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Archive for the ‘Bookery’ Category

The Logic of Time Travel (With Graphs!)

As The Light Brigade takes the world by storm, I’ve heard from readers who want to know more about the “complicated graphs” I mention in the acknowledgments. These are the graphs that Dr. Joshua Bowman created for my agent, Hannah Bowman, and I to run The Light Brigade characters through to ensure there was narrative logical sense in all the time jumps.

Josh was kind enough to put together the graphs and explanations in a shareable form and gave me permission to post them here. All graphs are (C) Dr. Joshua Bowman.

WARNING: Spoilers below! (really. Read the book before you jump into the graphs and outlines!)

My CHRONOLOGICAL Writing Outline

It may seem ridiculous, but it wasn’t until Hannah was like, “Well, we need to know how the events happen chronologically before we can determine how they need to be broken up” that I realized I should… um, have an outline? I hate outlining, but in a novel this complex, and with how quickly I’ve been producing work, it had to be done.

After getting to the 40k mark and getting stuck, I took a step back and created a Linear Timeline of events for the novel. This outline was very spare, and did not include my interrogation breaks. I knew those would need to get parsed in later once I figure out the way all of the events flowed.

But is it Logical? 

Having a linear timeline to reference was great, but now came the tough part: how to jumble it all up and still have it make sense. That’s where the math came in.

As Hannah explains it: “Hurley, I knew that you hated making the science in your books make sense, but in this case, I just knew that readers would only buy into the concept if the continuity was rock solid.”

She GETS me!

According to Josh: “We have a wall in our hallway that is painted with whiteboard paint. One day I walked through while Hannah was drawing a timeline on the wall. She started complaining about how difficult it was to keep track of the jumps back and forth in time. After she had explained more of the premise, I drew two rows of dots, one above the other, and suggested they model the timeline as a bipartite graph, and just consider jumps between the two rows. We started adding arrows to the picture, and within a few minutes the usefulness of the model became clear as the earlier frustrations melted away.”

Here’s how that looks in practice:

Deitz Experiences Dissonance

Once  they had the graphed lines, it was a matter of plotting all of Dietz’s drops:

The Paradox

Assuming you’ve read the book (!), you know that the Dietz who surrenders, defects, and is captured in Saint Petersburg then goes back in time to cause the Blink.

But is that logical? One of the things I’d wanted to do initially was have Dietz take her squad back in time with her. This was the graph that pretty much told us that wouldn’t work with everything else we’d set up. Instead, Dietz would need to leave her squad on Mars during M1 (Mission 1); she couldn’t simply take them all forward to M6 (Mission 6), which was how I’d originally written it. The whole thing fell down when I tried to do that.

So this is what we settled on:

My Writing Outline – Events as Experienced by the READER 

Logic sorted, I now had to WRITE the book. The outline below is the primary one I used while writing.

At every stage of Dietz’s journey I needed to know 1) who was alive/who had just died or been hurt, where the team had last been, and where Dietz had last been. Note that I also tried to track the marks on the bed (we ended up making these longer blocks of time).

Whenever I had a question about chronology, I would go back to the simpler chronological timeline above to fact-check myself (I did this often!).


Time Travel is COMPLICATED

I have no idea why I thought it would be great fun to write a time travel novel… Ok, yes, I do know, and yes, once we got to the WRITING part, it WAS fun, but wow, getting there was a fucking team effort, and I would never have finished this one without help from my agent, Hannah Bowman, and Dr. Joshua Bowman. When we talk about how writing books is often a team effort, this is the sort of thing we’re talking about. This doesn’t even include the heavy lifting from the editorial team at Saga Press (so much copyediting required!) and help from my assistant, Denise Beucler, who was plugging in copy changes at lightning speed to help me reach deadline.

Some books are easier to write than others. What was great about this experience was that we did all the heavy lifting very early on in the process. While that part was excruciating, it took a lot of pressure off the actual process of writing. Many of my writing sessions were just delightful, even if I wasn’t writing the book quite as quickly as I’d written in the past. If only I could finish what I’d started in the future…



Hurley Holiday Gift Guide: Books!

