My Paper Baby Learns to Crawl (by Samantha Bryant)

change1There are so many other talented authors at my publisher, Curiosity Quills! One of them is the clever and funny Samantha Bryant, whose debut novel GOING THROUGH THE CHANGE about menopausal superheroines is unique, witty, brilliant, and even important. I can’t remember the last genre book I’ve read where women over fifty get the spotlight! I loved the book and you all should definitely get a copy to see it for yourself. The following is a guest post from Samatha herself as she talks about the process I’m currently going through: the first few months of your book’s life. Enjoy!

My Paper Baby Learns to Crawl

Whew, motherhood! They grow up so fast! My baby is already three months old as I  write this. Not my literal baby—those are 8 and 15 (!)—but my paper baby. My debut  novel: Going Through the Change: A Menopausal Superhero Novel.  Paper babies grow up faster than the flesh and blood sort. She’s only a few months old  and she’s out there in the world, making her way with or without me.  It’s an exciting and  terrifying time. What if she falls down? What if she becomes huge?

Like any mother, I want the best for my brain-child. I want her to be successful and well- treated. After all, I worked hard to bring her into this world and make her the best book I  could.

Like any first time mother, I’ve been a little overwhelmed and unsure what the best  things to do might be to help make that happen. I’ve done and continue to do what I can  to clear the path for her, to help her have a good shelf life. I seek reviews and  promotional opportunities so people will know about her and read her. I reach out (and that’s no easy thing for a dorky introvert like me).

But, the truth is, she’ll stand or fall on her own now. I’ve done my part, and now it’s up to her.  I just hope I raised her right, and that she’ll be a good book.

It’s been quite a start. I’m proud of her. She’s stood up to criticism (we’re up to twenty-three reviews now), and found new friends. In a reversal of the usual pattern of child rearing, it’s she who is opening doors for me now.

Because of her, I was able to participate in the Read Local Book Fair in Durham, NC and will be a guest at Atomacon this fall. She’s the reason I was interviewed for a local radio show (Carolina Book Beat). She got me an invitation to write a novella for a superhero anthology, too. I guess we’re already to that “mother of an adult child” stage, where we are friends and can help each other.

Oh, and did I tell you the exciting news? I’m pregnant again. I’ve just finished the sequel and sent her to the publisher. With a little luck, she’ll join her sister in a bookstore near you in early 2016!

___________________________________________________

change2Going Through the Change is going through a change in price for a couple of days in early August. On August 5th and 6th you can get the Kindle edition for free on Amazon. Check it out at: http://bitly.com/face-the-change

Samantha Bryant is a middle school Spanish teacher by day and a mom and novelist by night. That makes her a superhero all the time. Her debut novel, Going Through the Change: A Menopausal Superhero Novel is now for sale by Curiosity Quills. find her online on her blogTwitter, on Facebook, on Amazon, on Goodreads, on the Curiosity Quills page, or on Google+.

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Audio Adaptation

I recently got home from a long trip in the states! My friends and I took a lot of great long road trips while I was there, and since we were spending so much time behind the wheel, we decided to grab an audiobook from Audible. I suggested that we listen to a book I’d been trying to get them to read: Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger. Between hours of wonderfully charming fantasy of manners, we talked a bit about audiobooks.

I love them. A good audiobook is something totally magical. But despite my affection for them, I generally avoid listening to something that I haven’t already read. And I really put my finger on why when we were chatting about it. To me, audiobooks are a form of adaptation.

Writing and reading are so amazing! It’s one of the forms of media out there where the creator has the least amount of influence over what the audience actually “sees.” While a director can control everything in a frame, we writers are more evoking than anything else. Good writing leaves a lot of blank spaces for the reader’s imagination to flow in and fill. Badgering a reader with too much information makes reading exhausting. You can’t micromanage your audience.

Audiobooks are so fun because they remove a layer of that. A reader gets to bring a level of personality and life to the text that isn’t there in its raw form. I’ve adored some characters in audiobooks who I never paid much attention to in the print version, while at the same time being underwhelmed by characters who were my favourites. A great voice and line delivery can totally bring something to life!

