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Monday, November 23, 2015

November Sighting

OK, who stole the past year?

His name is Greenshank...though he knows that's not his true name.  He is a reticent man, and took something over a year and a half to tell me his story - a story entwined in mystery and murder, war and redemption and political manipulation.  It does him well to be reticent, as he has a very hard time determining who is friend and who is enemy and who is . . . something other.

Of course I know that his story began in Dust and Light, released last year.  But for a long while, I thought it was going in one particular direction, and then it took off on a path I didn't expect. Certainly Greenshank didn't.  And I hope my readers will enjoy its twisty unraveling.

That's why the book is releasing in December and not August as I had hoped, so I trust it won't get buried in holiday bustle.

A greenshank is a water bird, as it happens.  Many of Greenshank's fellows are also named after water birds, as much of Ash and Silver's action takes place on the cold, wet northwestern coast of the kingdom of Navronne.  Just off the coast lies an island fortress that might call to mind a fascinating place in our own world.  Fortress Evanide is a place of mists and storms and rampaging tides, and, in Greenshank's experience, a strict and mysterious military order that calls itself the Equites Cinere' or Knight of the Ashes.

For this week, 11/23/15 through 11/30/15, you can register to win a copy of Ash and Silver at Goodreads. I'll be hanging around Goodreads from now through New Year's, answering questions.

You can also head for my website to Read Chapter 1 or check out my coming Appearances or sign up for my newsletter.

Or friend me on Facebook.

I'll be back soon with more news! Read more of this post!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Dust and Light - In the Wild!

Out today, Dust and Light, the first novel of Sanctuary.

How much must one pay for an hour of youthful folly? The Pureblood Registry accused Lucian de Remeni-Masson of “unseemly involvement with ordinaries,” which meant only that he spoke with a young woman not of his own kind, allowed her to see his face unmasked, worked a bit of magic for her....After that one mistake, Lucian’s grandsire excised half his magic and savage Harrowers massacred his family. Now the Registry has contracted his art to a common coroner. His extraordinary gift for portraiture is restricted to dead ordinaries—beggars or starvelings hauled from the streets.

But sketching the truth of dead men’s souls brings unforeseen consequences. Sensations not his own. Truths he cannot possibly know and dares not believe. The coroner calls him a cheat and says he is trying to weasel out of a humiliating contract. The Registry will call him mad—and mad sorcerers are very dangerous....

You can find Dust and Light at
    Your local Independent Bookstore
Or online at
    Barnes and Noble

For an autographed copy, contact my good friends Nina and Ron Else at the Broadway Book Mall - 303-744-BOOK - in Denver.

Read the starred review from  Publisher's Weekly
Read an excerpt
Read more of this post!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Launching Dust and Light!

August is going to be a busy month.

Any month where you give birth is busy - though I hope to get more sleep than in those human baby days! I'll be all sort of places online in August and do a little traveling, too. A book's legs are established in its first month out.  And an author's career teeters on those legs.  So I'm off to the races.

I'm going to kick things off this Friday.  Yes, the book isn't quite  out yet.  August 5th is the official date.  But I had an opportunity to share an evening of talk and reading with E.C. Ambrose.  Back when E.C. Ambrose was writing as Elaine Isaak, a very cruel dark-fantasy writer, I shared a  couple of panels with her at conventions.  We had fun comparing our wicked ways with our heroes.  The word?  She makes me look like a pansy!  And so does her alter ego, EC.

Anyway she is in town launching her own new book, and she couldn't make it in August.  So we'll have our little soiree on Friday evening, July 25th at 7:00pm at Old Firehouse Books in Fort Collins.

Next up will be Bubonicon, August 1-3 in Albuquerque.  The book won't officially be out then, either, but my good friends at the Broadway Book Mall are in charge of the bookstore at the con and have gotten early release permission from my publisher.  So if you want it early, come visit us in Albuquerque.

Then it's off to California and a Sunday, August 10th, 2pm event at the flagship sff bookstore Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego.

Saturday, August 23, at 2pm, I'll be back in Denver for my Colorado launch at the wonderful, friendly Broadway Book Mall.  And I'll be reading, and parlaying with Laurey Patten, longtime writing partner, who has just released her excellent sword-and-sorcery adventure The Talent Sinistral.