The holiday season is a great time for me to reflect on what I’ve read this year and pull together recommendations from my list. I’ve read quite a few books this year, though fewer science fiction and fantasy than usual. This is due to my greater interest in murder mysteries and domestic thrillers. It’s much easier for me to find a “book like book x” in other genres than it is in SFF, weirdly. I have very particular tastes!

Without further ado, here’s what I’ve been reading:



Holeeeee shit. Stayed up late to finish this last night. The worldbuilding! Sentient plants! The struggles of pacifism! Generation ships! Alien biology! Everything going wrong! War vs. symbiosis! This was one of the year’s most surprising finds. Occasionally Tor will put out some old-school hard SF goodness that just hits me right in my Golden Age sense-of-wonder feels (the last one that gave me this same sense of awe and wonder was Dark Orbit). So much SF ignores our biology when it talks about generation ships, first contact, and settling on new worlds. This one gets down and dirty (I got some We Who Are About To vibes here as well; surviving in an alien environment is HARD – you’re always at the edge of annihilation) and pulls no punches. Some TW’s for a lazy and utterly unnecessary (but brief) rape scene and some questionable choices on social relations that I’d have done differently. But holeeee shit! Sentient plants! Amazing worldbuilding! Grab this one, fam. If I get a chance, I may do a longer write up about this one because it blew my mind.




Clearly, I love this fucking book, as I basically live-tweeted reading it and then foisted it off on my spouse immediately. We both burned through it quickly. It’s set in the post-apocalypse nation of Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation), and features a monster hunter lead who teams up with a sweet-talking male partner to track down the baddies. So much of the banter and interplay between these two leads reminded me of Nyx and Rhys (with bonus apocalypse landscape!) that I couldn’t help but fall in love. I adored this worldbuilding too, as it’s a great look at what comes after the end of the world as we know it (spoilers: the world goes on).




“I murdered a man and made my husband leave the night before they crowned me.” I mean… how could you not keep reading?Powerful female lead, exceptional worldbuilding, twisty politics.  Picked this up because the author is now repped by the same agent I am – and I know our agent has great taste! Definitely some Traitor Baru Cormorant vibes, for me, with a much less self-destructive heroine.





I know, I know, this isn’t out yet, but woo-boy, this is a page-turner! This is another one I stayed up way too late to finish; just devoured it. Creepy plagues, self-destructing cultist seperatists, young people caught up in shit they don’t understand, and spaaaaace. I blurbed it thusly: “A smart, gripping thriller you just can’t put down. Explosions, betrayals, morally gray choices and twisty secrets; all set in the world that comes after the end of ours. Perfect for fans of Aliens and locked spaceship murder mysteries.” You’ll want to pre-order this one. You’ll read it so fast when it arrives! A good one to pre-order with all those holiday gift cards.



For those looking for more unique gifts, I’ve reduced some of the prices for my original paintings in my Etsy store for the holidays! You can also purchase SIGNED books there for friends and family, too.

Check it out.


Books I’ve Recommended to My Mother

I’ve been reading a lot of domestic thrillers recently. This started with reading The Girl on the Train to see what all the fuss was about, and I found it to be one of those masterful examples of an unreliable narrator with bonus drunken debauchery.

Then my mom rec’d The Woman in Cabin 10, and I’ve been reading a lot more of them since then. While this may surprise you, consider I’ve ready all of Sue Grafton’s Alphabet mystery series. While I may prefer SF/F, it’s certainly not all I read! I believe it’s important to read widely for many reasons, whether they be craft related or simply because you want to read books by authors who detailed histories you don’t know.

It turns out there are some  common themes running through all of these domestic thrillers that clearly speak to me. They are all about:

  • Women
  • With Dark Pasts
  • Who Are Smart
  • But No One Believes Them
  • Also Mystery/Murder
  • And Lots of Alcohol

Let’s just say this shit has been my jam recently. Sometimes you just go through one of those “I need a fucking modern gothic about how we’re all getting gaslighted.”