Adaptations often make changes to the source, which can be bad or good, horrible or fantastic. But there’s something pure about an audiobook. An adaptation that’s 100% faithful to the version you love, because it has to be. It’s advertising the full experience of reading the book. And it always delivers! But full doesn’t mean identical.

That’s part of the charm of an audiobook, what makes them just so much fun to listen to. It’s also why I, personally, never read a book for the first time that way.

I can’t wait to hear what my own audiobook sounds like, someday! Will I love it? Will I hate it? Will all the voices be perfect or will I be driven mad by how much they got them wrong? All I can say is that I’m actually bouncing up and down thinking about it.

Oh, and for the record — the Etiquette & Espionage audiobook is fantastic.

Q: Queens of Fantasy, or, random female characters in fantasy who I think are ballers.

I established earlier this month that I’m a feminist. I’m proud of that. Having been interested in SFF since I was just a little girl, I’ve always loved female characters I can identify with and admire in the genre. It’s a sad fact that a lot of books I’ve read — and even books I’ve loved — just don’t have good roles for women. But it’s also a good fact that more and more every year I find a lady who makes my toes curl with joy between the pages of a fantasy novel. I’d like to hope that, with my own book coming out this summer, I’ll be contributing just a little bit to all the great fictional women out there. But for now, I want to take some time to write a love letter to some of the ones already kicking around.

To make this list a little more fun, I’m going to try to name five different female characters I adore who are all different kinds of awesome.  Because I think even more than strong female characters, we need varied female characters. So here we go!

1. Malta Vestrit (Realm of the Elderlings Series // Robin Hobb)
Malta is my favourite iteration of the spoiled, willful princess type.  She’s materialistic, petty, and self-absorbed. And while she has an amazing arc, slowly becoming more and more strong and independent and fierce, she keeps being all those things. Malta’s love for beautiful things, her unfair judgements of people, her penchant for primping in the mirror… They’re a part of her. Whether they’re good or bad doesn’t matter. Having those traits doesn’t keep her from having adventures, becoming a queen of an ancient race, and fighting tooth and nail for her family. Why can misanthropic assassins be heroes, but overindulged girly girls can’t? While she kicks ass left and right, Malta gives us the answer: there’s no reason at all.

2. Sabetha Belacoros (Gentleman Bastard series // Scott Lynch)
A con woman and spy, Sabetha gives us our roguish ne’er-do-well. Sabetha is a feminist dream. She’s politically savvy, brilliantly clever, frighteningly competent. She dresses down men who sexualize her, but is in charge and exercises agency with her own sexuality. A brilliant actress and con woman, she can play any role required of her with aplomb and loves every minute of it. Sabetha is so amazing that she almost feels like cheating to list, except for one thing — a lot of readers hate her! How did Locke Lamora ever lose his heart so completely to such a “shrill harpy?” She’s a “bitch!” And somehow, that makes me love Sabetha more, because I imagine how she’d treat the complaints: with a witty retort that left haters with their pants down while she rode away with all their money.

3. Irrith (Onyx Court series // Marie Brennan)
Irrith is my queen for the rough and tumble boyish type of character. She’s a sprite fae from northern England and is always seen with twigs in her hair, wearing tunic and leggings, making trouble. Irrith is completely unfeminine, and even prefers to glamour herself as a gentleman while walking among humans. While her arc is about understanding love and why we fragile human lives value it so much, femininity is never forced on her. She’s wild, fey, and strange, and she revels in it. The impish tomboy character isn’t uncommon in fantasy, but Irrith is one of my favourite iterations because she never resents either her own femininity, or the femininity in others. She respects the hell out of all other women and avoids that “not like those OTHER girls” trope I hate so much!

