The Two Weddings of Bronwyn Hyatt May 6, 2015 The Two Weddings of Bronwyn Hyatt Alex Bledsoe A Tufa double wedding. Ambiguity Machines: An Examination April 29, 2015 Ambiguity Machines: An Examination Vandana Singh A test for Junior Navigators of Conceptual Machine-Space. The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn April 22, 2015 The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn Usman Malik He will inherit the Unseen. The Ways of Walls and Words April 15, 2015 The Ways of Walls and Words Sabrina Vourvoulias Can the spirit truly be imprisoned?
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Showing posts by: Jane Lindskold click to see Jane Lindskold's profile
May 2 2014 2:30pm

Artemis Awakening (Excerpt)

Jane Lindskold

Artemis Awakening Jane Lindskold

Check out Artemis Awakening, the first in a new series by Jane Lindskold, available May 27th from Tor Books!

The distant world Artemis is a pleasure planet created out of bare rock by a technologically advanced human empire that provided its richest citizens with a veritable Eden to play in. All tech was concealed and the animals (and the humans brought to live there) were bioengineered to help the guests enjoy their stay.

But the Empire was shattered in a horrific war; centuries later humanity has lost much of their advanced technology, and Artemis is a fable told to children. Until young archeologist Griffin Dane finds intriguing hints that send him on a quest to find the lost world. Stranded on Artemis after crashing his ship, he encounters the Huntress Adara and her psych-linked companion, the puma Sand Shadow. Their journey with her will lead Dane to discover the planet’s secrets…and perhaps provide a key to give unimagined power back to mankind.

[Read an Excerpt]

Jan 16 2009 2:34pm

Coincidence or Contrivance?

Coincidence is a recognized element in “real life.” All of us have anecdotes about those times when, by the merest coincidence, we avoided some disaster or stumbled onto some wonderful experience.

My personal favorite series of coincidences involve the narrow margin by which I nearly did not meet Roger Zelazny, a person who would become very important in my life. At this time, Roger and I had only exchanged a handful of quite formal, if cordial, notes. I thought that would be it.

Then Coincidence One hit. A friend mentioned to me that, although his office didn’t usually receive such materials, a flyer for a science fiction convention had come in his mail. He went on, “The writer who has been kind enough to answer a couple of your letters is the guest of honor.”

I’d never been to an SF convention. Neither had any of my friends. We decided to check this one out. I wrote Mr. Zelazny and asked if he would mind if I introduced myself. (This was back in the days of snail mail).

Many days passed, and I received no reply. I concluded that I had overstepped the bounds of propriety. My friends and I would still go to the convention. I would attend talks and readings, but I would not put myself forward.

[Set the stage for Coincidence Two.]

Jan 6 2009 4:41pm

Hard Fantasy

“You write fantasy like it’s hard science fiction.”

This comment was made to me many years ago by Patrick Nielsen Hayden of Tor Books. He went on to clarify what he meant, saying that—no matter how peculiar and varied the elements (intelligent animals, magical kaleidoscopes, figures from myth and legend) I bring to a story—reason and logic will, oddly enough, continue to rule.

Over the years, Patrick’s assessment has been echoed many times, in various situations. A radio interviewer coined the phrase I now like to use to describe the majority of my writing: Hard Fantasy.

[Read More...]

Dec 23 2008 1:28pm

Second Look: Good Idea?

This is the fourth (and I think final, unless someone comes up with something related they want me to discuss) piece in a short series where one author gives her reactions to some of the covers that have been put on her books.

In my last piece, “Series Doesn’t Equal Set,” I referred to an earlier comment by “Midwinter” in which was said: “the cover art to Changer was why I finally grabbed the book after passing it three or four times in the store.”

“Midwinter” clearly meant this as a compliment. However, I think this comment highlights a serious challenge book covers have always faced, and will face even more as book selling takes place more and more on-line. That is, how to make sure the book cover grabs the reader’s attention right away—even when it has been reduced to an icon the size of a postage stamp.

Throughout my career, I have had my share of what I have called “second look” covers. By this, I mean, covers that, while eye-catching in some fashion, demand that the reader pause long enough to take a second look or even to read the jacket copy for the true nature of the novel to emerge.

[Read more...]