My mom also reads these types of books, obvs. So! Here are a few that I rec’d to her lately, for those of you feeling like some present-day gothics:

The Woman in the Window

I hate it when dudes write books in genre that women are succeeding in and claim they’re doing something REMARKABLE. But this guy doesn’t make that claim – he just happens to be fully immersed in the domestic thriller genre. This is basically Girl on the Train meets Rear Window, and it’s a satisfying and well-done little romp. If I could figure out how to hack the thriller genre and make a million dollars, I would.




The Luckiest Girl Alive

TW’s in this one for the recollection of rape. But the character voice here is great, and you will root for her gold-digging rise to the top IN ADDITION to her choices at the end. Super satisfying. The author is a rape survivor, and I expect this is why the issue in the book is handled so well (I usually nope out of these IMMEDIATELY).






The Marriage Lie

Not the best book on this list, but if you’re out of domestic thrillers, this twisty mystery about a husband who books two tickets on a plane that goes down is a good popcorn read.




The Couple Next Door

A good mystery about a woman with… you guessed it! a past. Her child is abducted, and they try and pin it on her and she’s having none of it.




The Woman Next Door

Why yes, it’s a genre with genre conventions! YOU DON’T KNOW WHO’S NEXT DOOR/ON TRAIN/ASLEEP IN YOUR BED. This one has not one but TWO nefarious woman, one of them an older woman (for a change), who work together to cover up a crime…




The Passenger

Another solid showing about a woman running from her past, trying on different identities as soon as she is recognized. There’s probably too much third act running around, but it was amusing for the dedication to fake identities.





Probably one of my favorites, about a woman who cheats on and leaves her husband – but not all is as it seems. This one is a very satisfying historical set during the second world war, as well.




Hell’s Princess

This one is nonfiction – for a change of pace! It’s about a woman who lured men out to her farm via newspaper personal ads, then… murdered them and took their money. A riveting read for the first half or so, then some blundering around trying to determine fact from fiction. But this lady! Holy hell. Don’t ever let them tell you you’re writing ashistorically fiction when you write about murderous women. WHEW.


What Came Out In 2017 (AKA: Here’s What’s Eligible This Awards Season)

As the awards ballots start to go out, I’m getting some questions from folks about which work of mine is eligible this year in various categories. Since I have “first publication” on so many stories via Patreon, it can be a little confusing.

For instance “When We Fall” was FIRST published in 2017, but only appeared publicly in January of 2018. This means it’s eligible for this, the 2017 awards cycle, and not the 2018.

Make… sense?

Here’s a handy list:

Eligible for Best Fancast


Eligible for Short Story Noms

When We Fall 

The Fisherman and the Pig

The Hysteria of Anson U.


The Madness of Memory


Sister Solveig and Mr. Denial (will appear in Amazing Stories)

The One We Feed

Eligible for Novelette Noms

Crossroads at Jannah (will appear in Apocalypse Nyx)

Paint it Red (will appear In Apocalypse Nyx)

Garda (will appear on B&N SFF blog in Feb, 18)

The Sinners And The Sea

Eligible for Novella Noms


Eligible for Novel Noms:

THE STARS ARE LEGION (edited by Joe Monti)

Go forth and enjoy award-nomination season!

Tips for Surviving the Apocalypse: Featuring Nyx

Good morning, dystopic peeps!

GOD’S WAR, the first book of the Bel Dame Apocrypha/God’s War Trilogy has been out of print since late last year. The publisher is re-issuing the books in mmp with updated, streamlined covers – just in time for the launch of the new story collection, Apocalypse Nyx!

Because Nyx really is the hero we need right now.


Tentative re-issue schedule:

GOD’S WAR: May, 2018



INFIDEL: September, 2018

RAPTURE: November, 2018



Get ready! (I am!)



Hurley Holiday Gift Giving Guide

Howdy folks! Well, it’s that time of year again, where we take a look at our TBR stacks and think, “Wow! I sure could use more books!”

