scandinavia and 7th Century Britain.

Headley’s Beowulf begins with the word “Bro,” putting a modern edge on the drunken boasting and over-valuing of physical strength and fighting inherent in the epic. That tone, coupled with the constant references to the warriors’ daddies and the repeated line “That was a good king” made me begin to reflect on those kings as warlords with a gang of toughs around them who started wars with others of their ilk.Beowulf

Hild begins with the title character at the age of three, just after her father, a prince, has been murdered to secure someone else’s power. Over the course of the book she becomes the seer and advisor to her uncle, King Edwin, who is striving to rule a larger and larger part of Britain.

In Smail’s book, he speaks of the castellans, who took over castles and hired thugs to defend them in the 11th and 12th Centuries, tormenting the people around them. In Hild we see even the noble women (not to mention the ordinary folks and all those enslaved) doing much of the work to keep the society working ¾ working in the dairy; spinning, weaving, dyeing, and sewing so that people had clothes; healing the sick ¾ while the king and his warriors train for battle or sit around getting drunk.

Beowulf does not show us the common people who make the society work, but the tone of Headley’s translation made me think about them.

So many of our histories are about all the wars, but the true building of our societies is rooted in the work of those who were not out trying to take over a neighboring king. Continue reading “Real Life Imitates History”