Dec 18 2008 9:58am

Series Doesn’t Equal Set

This is the third in a short series of articles in which one author talks about the covers that have gone on her novels. If you haven’t, you might want to take a quick read through “Look at What They Wrapped Around My Baby!” and “When Right is Completely Wrong.”

This article is going to leave behind the “fluffy bunny” covers that plagued my early career, and take a look at some covers that came later. I’m going to start by responding to a reader’s request for my reaction to the covers for my novels Changer and Legends Walking. These are my two “athanor” novels, published in mass market paperback by Avon in 1998 and 1999.

[Read more...]

Dec 10 2008 3:12pm

When Right is Completely Wrong

This is the second piece in a short series of articles featuring one author’s reaction to some of the covers that have appeared on her books. You might like to look at the first paragraph or so of “Look at What They’ve Wrapped Around My Baby!” This gives my comments on the qualifications of authors in general as critics of cover art.

This particular piece is going to focus on a cover that I think may have seriously hurt my career: that of my third novel, The Pipes of Orpheus, which was released as a mass market paperback from Avon in October of 1995.

This cover, by Kevin Johnson, is dominated by a gorgeous wash of blue sky and white clouds. The central figure is a magnificently rendered pearl-white pegasus. Three children, wearing clothing in shades of brown, are seated on its back. Their postures are erect and confident. The tallest holds a pan pipe raised high in one hand.

It’s a great painting. It is even a semi-accurate description of a scene in the novel. So why do I have such problems with this as a cover for this book?

[Find out why, after the cut.]

Dec 4 2008 9:35am

Practical Mysticism, or, Honestly, I Don’t Know the Ending

This piece is being written in direct response to a reader’s comment about a statement in my piece “Tailbone to Chair.” When talking about how I pace myself when writing, I said: “Toward the end of a novel, when I’m eager to find out what’s going to happen...”
The reader’s response was, “I have encountered this assertion from other authors and I have always wondered if the assertions were true. This also leads me to wonder: do you really not know the way a story is going to go when you start out?”

I’m going to try to explain, but I’ll admit this is tough. How to explain that there is a “feeling” I get when I know a story is “there”? Equally, the lack of that feeling tells me that a story isn’t ready yet. If I try to push the writing at that point, I’ll create something stilted, something, frankly, terrible. I’d do better to go and dig holes in the yard.

Let me make one thing clear from the start: Not every writer operates the way I do. There are plenty of perfectly wonderful writers who not only know how the novel will end, they know how the entire series is going to end. To a lesser extent, I have a good friend who always knows his openings and closings. He finds “the fiddly middle bits” the hard part.

Frankly, I’d find knowing so boring, almost claustrophobic, that I don’t think I’d ever write a book for which I knew the ending. After all, what’s the fun when you know what’s going to happen? And how wonderfully exciting is it when you see the pieces falling into place as if you intended them to do just that all along?

[Read more...]

Dec 1 2008 12:54pm

Look at What They’ve Wrapped Around My Baby!

Readers are always surprised to learn that authors have little or no input regarding the cover art for their books. There may be good reasons for keeping the author out of the loop regarding the cover art. One publisher I’ve talked to about this subject said that is his (very extensive) experience that what the author thinks would make a good cover would actually make a good frontispiece. (That is an interior illustration often included at the front of a novel in days of yore, a custom that sadly seems to have gone the way of the dodo in adult fiction).

This publisher may be right. Certainly, I rarely hear three people agree as to how good a cover is or is not. I’ve actually made something of a study of this. My friend Julie the Librarian (yes, the same one I mention in my entry on YA fiction) and I have made an informal annual study of cover art pretty much every year for the past five or so years.

Julie and I try to look at the covers from various perspectives: personal, professional, in comparison to other covers, and in view of various trends of the moment. Some years we’ve incorporated another person into our quest. One year it was a long-time editor, another time an award-winning artist, another time a book collector. We all rarely agree on what works.

So, what I’m going to do here is not meant to be an authoritative examination of Book Covers in General, but merely one author’s chatty look at a few of the covers that have appeared on my books, with comments about how I felt about them.

[Book cover commentary below the fold.]

Nov 26 2008 9:35am

Twists, Curves, Exciting Thrills: What Happens After the Book is Written

Thirteen Orphans is out. The second “Breaking the Wall” book, Nine Gates, is written. I’ve been told the copy-edited manuscript is on its way to me. Five Odd Honors (“Breaking the Wall” Three) is somewhere among my editor’s papers in New York.