If you’re hungering for some adventuresome reads that are just a darn good time – perfect for others for the holidays or just need to spend those Amazon/B&N gift cards, I have some recommendations for you…

The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells

Meet Murderbot, the robot soldier that’s broken loose of its programming protocol because all it REALLY wants to do is watch a lot of soap operas. Life, of course, has other plans, and Murderbot may be among my very favorite robots, ever. There’s mystery! Intrigue! Battles! Explosions! Robots! and much, much more. Read the first and pre-order the rest (I sure did)

The Starfire Trilogy by Spencer Ellsworth

Loved the pulpy zippy genocidal fun of Star Wars? If you love gooey space opera, you will adore this wonderfully science-fantasy space opera mashup covering what happens when the Resistance becomes the Empire. Bonus points for Bugs in Space! Chosen Ones! Memory-Stealing Swords! Rail Guns!

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

I don’t know that I’ve ever read a book that made me feel as if the author had crawled into my skin and poured all of my secrets onto the page. This is an astounding work that deals with both the social and bodily experience of being stuffed into the “woman” box at birth in our society. Machado’s approach has been called “fairytale” and I suppose that’s good for the lit mags, but it is, frankly, good old genre body horror at times, creepy and emotionally raw and so true to so many women’s life experiences that reading it felt like getting gutted with a knife. I mean, in a good way. I’m exceptionally pleased that this book has received so much praise and so many accolades. It deserves every one.

Invasive by Chuck Wendig

I love reading about bugs. I know, big surprise. Combine genetically engineered killer bugs with an anxiety-filled CIA-consultant raised by preppers and yes, friends, I was hooked. Bonus points for Elon Musk-lite, Hawaiian villain lairs, and so. many.bugs.



Books I’ve Pre-Ordered (& You Should Too)

The world is a shitshow, my friends, and we have lots of work to do ( can get you started). But all work and no escape will burn us out, and we’re on a long road. So let’s talk books. Pre-ordering books is always great, but now it’s even better, as when you pre-order you get little escapist surprises in the mail, regularly. And we all need those.

So here’s a look at the books that have intrigued me so much here in 2017 that I’ve already hit the buy button:

Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty (January 31)

A space adventure set on a lone ship where the clones of a murdered crew must uncover which of them is the murderer — before they kill again.

I mean, I’ve been waiting for this one since Lafferty sold it and told me the pitch. How can you put that down? I mean, you gotta know what happens next. And if you pre-order today, you wont’ have to wait long, because it’s out TOMORROW!~

Grab it, folks.


Amberlough By Lara Elena Donnelly  (Feb 7th)

Covert agent Cyril DePaul thinks he’s good at keeping secrets, especially from Aristide Makricosta. They suit each other: Aristide turns a blind eye to Cyril’s clandestine affairs, and Cyril keeps his lover’s moonlighting job as a smuggler under wraps. A debut spy thriller as a gay double-agent schemes to protect his smuggler lover during the rise of a fascist government coup. Trust no one with anything – especially in Amberlough City.

Been hearing a LOT about this one, and it looks simply luscious. It comes out the same day at The Stars are Legion which is… in one week. DEAR LORD. HOW WILL WE LIVE.


Kings of the Wyld by Nicolas Eames (Feb 21)

Clay Cooper and his band were once the best of the best, the most feared and renowned crew of mercenaries this side of the Heartwyld. Their glory days long past, the mercs have grown apart and grown old, fat, drunk, or a combination of the three. Then an ex-bandmate turns up at Clay’s door with a plea for help–the kind of mission that only the very brave or the very stupid would sign up for.  It’s time to get the band back together.

Something that looks a little light and fun, in an epic sword-slinging way. Now I need to write a gender flipped version.


American War: A Novel by Omar El Akkad (April 4)

Sarat Chestnut, born in Louisiana, is only six when the Second American Civil War breaks out in 2074. But even she knows that oil is outlawed, that Louisiana is half underwater, and that unmanned drones fill the sky. When her father is killed and her family is forced into Camp Patience for displaced persons, she begins to grow up shaped by her particular time and place. But not everyone at Camp Patience is who they claim to be. Eventually Sarat is befriended by a mysterious functionary, under whose influence she is turned into a deadly instrument of war.

How could I not pre-order this with a description like that? Even if “second American Civil War” is likely closer to 2020 on this timeline that 2074. I’m glad they got this out.