4. Phedre de Montreve (Kushiel series // Jacqueline Carey)
Ah, yes, the a curiously common erotic priestess of a strange god archetype. How can there be such an amazing version of it? Phedre is defined by her sexual appetites and preferences, her status as a prostitute, and her relationship with the god of pain and pleasure, Kushiel. And yet she’s the true mover and shaker for the most important historical events of her time and the sole narrator of her amazing story. One thing I love about Phedre is that she never learns to fight and has essentially zero action scenes. Her power all comes from her command over her sexuality and her boundless cleverness. It’s refreshing seeing a woman empowered by her story without needing to muscle her way through it.

5. Eshonai (The Stormlight Archive series // Brandon Sanderson)
And what would a list of amazing fantasy women be without a lady who wears armour and wields a magic sword? Of course, Eshonai isn’t in a chainmail bikini. Her armour is full bodied and half of it is built right onto her body. She’s not human, but she is human. She’s a conservative traditionalist in her society, but can be a bit of a maverick. She cares so much about her family and is defined in large part by her relationships with her sister and her mother, strong female connections. Eshonai is a warrior through and through, fighting and willing to die for her people. She’s the traditional fantasy knightly ideal type, only for once, that role has gone to a woman. There’s a lot of terrible things that could end up happening to this fierce bruiser lady, so join me in hoping she gets to keep her agency as the story moves forward!

I encourage everyone to check out these books! They’re all wonderful and amazing, and the women within them are incredible too. Five completely different types of women, all strong and fierce and empowered.

N: No More Castles, or, why I’ll never write medieval fantasy

(Gosh, it’s amazing how quickly you can get behind on this challenge when you have a busy week, isn’t it? Here’s me rolling up my sleeves and getting back in there!)

I owe so much to medieval fantasy.

The bibliography of my teenage years reads like a who’s who of the standbys: Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar novels, The Wheel of Time, the Belgariad and everything else David Eddings ever wrote, the Lord of the Rings. Books that I still hold as favourites to this day also are a part of that subgenre: Robin Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings books and George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire are just two examples.  Medieval fantasy, classic fantasy, changed my life. Knights and princesses, dragons and castles, jousts and wizards, quests and prophecies, sword and sorcery… they captured me all through my childhood and onwards, creating the person I am today.

So why do I absolutely never ever intend to write it?

One of my favourite authors, N. K. Jemisin, has a great quote from her interview included in the text of her novel The Killing Moon. “I don’t have a problem with medieval Europe. I have a problem with modern fantasy’s fetishization of medieval Europe; that’s different. So many fantasy writers and fans simplify the social structure of the period, monotonize the cultural interactions, treat conflicts as binaries instead of the complicated dynamic tapesty they actually were. They’re not doing medieval Europe, they’re doing Simplistic British Isles Fantasy Full of Lots of Guys with Swords…”

And it’s the truth. The more I’ve learned about history, the more I’ve realized that the “medieval fantasy” we’ve been creating for decades is just that: a creation. It’s a big shared universe that we all deposit ideas into and withdraw ideas out of, working from a set of beliefs that honestly aren’t even true!

I like new ideas. I like growth. I like freshness. And the level of attachment that has grown to that shared universe of medieval fantasy has made it so that it’s incredibly hard to innovate within it! There’s a set of expected parametres a writer is expected to be working with.

I’ve come to be interested in how things can be stranger, newer, more unique. I like seeing how different types of technologies, environments, climates, cultures, gender roles, flavours, and so forth can affect fantasy. Where my twelve year old self was thrilled by sword wielding duelists and wanted nothing else, now I enjoy seeing what early firearms change when added to a world. Where I used to love war narratives, now I’m more interested in how conflict arises in times of peace. My book takes place during an economic depression — a different kind of political warscape than a battlefield.

Jemisin goes on to say that “not all medieval fantasy [is like] this, of course–but enough [is] that frankly, they’ve turned me off the setting.” And I think the same applies to me, too. I’m bored of Person With Sword. I’m bored of all the tropes and trappings. Not only have I read that book a thousand times — I’ve read it written by people who are just a lot more passionate about it than me. I don’t feel there’s anything new I can or even want to bring to that specific table.