And then there are the online appearances.  Here's where you'll be able to find me online in August:
Thursday August 7:
John Scalzi's Big Idea;
Magical Words: Guest Author on Dust and Light;
Thursday August 14:
Reddit Fantasy AMA (Ask Me Anything) Real Time starting at 7pm Central;
Magical Words: Guest Author on Characters;
Thursday August 21:
Magical Words: Guest Author on Blowing Up the Dam;
Thursday August 21:
Magical Words: Guest Author on The Writing Life;
Join me so I'm not sitting lonely at my keyboard. You can ask me anything at any of these stops (not just the Ask Me Anything).  And Stay Tuned for a few more stops!

What about autumn, you might say...

In September I'll be thrashing and burning, trying to finish off Ash and Silver. The forecast is cloudy. But I will also be appearing at the Colorado Gold Writers Conference and teaching some workshops on worldbuilding and NOT outlining. Later in the fall I'll be at MileHiCon in Denver and then at the World Fantasy Convention in Washington DC in early November.  More on those later. Read more of this post!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Same World, New Story

How easy is it to go back to a world you've created?  Lots of authors do it.  Sometimes with sequels, sometimes with prequels.  Sometimes with time jumps.  Often with wholly a wholly new cast of characters.  When I finished the novels of the Collegia Magica, I realized that I had created five fairly complete worlds, all of which I loved.

I try very hard to make my series have a good resolution.  I want readers to believe that the mysteries and dilemmas of the plot have been untangled and finished off in a satisfactory - and believable - way.  And that the characters live on in the new directions they've taken, with love, magic, companionship, hope, grief, whatever I've left with them. I have always sworn not to go back to a previous cast of characters or world unless I had a new story to tell.

That's why I picked Navronne - the world of the Lighthouse Duet, Flesh and Spirit and Breath and Bone.  Not only was the world - with its mythic underpinnings and rich history - one I enjoyed, I felt a nagging sense that I had left a lot of interesting story on the table.  Valen, the hero of the Lighthouse books, was a rebel, a wanderer, and the path of his life took him to a most unexpected place.  While the part of the world that he had spent his life running from - the families of pureblood sorcerers with their strange culture, their strict discipline, and their unique position in the world - was left almost entirely unexplored.  Valen hated the life his birth condemned him to - and he discovered the life he was meant to have.  What would life be like for a man of similar age and similar status who embraced the role he was born to?  Who had a family that appreciated his talents and loved him dearly.  That man is Lucian de Remeni-Masson, a very wealthy, privileged sorcerer, born not with one, but two strong magical talents - most unusual, as it happens - and who believes that his magic is a divine gift.  Lucian embraces the strict life that Valen abhorred.   And then, of course, because he is my hero...

  ...everything goes wrong.

That is the story begun in Dust and Light (Roc Books, August 2014). More next time on the peculiar difficulties of going back - not only to the world but to a parallel timeframe, so that the civil war, the environmental collapse, and the rampaging Harrowers that were so much fun in the first series, could set up problems for Lucian as well.  Just very different problems. Read more of this post!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Here is a snip from this morning's news:

John barrymore 1922
John Barrymore - 1922

All in the family: Former President Jimmy Carter’s grandson, Jason Carter (D), is going to run for Georgia governor next year, and so he might be on a Democratic ticket that also has former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-GA)’s daughter on it -- Michelle Nunn, who’s running for the Senate. Indeed, here’s a reminder of all the other famous names and relatives who are going to be running in 2014 or who are up for re-election:
-- Liz Cheney (daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney)
-- George P. Bush (son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush)
-- Gwen Graham (daughter of former Sen. Bob Graham, D-FL).
-- Shelley Moore Capito (daughter of former WV Gov. Arch Moore).
-- Mark Begich (son of the late Rep. Nick Begich, D-AK)
-- Mary Landrieu (daughter of former New Orleans Mayor Moon Landrieu and brother to current Mayor Mitch Landrieu
-- Mark Pryor (son of former Arkansas Gov. and Sen. David Pryor).
-- Andrew Cuomo (son of former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo)
-- Jerry Brown (son of former California Gov. Pat Brown)

Why do I mention this?  Because news stories like this prompted my creation of the purebloods strict familial relationships in the Lighthouse Duet - Flesh and Spirit and Breath and Bone - and that I'm now working with in the Sanctuary Duet - Dust and Light (August 2014) and Ash and Silver.

I had noticed how often in our times professions run in families, whether in the arts (the Barrymores from John and Ethel and Lionel to Drew, the Sheens, Nat King Cole and Nora Jones) or in auto racing (the Unsers, the Pettys, the Earnhardts), in banking, philanthropy, etc.  and then I made the great step that fantasy and science fiction writers always take...