Borne: A Novel (April 25)

In Borne, a young woman named Rachel survives as a scavenger in a ruined city half destroyed by drought and conflict. The city is dangerous, littered with discarded experiments from the Company?a biotech firm now derelict?and punished by the unpredictable predations of a giant bear. Rachel ekes out an existence in the shelter of a run-down sanctuary she shares with her partner, Wick, who deals his own homegrown psychoactive biotech.



All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries) by [Wells, Martha]All Systems Red by March Wells (May 5th)

On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid ? a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is. But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth.

Martha Wells is one of the most masterful and under-read worldspinners in the genre, and pretty much everything she writes is an auto-buy for me.


City of Miracles by Robert J. Bennett (May 7th)

There are some maybe spoilers in the copy of this one (read it just now and legit put my hand over my heart), so suffice to say: this is the third and final book in Bennett’s excellent Divine Cities trilogy. Having loved the other two, this was an easy pre-order decision.




The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden (June 13)

In South Africa, the future looks promising. Personal robots are making life easier for the working class. The government is harnessing renewable energy to provide infrastructure for the poor. And in the bustling coastal town of Port Elizabeth, the economy is booming thanks to the genetic engineering industry which has found a welcome home there. Yes—the days to come are looking very good for South Africans. That is, if they can survive the present challenges: A new hallucinogenic drug sweeping the country . . .An emerging AI uprising . . .

I bought this on the strength of the cover and blurb, but then also went and bought a collection of Drayden’s stories to make sure I liked her style. And lo, it was good, and I’m seriously looking forward to this one.



Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory (June 27th)

A generations-spanning family of psychics–both blessed and burdened by their abilities–must use their powers to save themselves from the CIA, the local mafia, and a skeptic hell-bent on discrediting them in this hilarious, tender, magical novel about the invisible forces that bind us.

I got addicted to a show on Hulu called Shut Eye, which is about families of warring fortune tellers and psychics, one of whom actually gets real psychic powers. Really interested to check out this book from Gregory, which inspired a heated bidding war at publishing houses.


P.S. I’ve also read River of Teeth, and if I didn’t already own it, I’d be pre-ordering it. It’s a great read, which I blurbed, even!

Fresh Fiction: Hammers on Bone

In March of this year I got a DM from Cassandra Khaw asking if I’d take a look at her novella, Hammers on Bone. I get a lot of blurb requests these days, so stuff really needs to hit my buttons to keep me reading. I am a fan of Khaw’s short fiction (there’s plenty to check out, but here’s “Breathe” and “When We Die on Mars“) and she was first on my Campbell nomination list this year.

Khaw’s fiction runs the gammit of science fiction, fantasy, horror, urban fantasy, and weird. Hammers on Bone is a creepy Lovecraftian urban fantasy weird (?) novella that I read all in one gulp poolside in Orlando (some TW’s for violence against women). As I am short on time these days, I will simply share the blurb I wrote with you, and urge you all to check it out:

Cassandra Khaw’s explosive, evocative prose is a treat to read. Khaw’s ability to transform the mundane into the deeply phantasmagorical is nothing short of magical. Prepare to take a long leap into the gory, the weird, and the fantastic in the hands of a fresh new voice in fiction.




More Books I Have Been Reading

When you find yourself casting about for ideas, it means it’s time to refill the bucket. So I have been. Here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly of what I’ve been reading the last few weeks.

Writing How-To’s

I Give You My Body: How I Write Sex Scenes by Diana Gabaldon

51swfw1xiul-_sy346_As those who’ve read my work know, while I do have the occasional sex scene in my novels, it’s generally only a few lines. My books aren’t romances, so this isn’t something I’ll dwell on for pages, but sex is still an important thing to my characters, and I have wanted to have more emotional turning points in the bedroom (or wherever) than I have. I’ve read a few primers on writing sex scenes, but this was the first I’ve read that I actually found useful. Gabaldon’s note that the more senses you can engage in a scene, the more tactile it becomes was a really helpful and practical way to think about these scenes.


