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Marie Brennan

Fiction and Excerpts [10]
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Fiction and Excerpts [10]

Within the Sanctuary of Wings

|| Book 5 in the Lady Trent series. This concluding volume will finally reveal the truths behind Isabella Trent's most notorious adventure—scaling the tallest peak in the world, buried behind the territory of Scirland's enemies—and what she discovered there, within the Sanctuary of Wings.

How Your RPG Campaign Can Inspire Your Novel

I’m sometimes startled to realize how many of the stories I’ve written have their roots in a role-playing game. They’re by far the minority among my published works, but even so: depending on how you count it, one novel series, one novella series, a novelette, and three short stories have been shaped in some fashion by my RPG experiences. If you include unpublished works, the list increases by at least two more novel series and another short story.

I say “depending on how you count it” because the nature of that influence varies from work to work. Nothing I’ve written is a direct retelling of a whole game. Some make use of pretty significant elements; one is barely related at all, being an idea that sprang sideways out of my character concept and thereafter had nothing to do with it. The process of adaptation changes based on what bit of the game you’re using as your springboard: a setting, a character, a plot. If you’re minded to adapt your own game experiences in some fashion, it can help to look at it from those angles and figure out what you’re dealing with—so let’s dig into each possibility in turn.

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Forget the Horoscope; Try These 5 Methods of Divination

Prophecy shows up all the time in fantasy, but divination is less common. And yet, if you look at history, people all over the world used different forms of divination to guide their lives, for decisions ranging from when to set out on a trip to selecting the right person to marry.

When divination does show up in a story, it almost always takes the form of cards, whether the familiar tarot or an invented deck inspired by it. Every so often you’ll get a reference to astrology, or possibly the casting of runes. But there are so many more possibilities—some fairly comprehensible, others much less so…

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How to Do Karate in a Victorian Dress

When Mary Robinette Kowal and I were on tour together, she asked me to record something for a charity fundraiser: a video of me performing a karate kata in the Victorian dress I wore for our tour events.

Being an author, of course I said yes.

Because it immediately made me wonder—what would that be like? How well could I do karate in that dress? What sorts of difficulties would I run into? And how could I make use of this experience in a story someday? I had some suspicions, but without putting them to the test, I couldn’t be sure. Mary and I were on the way to our next event when she made the request, so after we arrived and got into costume, I decided I would take a moment to walk through a simple kata as a preliminary test.

I got one move in and discovered that the biggest limitation was one that had never even crossed my mind.

[And it wasn’t the skirt…]

Such Sweet Sorrow: On the Final Chapter of the Lady Trent Series

In the spring of 2016, a close friend of mine moved away.

Or at least that’s what it felt like. After five years spent writing the Memoirs of Lady Trent, I finished the last book… and suddenly my protagonist wasn’t a part of my life anymore. Not the way she used to be. I still think about her, of course, and now that Within the Sanctuary of Wings is in readers’ hands, she’s very much on other people’s minds. So metaphorically speaking, we’re still in contact with each other. But we don’t hang out every night like we used to.

[I’ve never had this reaction to the end of a series before…]

Within the Sanctuary of Wings

Within the Sanctuary of Wings is the conclusion to Marie Brennan’s thrilling Lady Trent Memoirs—available April 25th from Tor Books!

After nearly five decades (and, indeed, the same number of volumes), one might think they were well-acquainted with the Lady Isabella Trent—dragon naturalist, scandalous explorer, and perhaps as infamous for her company and feats of daring as she is famous for her discoveries and additions to the scientific field.

And yet—after her initial adventure in the mountains of Vystrana, and her exploits in the depths of war-torn Eriga, to the high seas aboard the Basilisk, and then to the inhospitable deserts of Akhia—Lady Trent has captivated hearts along with fierce minds. This concluding volume will finally reveal the truths behind her most notorious adventure—scaling the tallest peak in the world, buried behind the territory of Scirland’s enemies—and what she discovered there, within the Sanctuary of Wings.

[Read more]

How Your Role-Playing Game Campaign Can Inspire Your Novel

I’m sometimes startled to realize how many of the stories I’ve written have their roots in a role-playing game. They’re by far the minority among my published works, but even so: depending on how you count it, one novel series, one novella series, a novelette, and three short stories have been shaped in some fashion by my RPG experiences. If you include unpublished works, the list increases by at least two more novel series and another short story.

I say “depending on how you count it” because the nature of that influence varies from work to work. Nothing I’ve written is a direct retelling of a whole game. Some make use of pretty significant elements; one is barely related at all, being an idea that sprang sideways out of my character concept and thereafter had nothing to do with it. The process of adaptation changes based on what bit of the game you’re using as your springboard: a setting, a character, a plot. If you’re minded to adapt your own game experiences in some fashion, it can help to look at it from those angles and figure out what you’re dealing with—so let’s dig into each possibility in turn.

[Read more]

Adapting Stories from Games: Writing Cold-Forged Flame

I may as well admit it up front: the protagonist of Cold-Forged Flame is based on a character I played for about four years in an RPG.

This isn’t the first time I’ve done something like that, either. My Onyx Court series of novels grew out of a tabletop game I ran back in 2006; my novelette “False Colours” had its genesis in an incident that took place during a one-shot LARP. (I also have story ideas that don’t arise from games, I swear.) One common piece of writing advice holds that games don’t make for good fiction… so why do I keep doing this?