Yeah. New novel out and, for me, that new novel the “old one.”

Nor in my career is this the first time I’ve had this happen. Back when I started with Tor, they had the first several Firekeeper novels in hand before Through Wolf’s Eyes was released.

My first publisher was Avon. They had three or four fully written novels in the queue before Brother to Dragons, Companion to Owls came out—and they didn’t even have the excuse of wanting to assure “momentum” for a series. These were all stand-alone novels.

So when I go to a book event or do an interview for Thirteen Orphans, I need to be really careful not to let a spoiler slip. It’s odd to hear someone discussing a character who, in my mind, has changed radically since that novel. Maybe the character has gained confidence or fallen in love with someone new or an enemy has become an ally.

It’s odd. Sort of like living in a time warp.

How can such a lag happen? Well, one thing many readers don’t realize is that the process a book goes through after it leaves the writer’s hands is very complex.

[Read more...]

Nov 24 2008 11:58am

The Irony of Being “Author”

Last weekend, I did my first signing for Thirteen Orphans. As such events go, it couldn’t have been more ideal. The books arrived on time (which doesn’t always happen), and attendance was fantastic, so much so that more and more chairs kept having to be set up. (Thanks, Tori and Rowan, for taking charge). Even so, a few people ended up standing.

I did a short reading from Thirteen Orphans, and followed this by answering the audience’s really intelligent questions. Finally, I signed lots of books. Like I said, as an event, it couldn’t have been much better.

Why then did I feel afterwards as if I’d been hit by a truck?

One of the ironies of being a professional writer is that, if you are even moderately successful, the very traits that let you succeed as a writer are not much help when the time comes to head out as “The Author.”

[Read more...]

Nov 20 2008 5:01pm

Tail Bone to Chair: Part Two

Hi. I’m back. And I’m picking up right where I was, in the middle of Decision Two: Avoid Boxes At All Cost.

Time of day is the other big quirk by which writers trap themselves. I’ve known writers who need to write first thing or they won’t “get into it.” I’ve known writers who can only write at night when the world is quiet. I’ve known writers who can only write when their routine chores are completed and they feel they now “have time.”

Often these writers got into these habits for all the best reasons in the world, but eventually what started as a good thing became a trap. I decided that no time would be my time. The reverse of this is that, for me, all time can be writing time.

Once I threw privacy, equipment, and time of day out the window, it was a much simpler matter to avoid all those other interesting writerly quirks.

[Read more...]

Nov 18 2008 12:34pm

Tail Bone to Chair: Part One

(The title refers to something I said in my earlier post on writing series.)

These days, I’m lucky enough to be a full-time writer. That means that when I wake up in the morning, I have no other paying job competing for my attention. However, when I started writing, that wasn’t the case. When I look back, I see that habits and skills I cultivated at the beginning of my career continue to shape how I write today.

I started seriously applying myself to writing fiction immediately after I finished graduate school. By “seriously” I mean that, instead of noodling along on a story, finishing it or not as the mood struck me, I set out to complete what I started, to polish it to the best of my ability, and to send out the finished story.

Until then, I’d given my graduate work my first priority. However, practically on the day I handed the final revised chapter of my dissertation to my adviser, I resolved that before life filled all the time that had gone into writing and researching The Persephone Myth in D.H. Lawrence, I was going to slot in fiction writing.

I did, too, even as I worked several part-time jobs, searched for a full-time post, and dealt with the usual demands of daily life. Then and there, I made three decisions. Although I’ve adapted them as my life has changed, these basic choices remain the keynotes of my writing habits to this day.

[The decisions, behind the cut.]

Nov 13 2008 2:48pm

Avoid or Anticipate?: The Problem of Series

I’ve noticed a funny thing. I’ve had over a dozen and a half novels published since late 1994 when my first novel, Brother to Dragons, Companion to Owls came out. During that time, no one has ever come up to me and heartily thanked me for writing a stand-alone novel.

Seriously. You’d think someone would have done so, given the lack of respect that series, especially fantasy series, get. But no one ever has.

Yet out of my nineteen novels, only eight are in series (two different series, actually). There have been plenty of opportunities for people to praise me for writing just that one novel. However, usually the response when I say, “No. I don’t have any plans to write a sequel to Child of a Rainless Year” or whichever book is under discussion, comes in the form of suggestions as to why I need to write more about those people and that place.