Take off Your Pants: Outline your books for faster, better writing

5100lvz-oql-_sy346_This was NOT about writing sex scenes, of course, but novel outlines and creating master plots so that you can write faster, more efficiently, and of course, write better page turners. Unlike 2K to 10k, it didn’t really change my life or anything, but it provided some good outline suggestions (and noted, once again, that if you’re REALLY interested in structure, head over to those screenwriting books. Screenwriters are obsessed with structure). I wouldn’t pay for a paperback of this, but three bucks for it on Kindle is fair (it’s only 100 pages).


Book Research

Parasite Rex by Carl Zimmer

51nmwmxnxtl-_sx328_bo1204203200_This was one of those books that fundamentally changed how I view the world. Seanan McGuire recommended it to me on Twitter, and I AM SO GLAD. I’ve become very interested in how tied humans are to the organic systems here on earth. We need bacteria from this planet, something that we need to keep in mind if we choose to leave said planet. This book goes a step further and posits that we need those wormy parasites, too, and that many of them, in fact, have been integral to our own development. I’d read a lot of other studies about hookworms curing or reducing the symptoms of chronic immune disorders like lupus and type 1 diabetes, and this book points out that the rise of immuno-disorders like these can indeed be tracked to the elimination of parasites. As the parasites are destroyed, these types of diseases increase. So do allergies. Our immune systems are incredibly powerful, because they have been driven by parasites to become that way. So when you remove the parasites, they are more likely to go haywire and start attacking the body itself. Introduce some worms, and the chemicals that the worms put out suppress your immune system. All this time I thought my problem was I had a shit immune system. It turns out it’s actually very good. So good that it’s trying to kill me. If you want to bend the way you think of humans and how “great” the miracle of life is in the world, check out this book. Halfway through reading about all the terrible things parasites do to animals and people, I decided that it was totally OK for life everywhere to go extinct and all these barren rocks are actually the pinnacle of civilized existence, because for fuck’s sake, life is fucking CRUEL AND AWFUL. I mean, in a fascinating way.

Grunt by Mary Roach

41snvmsomkl-_sx331_bo1204203200_Because I clearly can’t get enough Mary Roach books, I also read Grunt, her examination of some of the less talked about and less glamorous sides of the military. Lots of interesting details here about sleeping, eating, and shitting on a military campaign, and the bazillions of dollars in wild studies that go on (polar bears think used tampons are delicious, but other bears aren’t interested, so hey, don’t run around naked in Alaska while menstruating. Read and find out!).  There is plenty of heartbreak in here, as well. The roundtable of medical professionals who go over the deaths of soldiers in the field and point out how they could have been better treated on the field so that they survived their injuries was sobering.


Death’s Acre: Inside the legendary forensic lab the body farm where the dead do tell tales by William Bass

41z4p5lu2fl-_sx324_bo1204203200_I’ve heard about The Body Farm on Bones, of course, so I had to check out this book. It’s a great long look at this life of forensic anthropologist William Bass, who got started doing forensic anthropology back in the 50’s before there really was such a thing. There are some shocking truths here, among them that he and his team spent many summers in the 50’s digging up, literally, thousands of Native American graves before they were covered by water by a dam project. How they find the cemeteries is interesting, and the science is cool, but we’re talking about cemetaries that really aren’t that old, belonging to ancestors of people still alive, and the sheer number here was staggering. What I did appreciate is that he does not look away from these terrible truths of how forensic science was developed. The bodies of the poor, of slaves, of those with less power in society, had their skeletons pulled. For years the body farm actually used corpses from the local morgue of poor people whose bodies were never claimed by anyone. I mean. Wow. This is a wide-eyed look at what has been done to advance forensic science, dark and gray and everything in between. It doesn’t pretend it’s not messy and morally messed up.