When it’s recommended to me, I still read medieval fantasy. I still love plenty of books — and non-books, if my love for Bioware’s Dragon Age games are any indication! — that have that setting and flavour, that borrow from that shared universe. But it’s not a universe I’m interested in sharing myself. There’s so much of it out there, and so much of it is so very good. I want to make my mark somewhere new.

K: Kate’s Favourite Authors

Hi, I’m Kate, and there are a whole lot of authors that I love!

But that’s kind of a loaded statement. Because to me, loving an author is about more than loving a few books they wrote. Some of my favourite books haven’t been written by a favourite author. And some of my favourite authors don’t have any books that would crack the top ten. It’s about more than just a couple entries into their bibliography. It’s about their body of work as a whole, the patterns that emerge when looking at everything they’ve ever written. These are the authors for whom I’ll line up for each new book they put out, regardless of the setting, summary, or genre, because their name on the cover has become a seal of quality. I’ve picked out five of those authors to talk about here today.

1. Robin Hobb/Megan Lindholm [site]
I love how her stories are such slow burns. I love how her characters are so flawed. I love how realistic her writing is. I love how bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad. Though her books have often left me sobbing and angry at the world, I’ve never read one I didn’t like, even the ones that are widely considered to be boring or slow moving. There’s just such a wonderful lyrical quality to her prose, and there’s something to love about the way she completely immerses readers in her characters — their flaws and their strengths, their victories and their tragedies, the scale of their entire lives. Slow isn’t always bad when we get that sort of thing in return.
Favourite Book: Fool’s Errand

2. Scott Lynch [site]
What I love so much about Lynch is how his books can be so many things at once. They’re funny, they’re sad, they’re horrifying, they’re dramatic, they’re violent, they’re digusting, they’re shocking. And did I mention they’re funny? Never have I laughed out loud so often while reading novels that also made me cringe away from the page. And that’s something I love and admire, because real life doesn’t have a “tone.” In real life, you sometimes laugh at funerals and cry at weddings. There are too few books out there that let themselves really embrace the full range of emotion! Aside from their great tone and emotional range, Lynch’s books are just engaging, enjoyable, well-plotted adventures that are all kinds of fun without being dumb fun.
Favourite Book: Red Seas Under Red Skies

3. Jacqueline Carey [site]
I was in my early twenties when I first read Kushiel’s Dart by Ms. Carey. It was the first fantasy novel I’d ever read that had zero interest in attracting a male audience and was written entirely with women in mind. It amazed me. I didn’t even know fantasy was allowed to be uninterested in the interests of men! I’ve lined up for every book she’s written since. I think Carey’s success was a paradigm shifting moment for fantasy. It was for me, at least. A book written specifically for adult women that was romantic but not romance, erotic but not erotica, filled to the brim with politics, conspiracy, adventure, and war? It was everything I’d ever wanted to exist and never thought could.
Favourite Book: Kushiel’s Chosen

4. Mark Anthony/Galen Beckett [site]
Oh my god, this guy again?? I  know, I know! But I can’t help it. I love his books! I adored his work as Galen Beckett on the Mrs. Quent books so much that I actually checked out his other series — portal fantasy, my least favourite subgenre! But I’m glad I did, because I love The Last Rune, too. Anthony/Beckett’s writing melds science and magic with amazing skill. He’s a scientist and a paleontologist and it shows! It’s so fun to see, for instance, the concept of shadowy void magic tied to black holes or to entropy. His books are also wonderfully diverse, and both of his serieses quietly but prominently feature an LGBT romance. I can’t wait to see what he writes next!
Favourite Book: The House on Durrow Street

5. Gail Carriger [site]
Some authors and their books are just so much fun! Carriger is one of those. Her books and her online persona reflect her witty, dry sense of humour and I always have a blast reading everything she writes. As someone who doesn’t usually enjoy reading YA (don’t kill me! it’s just not for me!), I was shocked at how much I adored her Finishing School series when I checked them out. That’s what makes a great author — you can love their books just as much when they’re writing in a genre that isn’t your usual bag! One of the many, many things I love about her books is how they’re full of women who are allowed to be traditionally “girly” without getting penalized badass points for it. That’s something we’re really lacking in this genre.
Favourite Book: Curtsies & Conspiracies

I advise everyone to check out these authors and their catalogues! They’re all big favourites of mine and I’m staking my reputation on their good-ness! I hope that someday, someone feels the same affection and loyalty towards my body of work as I do to these five.