I asked What If...? 

What if magic could be inherited?  And what if a young man or woman could only pursue the talent inherited from the mother's bloodline or the father's?  How might those things be reflected in a society?  And what happens when things aren't quite...normal...

The Lighthouse books deal with a young man who despises the whole way of life.

The Sanctuary books will deal with a young man who...   Well that's the story, isn't it?
Read more of this post!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Next Big Thing

You may have seen other authors posting this meme. I was tagged by my new excellent friend, the lovely Leigh Evans, and I thought it would be fun. Answer some questions; tag some of my author friends to do the same. Here goes!

What is the working title of your next book?
Dust and Light, the first book of the Sanctuary Duet.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
Unfinished business! My novels Flesh and Spirit and Breath and Bone took place in a deliciously complex world. A civil war raged in a kingdom suffering a disastrous decline in the weather. Magic was confined to a group of wealthy families - known as purebloods - who provided their services to cities, nobles, clergy, or whomever else could afford to pay for them. To nurture and preserve their magic, purebloods kept themselves detached from ordinary society and politics.  They created a mannered, disciplined subculture, linking themselves to their clients by strict contracts.

It had been great fun to develop and structure the pureblood culture – but as it happened the hero of Flesh and Spirit had spent his life running away from his pureblood family. In fact he called the life of a pureblood sorcerer “slavery with golden chains.” But his jaundiced viewpoint  left many aspects of pureblood life unexplored. When I started considering what project I wanted to work on when I finished The Daemon Prism and the Collegia Magica series, I wondered if there might have been someone else interesting raised in the pureblood social structure—someone who embraced and believed in it—and that’s when I met Lucian de Remeni-Masson.

Unlike most pureblood sorcerers, who inherited the talents of either the mother’s bloodline or the father’s, Lucian demonstrated gifts in both his mother’s artistic line and his father’s bloodline magic of history. That’s when the story took off.

What genre does your book fall under?
Mythic fantasy with a strong mystery element.  Or something like that.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Oh, I never do this – or if I do, I don’t tell. I’ve found that my readers have such widely varying images of my characters, so I don’t like to skew them too much. The lesson came clear when I had readers casting Seyonne, the hero of Transformation, with everyone from a young Daniel Day Lewis to Orlando Bloom! Suffice it to say that Lucian is a lean, good-looking young man of twenty six with typical pureblood features: dark, straight hair, aquiline nose, and dusky skin.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Maybe I can distill it into three. Lucian de Remeni, pureblood sorcerer with a bent for portraiture, has grown up in wealth, privilege, self-discipline, and the conviction that his beloved family’s magical talents are the gods’ gift to a troubled kingdom. But a family tragedy begins a spiraling downfall that sweeps the young sorcerer into a life he had never imagined. Banished to the crude society of a bustling necropolis, Lucian’s task of becomes the key in two murder investigations which threaten to upend the war for Navronne’s crown and unravel the very foundations of pureblood life.

Before I go on, I want to tag those who are next up on this branch of The Next Big Thing.

Diana Pharaoh Francis is the author of two fantasy series – the Path series and the Crosspointe Chronicles – and the fabulous Horngate Witches urban fantasy series.  I’m jealous when I report that not only does she write exciting adventures, but she is also a professor of English at the University of Montana, rider of horses, wife, mom, and exceptionally fun person to hang out with at a science fiction convention.  You have never met a professor like Di!

Cindi Myers has authored more than forty novels, spanning romance, historical, western, and women’s fiction.  Her work is consistently excellent, and she is the most focused and productive writer I know.  I go hang out with her on mountain retreats just hoping to absorb some of her professionalism.  Again, it just isn’t fair that she’s gorgeous, generous, and a great teacher.

Mindy Klasky is the author of fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal chick-lit novels, and under her alter ego, Morgan Keyes, a fabulous new YA fantasy called Darkbeast.  A reformed lawyer and law librarian, Mindy sat alongside me on our first ever convention panel – My First Novel at the 2000 Chicago WorldCon.  Our first books had come out one month apart, from the same publisher, and as women of other professions, we bonded immediately.  Now with twenty-eight novels between us, I guess our panel was a success - our friendship certainly is!