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Cold-Forged Flame

The sound of the horn pierces the apeiron, shattering the stillness of that realm. Its clarion call creates ripples, substance, something more. It is a summons, a command. There is will. There is need. And so, in reply, there is a woman.

At the beginning—no, at the end—she appears, full of fury and bound by chains of prophecy. Setting off on an unexplained quest which she is compelled to complete, facing unnatural challenges in a land that doesn’t seem to exist, she will discover the secrets of herself, or die trying. But along the way, the obstacles will grow to a seemingly insurmountable point, and the final choice will be the biggest sacrifice yet.

This is the story of a woman’s struggle against her very existence, an epic tale of the adventure and emotional upheaval on the way to face an ancient enigmatic foe. Marie Brennan’s Cold-Forged Flame begins a new series about the consequences of war—and of fate. Available September 13th from Tor.com Publishing.

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Learning to See Through Photography

In this ongoing series, we ask SF/F authors to describe a specialty in their lives that has nothing (or very little) to do with writing. Join us as we discover what draws authors to their various hobbies, how they fit into their daily lives, and how and they inform the author’s literary identity!

When I was a kid, I used to think I didn’t like photography very much.

Then I went to Costa Rica, and realized that I just hadn’t spent much time in places worth photographing.

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From the Editorial Page of the Falchester Weekly Review (A Lady Trent Story)

After risking the neck of her loved ones and herself during her perilous sea voyage aboard The Basilisk, and the discoveries made at Keonga, Isabella, Lady Trent, returns to Scirland with the aim of publishing her research. And yet, given the level of secret knowledge she now possesses, she is reduced to waiting to reveal her new academic discovery until royal decrees can be lifted and a fraught political situation avoided. In her idle frustration, Isabella vents her spleen upon the shoddy research published by lesser men with swollen heads in local journals. Enjoy the following collection of letters, found in a trunk of mislaid scholarly documents left behind when she removed to Linshire for the season.

[Read “From the Editorial Page of the Falchester Weekly Review” by Marie Brennan]

In the Labyrinth of Drakes

Even those who take no interest in the field of dragon naturalism have heard of Lady Trent’s expedition to the inhospitable deserts of Akhia. Her discoveries there are the stuff of romantic legend, catapulting her from scholarly obscurity to worldwide fame. The details of her personal life during that time are hardly less private, having provided fodder for gossips in several countries.

As is so often the case in the career of this illustrious woman, the public story is far from complete. In this, the fourth volume of her memoirs, Lady Trent relates how she acquired her position with the Royal Scirling Army; how foreign saboteurs imperiled both her work and her well-being; and how her determined pursuit of knowledge took her into the deepest reaches of the Labyrinth of Drakes, where the chance action of a dragon set the stage for her greatest achievement yet.

In the Labyrinth of Drakes is the fourth installment in the acclaimed Lady Trent fantasy series from Marie Brennan, available April 5th from Tor Books!

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Five Things Epic Fantasy Writers Could Learn from Dorothy Dunnett

Dorothy Dunnett is one of those authors you hear about through word of mouth. She didn’t write fantasy—unless you count taking sixteenth-century belief in astrology as true from the perspective of her characters—but ask around, and you’ll find that a surprising number of SF/F authors have been influenced by her work. The Lymond Chronicles and the House of Niccolò, her two best-known series, are sweeping masterpieces of historical fiction; one even might call them epic. And indeed, writers of epic fantasy could learn a great many lessons from Lady Dunnett. Here are but five, all illustrated with examples from the first book of the Lymond Chronicles, The Game of Kings.

[Not to be confused with A Game of Thrones…]

Voyage of the Basilisk (Excerpt)

Devoted readers of Lady Trent’s earlier memoirs, A Natural History of Dragons and The Tropic of Serpents, may believe themselves already acquainted with the particulars of her historic voyage aboard the Royal Survey Ship Basilisk, but the true story of that illuminating, harrowing, and scandalous journey has never been revealed—until now.

Six years after her perilous exploits in Eriga, Isabella embarks on her most ambitious expedition yet: a two-year trip around the world to study all manner of dragons in every place they might be found. From feathered serpents sunning themselves in the ruins of a fallen civilization to the mighty sea serpents of the tropics, these creatures are a source of both endless fascination and frequent peril. Accompanying her is not only her young son, Jake, but a chivalrous foreign archaeologist whose interests converge with Isabella’s in ways both professional and personal.

Science is, of course, the primary objective of the voyage, but Isabella’s life is rarely so simple. She must cope with storms, shipwrecks, intrigue, and warfare, even as she makes a discovery that offers a revolutionary new insight into the ancient history of dragons.

The thrilling adventure of Lady Trent continues in Marie Brennan’s Voyage of the Basilisk, available March 31st from Tor Books!

[Read an Excerpt]

A Breathtaking Duel in Dorothy Dunnett’s The Game of Kings

Dorothy Dunnett is the only author on the face of the planet who has ever made me feel abjectly inferior as a writer. Most great authors, when I read their stuff, I find myself inspired and energized and eager to tell my own stories. Dunnett? I’m not sure I’ll ever write anything that lives up to her best moments.

The worst part is, one of the most amazing scenes I think she ever wrote was in her first. bloody. novel.

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Series: That Was Awesome! Writers on Writing