While I’ve never been praised for writing a stand-alone, I’ve had a lot of requests for sequels—and not only to novels, but to short fiction as well. When I finished the Wolf Series (which starts with Through Wolf’s Eyes and ends with Wolf’s Blood) I had copious e-mails asking if I was really, really done.

Some kind folks even pointed out minor elements I had left open. I felt genuine appreciation that these numerous someones could put that much energy into picking apart something I’d written. However, I also pointed out that, short of blowing up the world and turning out the lights, there is no way to absolutely, categorically end a series.

So it seems that readers like Fantasy and SF series. Yet, apparently, the fastest way to fall from grace is to write one. Books in series seem to have a lower shot at award nominations. Later books in a series seem not to get reviewed as often. (Please note I said “seem.” I haven’t done the math.) People will avoid novels with “Book One of the...” on the cover.

Why, then, are Fantasy and SF series the girl everyone wants to date, but no one wants to take home to mother?

[Here a few thoughts on why, followed by my own approach to avoiding these pitfalls.]

Nov 10 2008 11:35am

The Shortcomings of Words

I love print fiction but, sometimes when I’m reading a good graphic novel or manga, I find myself envying those who work in an illustrated format. There really is some truth to the proverb, “One picture is worth more than a thousand words.”

Here. Let’s grab a manga off a nearby shelf. Fruits Basket, volume one. Black and white, so we don’t have the complication of color.

Open at random. Page 11. Pick a panel. Top right. What do we find?

Tohru’s mother curled up on a floor mat next to the toddler Tohru, telling her a bedtime story. Mom wears a mini-dress, long-sleeved, covered in flowers. Her legs are covered in either tinted tights or stockings. Her hair is loose and falls to between her shoulder blades. Her head is resting on her bent arm, hand extended behind; her knees are comfortably crooked.

Tohru is tucked into bed. Her eyes are angled toward her mother. She wears a little smile of anticipation. Her blanket is flowered, but in a different pattern than her mother’s dress. The mat and cover are obviously thick and cushiony.

The atmosphere is of love and comfort. Those are joyful flowers. This is a relaxed and happy place. These are people completely comfortable with themselves and with each other.

And all this in (grab ruler, take rough measure) two inches by three and a half inches of space.

[Read more...]

Nov 7 2008 2:34pm

Here There Be Dragons: Or Sometimes Not.

Q: When is a dragon not really a dragon?
A: When you are looking at the tiles in a mah-jong set.

When I started my research into mah-jong in anticipation of writing Thirteen Orphans, I looked forward to learning the answer to a question that had puzzled me since the first time I’d looked at a set of tiles.

Why is the Red Dragon tile inscribed with the character that means “center”? What does “center” have do with dragons?

The answer is that “center” has absolutely nothing at all to do with dragons. In fact, even the idea of dragons entered mah-jong terminology fairly late in the development of the game.

In the earliest surviving sets of mah-jong tiles, there are only six “honors” suits: the four directions (or winds) and two tiles with no set association of any sort. One of these is usually labeled “center” and the other is usually left blank.

[More dragons (or not) below the fold...]

Nov 3 2008 6:23pm

YA: What Exactly Does That Mean?

Recently, I’ve had a bunch of e-mails from parents asking me if my novels are suitable for young readers. Sometimes the e-mails are from kids asking me some version of the same question, because their parents told them to do so.

Although I think this question could be better answered by skimming the novel in question, I’ll do my best to answer it.

Usually, my answer is some version of this:

Not knowing your child, I cannot really answer this question. I have received fan mail from readers as young as eleven and as old as eighty-four. I have been told my books satisfy both long-time readers of SF/F, and those for whom a particular one of my novels is their first encounter.

If you are specifically concerned about sex and violence, I can tell you that your child is likely to encounter more of both on prime-time television. However, the novels do contain both, as frequently as I deem appropriate to the story.

But I’ve never felt satisfied with that answer.

[Read more...]

Oct 30 2008 10:24am

Skipadee-do-dah?: Do You Peek?

This past Friday, the Dear Book Lover column in The Wall Street Journal (October 24, 2008) was asked the following question.

“Is it wrong to skip to the end of a book and then go back?”

Cynthia Crossen’s reply began, “It’s very, very wrong, and I do it whenever necessary. Instead of feeling guilty, I blame the author, because he or she has obviously paced the story badly.”