Compared to these three, Linda Joffe Hull is just a newbie.  But her first novel, The Big Bang will likely leave all of us genre writers in the dust. Library Journal describes it as "a fun, sexy suburban soap opera with a touch of mystery." I’ve known this book since it was a baby, and believe me it is like nothing else out there.  Neither is Linda, who is also fun, smart, and sexy!

And now back to the NBT questions:  

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I've worked with agent Lucienne Diver of the Knight Agency from my first sale thirteen years ago. Dust and Light will be published in 2014 by New American Library/Roc Books.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Knowing how unlikely it is that I'll reach the end of the story before my deadline of June 2013, it will have taken me a year and a half. I would love to think I could be a third of the way into the second (as yet untitled) volume of the duology by that time, but I'm not placing any bets.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? My books have been compared to those of Robin Hobb, Guy Gavriel Kay, Mary Stewart, and Lynn Flewelling.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
My favorite authors of my favorite kinds of stories - murder mysteries, historical political intrigues, and world myths. The heart of Dust and Light is the interweaving of two mysteries - the strangling death of a young street urchin in the royal city and the savage massacre of a wealthy family by rampaging fanatics. The resolution of these mysteries leads my hero to dangerous discoveries about the fundamental nature of pureblood magic in Navronne.

What else about the book might pique the reader's interest? These books are not a sequel, but a parallel story to Flesh and Spirit and Breath and Bone, involving entirely new characters. (Dust and Light actually begins a bit more than a year earlier than Valen's story.) One will be able to read either pair first. But for those who've already read the Lighthouse books, there will be some "Easter eggs" – references to some old friends and places. I think that will be fun.
Read more of this post!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Autumn in Review - September

Time to wake up this blog! I just sat up and realized it's Thanksgiving - well no, that's already passed. I think I'll start with a quick review of what's been happening this year. Out of order and higgledy-piggledy, but here goes. Let's start with September...

On one weekend,  I took a Sunday hike with kids up to Lake Isabelle in the Brainard Lake Recreation Area.  Our terrible drought here in Colorado was made visible when we arrived at the lake.  Not fire damage, thank goodness, but just dry.  Most of the lake just wasn’t there.  Here’s what we saw on a glorious autumn day.  Note the barren strip around the current water line -a beach where there shouldn't be one.   Here’s a view of the same lake in a greener year.  We did have a good time stomping on the wooden bridges along our hike to make sure no trolls came up to grab us.  None did.  Whew!

The Colorado Gold Writers Conference, sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers is always a September highlight. The workshops are great, but I find myself sitting for a great deal of the conference hours in the large, open, and most welcoming bar/lobby of the Denver Renaissance hotel. It’s a great time and place to catch up with writer-friends from all over the region, as well as meet new ones. I gave a morning Master class on characterization, as well as a workshop on writing first person. I also did an hour's discussion with authors Warren Hammond and Mackay Wood on violence in fiction – why an author may choose to use it, and what we considered our own boundaries and favorite techniques for writing violent scenes. I also had to give a kick-off speech, seeing as how the members of RMFW had voted me in as their 2012 Writer of the Year. It is a great honor, and I was treated royally.

What I Was Working On: workshops for Colorado Gold, proof pages for The Daemon Prism mass market, the New Boo, the Obama campaign

What We Were Watching: Merlin, Mad Men, Bronco football

More about the New Book soon.  Watch for The Next Big Thing. Read more of this post!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


This year's World Science Fiction Convention is at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Chicago over Labor Day weekend - Thursday, August 30 through Monday September 3. It's always fun to visit this vibrant city (especially since I have kids in the area.

But WorldCon itself is amazing. Five days of non-stop programming, sometimes 25 things going on at once. There are panels on every conceivable fantasy/sf-related topic - writing, art, "the literature", film and TV, comics, and so on - as well as actual gaming from Risk or Magic, the Gathering to the latest RPGs, music, dancing, costuming and the ultimate Masquerade, an art show and art auction, the Hugo Awards, book dealers and other vendors selling art, jewelry, costumes, and everything else. Guest writers like me, editors, agents, reviewers, and artists staff the panels, hoping to get face to face with readers. I've got a busy schedule this year.

Here's the list...