The Red Market: On the trail of the world’s organ brokers, bone thieves, blood farmers, and child traffikers by Scott Carney

51low0njnql-_sy346_So, with Death’s Acre, the narrator dug up thousands of Native American graves. That’s… pretty atrocious, despite how “great” it was for “science.” He also sticks to a lot of assumptions about skeletons and race while admitting that actually a lot of those markers can be wrong. But he was not, overall, painted as an unlikable person, if that makes any sense whatsoever. At the end of the day, I respected what he did and found plenty of other admirable things about him. That’s not true of the narrator of this book, who came across like a privileged whiny white kid shocked SHOCKED at the state of the “third world.” A lot of stuff here that got presented felt like rumor mongering. He didn’t question many of the reports, and appeared to do a very small surface level of actual reporting. The book has a great title, but I wouldn’t say it presented anything new, to me. Worse, it starts out with him giving us this personal story of how one of the young people he was leading as a tour/teaching guide committed suicide in a foreign country, and his narrative about it is so self-reflective, so narcissistic (and creepily sexualizes her in death) that it was really tough to get through the rest of the book with this guy as my guide. It’s got a great title and cover, tho. So, there’s that.

Severed: A History of Heads Lost and Heads Found by Francis Larson

61e-odigl6l-_sy346_Another book I was recommended via twitter and yeah, wow, this one is great. If you ever doubted that Europeans were bloody weird scary conquering nutjobs, this book will put you straight. I read an amazing book back when I was working on my Master’s thesis called Speaking with Vampires: Rumor and History in Colonial Africa, which talks about all the seemingly “crazy” myths about Europeans that many Africans in the Congo in particular had about Europeans. That they were vampires, that they kidnapped people for their blood, and all sorts of other stuff, and you know, after reading about Europeans actually did in Africa, this shit is not crazy at all. Not in the least. Horrible shit went down. This one also points out how seemingly “barbaric” practices like headhunting were actually driven by European demand (much like scalping). The human obsession with heads across many cultures is explored, and it’s grim and gruesome. For instance, did you know that American GI’s took home Japanese soldiers’ heads in WWII as trophies? You know whose heads they DIDN’T take home? Nazi heads. Why? Racism. This, too, is explored in depth.

Life Hacks

Purple Cow by Seth Godin

514fkvz8z9l-_sx361_bo1204203200_This is a classic Godin book with some outdated examples and such, but the premise of the book still holds up. No matter what business your in, the market is most likely oversaturated. As an author writing in a world clogged with trad and self-pubb’d books, and movies and games and TV and social media and VR fighting for people’s attention, getting eyes on your project is a fucking struggle these days. Godin notes that if you want to stand out, you need to offer something truly and absolutely exceptional. You need to come up with a purple cow. Figuring out what your purple cow is, of course, is the problem. Worse is figuring out how to come up with the NEXT purple cow once everyone else is making purple cows like yours. The gosh-wow treadmill we’re on these days makes me wish I could have built a writing career back in the 80’s.

Stop Saying You’re Fine by Mel Robbins

51bdmtwyrl-_sx322_bo1204203200_One of those self-help books for folks feeling stuck in a life rut. Am I in a life rut? Well, I’ve certainly been cruising along here for five years or so without a lot of massive leaps in forward momentum. My career is ticking up, but slowly, so slowly, the long author marathon, and sometimes it moves forward so slowly so sure do FEEL like you’re standing still. Some good ass-kicking here, some strategies. It did get me to finally institute my sticker motivation calendar. Baby steps.



Elektrograd: Rusted Blood by Warren Ellis

41qqumeoovlSome good Weird fiction. Don’t expect to get pulled in by the vague plot or enticed by the interesting characters, but gosh-wow worldbuilding, etc. The apartment blocks are these living things that get up and move. Took me a bit to get through, but… worldbuildling.


I Am Providence by Nick Mamatas


I read this one in… like, two days? It was a surprisingly light, easy read from Mamatas, which was not quite what I expected. A murder goes down at a Lovecraft convention, so you’ve got a murder mystery to drive the “plot,” but the book is mostly an excuse to poke fun at the convention community as a whole. Having been to my fair share of conventions now, I recognize all of these types (there is a disclaimer in LARGE LETTERS at the front of the book insisting that these are all fictional characters, but you know…), and I admit to rolling with laughter at many scenes, especially the ones of panels (“But I AM the moderator!”) because it was a lot like being there. There’s a lot of in-jokes and nods to real SFF controversies. My main issue with the book was that I couldn’t figure out the protagonist’s motivation to solve the murder (and the police weren’t terribly convincing, but hey, Cthulu’s influence can work as an excuse for everything). As a newcomer to the convention scene who barely knew the guy who gets killed, she does things that make sense for the plot, but I never figured out her personal stakes. At the end of the day, it didn’t really matter. It was a breezy popcorn read, which I admit is not something I ever thought I’d say about a Mamatas book. My spouse eagerly grabbed this from me after I was done, and I think he’ll enjoy it as well. This was published by Night Shade Books, who I hate supporting because they still owe me a shitbrick of money, but it was a fun book.