This second sentence brought me up short—and not because I’m an author. You see, I’ve been guilty of committing this “very, very wrong” act but, when I do so, it is a compliment to the author. I only skip to the end when I care enough about one or more of the characters that I want to find out if he or she “makes it.”

When I skip, I have a little ritual. I scan a page, trying hard not to read what’s there, just looking to see if a favored character or characters is/are talking. If they are, I am relieved. If they are not, I may read a bit more to see if they are out of the action for a reason I can accept. (I’m a firm believer in the “good death.”)

Then I either go back to the novel or not.

I decided to get responses from a few other people. My husband, Jim, had little to add. He never skips.

[But others do—skip to the end]

Oct 27 2008 2:23pm

Ivory, Bone, Bamboo, Bakelite... and Polymer Clay?

One of the great delights that has resulted from the decade or so that I have spent exploring mah-jong has been when friends have shared their own sets with me. Not only do the designs of the tiles show delightful variations, but the materials from which the sets are made also vary.

Although mah-jong evolved from card games, especially in the West, it is universally played with tiles. Those tiles are often two-part: a light-colored facing (usually bone or ivory) and a bamboo backing. This design reflects the combination of practicality and artistry that is intrinsically Chinese. The light-colored faces are the labor/art intensive parts of the tile. The bamboo backing is considered disposable or replaceable, an important thing for a gambling game where the equivalent of a “marked card” would be fatal.

Early mah-jong tile facing was usually made from ivory or bone. However, “usually” does not mean “exclusively.” Shell, jade, ebony, and various woods have been used. There were also tiles made from solid bamboo.

When plastics became commercially available, tiles poured from Bakelite, catalin, and celluloid were made. Many of these were designed to mimic the combination tile, with a darker back and a lighter front. Sometimes plastic fronts were given bamboo backs. Today, any and all of these are available, both as expensive antiques and for routine play.

[More behind the cut...]

Oct 23 2008 9:06am

Flowers and Seasons: Bonus or Bane?

In a thoughtful response to my earlier post on mah-jong suits, one gentleman mentioned the Flower and Season tiles. Like him, I think they’re marvelous and evocative. Therefore, when I pursued my research, I was rather surprised to discover that hard-core mah-jong gamblers usually exclude these tiles from the game, because the extra points (usually doubling of base score, but as I’ve noted elsewhere, mah-jong rules vary widely) throw off the calculations on which serious gamblers thrive.

I, however, am all for including the Flowers and Seasons, and glorying in their potential.

Flower and Season tiles are the only unique tiles in the mah-jong set, each tile occurring only once. (All the other tiles are duplicated four times). In some early rules, these tiles are referred to by the evocative term “the Eight Guardians.”

Four of the five directions (center is excluded) are very important in mah-jong, so it’s no surprise that the Flower and Season tiles are keyed to the four directions. Often the tiles are numbered so there will be no confusion: one for east, two for south, three for west, and four for north. Especially with the Season tiles, these numbers can be very necessary.

[More below the fold...]

Oct 21 2008 10:54am

System = Unmagical?

In discussions of magic in Fantasy fiction, a frequently argued point is whether or not systemized magic somehow ruins the “magical” feeling of a work of fiction by making magic a poor copy of science. “Gamers” are regularly cited as the ones who introduced this element into Fantasy, an assignment of blame that completely disregards the fact that magical systems are as old as the concept of magic itself.

Magical systems are akin to ritual magic—that is, a magic where a ritual (or system) is used in the belief that following that system will achieve a set desired result.

Ritual magic permeates numerous cultures. The ancient Egyptians used it not only in those rites associated with death and judgement, but in daily life. (Do you think only mummies wore amulets?). Many European cultures possessed their own forms of ritual magic, dating far back into prehistory. (What do you think cave paintings are?).

Ritual magic is central to many Native American cultures. I’m married to an anthropologist who specializes in the Southwest. Despite the hard-held belief of many New Age practitioners that the Native Americans are simply “close to nature” and “sensitive to the Great Spirit” magical/religious rituals (there is no real distinction) are integral to the power/belief structures of these peoples.

Perhaps no culture so closely equated magic and system as did that which is my current obsession: the Chinese. Moreover, especially to the older Chinese cultures (although plenty of wonderful rituals are still practiced today), there was no distinction between science and magic.

[Read on...]