G: Great Books (That You May Not Have Read)

(Short personal note! I’ll be trying to make a couple of posts today! I’m on a trip and not even 15 hours in, I fell down a flight of stairs and wrecked my ankle! As I’m in a foreign country, I don’t have any medical coverage, so I’ve been resting my ankle, icing it, and being extremely careful so I don’t get any complications! It hasn’t exactly been the right atmosphere around here to get work done. But I’m finally hobbling around and have so many exciting things to talk to you guys about, so it’s back to the A-Z Challenge!)

Sunday is technically a day off… but I’m so far behind, it’s going to be crunch day for me!

Without further ado, here is my article for G: Great Books (That You May Not Have Read.)

I love to read!

I’ve always loved to read. And my whole life, I’ve always wanted the books that I love to get the appreciation they deserve. Sometimes you read a book that you just want to share with the world. But people don’t really read these days, and even readers sometimes have such a backlog it’s hard to get something on their radars! So I thought I’d take some time to talk about some books that I feel are woefully underground for how good they are.

7114825The Spiritwalker Trilogy by Kate Elliot, starting with Cold Magic, has a trait I feel sadly lacking in a lot of fantasy: it’s fantastic. Not in that it’s good (though it is), but in that it’s full of strange and wonderful and weird things, creatures and places and magics that will thrill and alarm you. The world of the trilogy is also beautifully diverse and international, taking place in fantasy alternatives of the Caribbean, Africa, France, and England with most of the cast being either black or mixed race. It mixes Celtic and Mali lore beautifully to create one of the most imaginative fantasy worlds I’ve seen… and it’s still at least half our own!

13489919I love romance novels. Especially historicals. And it’s a joy when I find a romance novel that isn’t just a thrilling, entertaining love story, but is actually consent-positive and has a strong female lead. The Brothers Sinister by Courtney Milan, manages it four times in a row. Despite the series name referencing the men, the theme is the heroines: four brilliant women who have been forced by Victorian society to become lesser than they are. Minnie, the chess prodigy, Jane, the clever thinker, Violet, the natural scientist, and Free, the investigative reporter… all of them are pushed down by their worlds and all of them learn to live big. It’s a beautiful series that people who avoid romance novels are missing out on!

2582799I’ve talked a bit about the Mrs. Quent series before, but oh my gosh. They have got to be the most underappreciated rough-cut gems out there. A melding of the aesthetics and writing styles of Jane Austen and H.P. Lovecraft is a match made in heaven, and the three main characters are so different and so endearing. Ivoleyn Lockwell, the bookish gentlewoman looking to cure her father’s madness. Dashton Rafferdy, the playboy nobleman who has to learn to be an adult. Eldyn Garrit, the poor clerk taking care of his younger sister. I adore these books. They’re rough around the edges, so how can they be so perfect? It’s hard to say. Maybe it’s just that they’re perfect for me.

5356476Speaking of the Lovecraft, while the man himself has aged poorly, those inspired by him are such a joy of mine. One of my favourite horror novels is The Red Tree by Caitlin R. Kiernan. This book is a trip. It’s a dark and confusing and sensual maze through the mind of a woman who may be going mad with grief, or may be haunted by the dark and sinister history of a certain tree, or may be both. I don’t want to say too much about it because a lot of the fun is just how little you know going in! I’ll just say this: if you’re looking for answers, you’ll be frustrated by The Red Tree. But if you want something that you can mull over for weeks, weighing the possibilities, you’ll adore this.

These are just a few of the less known books I love! Check them all out!