Awards Eligibility & Reading Recs

It’s here! It’s time!

I know, I know, seems like it was just yesterday we went over this, eh? But ’tis the new season, and so: the new post.


The second book in the Worldbreaker Saga, EMPIRE ASCENDANT came out in October of 2015, and is eligible in all the best novel categories.

That said, this was another insanely great year for books, and I don’t have my fingers crossed for this one. It’s a middle book, and it’s up against some books I’ll be happily nominating for best novel, including THE TRAITOR BARU CORMORANT and PLANETFALL. Ann Leckie made another powerful showing with ANCILLARY MERCYUPROOTED was also a huge treat, and if I was nominating work on pure entertainment value, it would be up there.

Yet as much as I loved those, I think this is going to be THE FIFTH SEASON’S year. It’s an incredible book, not just a great read, but thematically and technically brilliant, and I expect to see it on a lot of lists, mine among them. So. Good.


As ever, a category I don’t read or write a lot of, but there was a huge number of novellas out from Tor this year, and Tachyon, Subterranean, and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction continue to put out great stuff. I’m just under-read.

I did really enjoy Catherynne Valente’s “Speak Easy “. So check that one out, too.


My Patreon novelette, “The Judgement of Gods and Monsters” came out in 2015 via Patreon and is being reprinted this year in Beyond Ceaseless Skies, which will actually mean it’s eligible for 2015’s awards (I know, the rules are weird). I’ll update this post when the story is live for those who haven’t read it yet.

I really love this one, but I’m biased, naturally.


I had some short fiction come out that’s eligible, my favorite of which is “The Light Brigade.” This one was selected for a Year’s Best, but I had to turn it down because it was coming out from Night Shade Books, and I’d like to keep as much of my work away from them as possible; the editor of that anthology is great and totally understood my reasons. It was also chosen for inclusion in PWNING Tomorrow, the EFF benefit anthology.

Elephants and Corpses, a short story about body-hopping mercenaries and endearing elephants, came out in May, making it eligible for 2015 awards.

“Body Politic” was out in the anthology Meeting Infinity, and is also eligible, as it’s an original story.

“The Improbable War” which debuted in Popular Science Magazine also counts, as many “short story” categories have an upper but not a lower word count limit.

As for what I’ve read this year, folks know that I’m a fan of Seth Dickinson’s short fiction, like this eligible story.

Nino Cipri wrote a lovely time-travel story I thought was fabulous, “The Shape of My Name.” Read it (I’ve discovered I’m kind of a sucker for time travel stories almost as much as war stories). Another I liked, also chosen by editor Ann VanderMeer, is Haralambi Markov’s “The Language of Knives.” You’ll see why pretty quickly.

I’ll also point folks in the direction of Cassandra Khaw, whose work is new to me this year. Check out “You’re All Going to Die on Mars” and “Her Pound of Flesh.”


Meeting Infinity fits into any of these categories on various ballots. I think something like half of the stories in it have already been pulled for Year’s Best collections, so you may want to check this one out.


Abigail Nussbaum is repeatedly robbed of this title every year. Read her stuff to see why you should vote for her this year.


As ever, the toughest category of all, as one doesn’t know if an author is eligible unless they tell you. I’ll update this one as the lists start to come out. Cassandra Khaw has let me know that this is her first year of eligibility, so there’s one!

As for the other categories across various awards ballots, I’m going to be reading other recommendations posts looking for new work and artists to check out, and I hope you will too.

The great part about awards season that we don’t talk about enough is how great it is to find little gems of work that we missed in the last year, and great new-to-us authors that we can follow into the new year.