  • Thursday, Aug 30, 4:30pm: Autographing 
  • Friday, Aug 31, 12 noon: panel on Writing Beyond the First Two Pages 
  • Friday, Aug 31, 3pm: BroadUniverse Rapidfire Reading - 17 readers in an hour and a half - FUN! Saturday, Sept 1, 10:30am: panel on Writing Vivid Characters 
  • Saturday, Sept 1, 3pm: ANOTHER panel on Writing Vivid Characters(Don't ask me! But I like the topic.) 
  • Sunday, Sept 2, 9:30am: Reading - PLEASE COME! Depending on the audience, I might be prevailed upon to read from the new book... 
  • Sunday, Sept 2, 10:30am: Kaffeeflatsch - Sign up on the list and come - we can talk about anything you like!
  • I've some prep to do. Four-minute reading for BroadUniverse, full reading for Sunday. Considering topics for the Character panel that I am supposed to moderate and thoughtful comments for the others. All good things. Hope to see lots of you there.

Read more of this post!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Writing DIfferences

Somewhere, someone once said, Write what you know. I hate that phrase. For many years, I took that to mean Write things that you’ve personally experienced. No one wanted to read about my life – teacher, software engineer, student, wife, mom. Quite ordinary and boring to those looking for adventure. I kept reading.

Jump ahead a few decades. I’d read a few thousand books by now and internalized that not every author had experienced everything in his or her stories, not when someone could make me believe hobbits existed, or that this world was only a shadow of an idealized place called Amber. These writers were fiction writers. It was their job to make me believe in the reality – and yes, the underlying truth of their story. When I took up fiction writing as a hobby, I wasn’t sure I could instill that same sense of belief in other people. But the more I worked at it, the more I learned that I could - by thinking hard, by working hard to know what I was talking about, by considering what it might be like to live in a culture or situation or a profession far from my own experience.

Yet I still heard people saying don’t. Don’t try to write people of a different gender. I got past this one, too. I was not only writing from the point of view of two characters who were warriors, but they both happened to be men. I had certainly observed plenty of men! I thought hard about how their feelings or reactions might be their own, not mine. I worked hard to make their voices, concerns, and behavior right for their characters and the story. And male readers told me I did just fine.

And then I wrote from the point of view of a ten-year-old boy (later sixteen-year-old) and that worked, as well. (It helped that I lived in a house with one - male - spouse and three sons!)

Still, of course, there were other nay-saying voices out there in the aether: Don’t try to write people of a different color or sexual orientation or a disability you don’t live with. How could you possibly know? How could you possibly understand? How could you possibly get it right when you are an American, heterosexual woman of Irish heritage who grew up in the southwest US in the 20th century without anything one would label a disability (except maybe painful shyness)?

But I decided that if I could write men convincingly, and if I could write two very different warriors convincingly when I had no combat training or experience, then I ought to be able to write these things too. I am fiction writer, and I use knowledge, imagination, logic, and reason to make my characters’ behavior and experiences true to the human experience as it exists in the fictional worlds I create, and close enough to the human experience in this world that my readers find them believable and identifiable.

But when the tides of the storyline in one of my series swept my brooding, violent sorcerer hero into blindness, I did feel trepidation. This was new territory. I very, very much wanted to get it right, to avoid TV/film/fictional cliches, to avoid any hint of paternalism or pandering or any other thing that might ruin the story for any reader. And yet I didn’t hesitate. It was the right thing for the story, which was about all about seeing – seeing the truth of magic in a world where it was dying, seeing the truth of a wicked conspiracy, seeing the truth of oneself and of those you could not believe might find you worthy of love or compassion. It was only fitting that this man face the loss of the thing that he valued above all things – the sight that enabled him to work the most complex forms of magic. So how was I going to do this right?

Part of my challenge was physical – how does a man cope with blindness in a society comparable to the early 17th century? Part was emotional – how does a man of a passionate, volatile nature react to an abrupt change that he can only view as devastating? Note that this is his view, not my own—a critical distinction when dealing with such topics. My aim was not to preach about how loss of sight is not a “disability” but just another way of dealing with the world, but to relate this man’s feelings about and reactions to what had happened to him. And part of my challenge was authorial – how do I communicate a vivid sense of a world without using visual images?

So how did I approach it?

First: Research
The internet is our friend. I read medical information about the mechanisms of sight and its loss. More importantly, I found forums and blogs by the newly blind giving personal perspectives – emotional, physical, and how those affected day-to-day life. It didn’t matter that it was 21st century information. I was accustomed to translating human experiences to a less techno-savy century.

Second: Write
I never research too much before I begin writing. Knowing how the story unfolds tells me what I need to focus on in research. As I wrote, I considered every word, phrase, scene, and situation from this perspective.

Third: Network
I was fortunate to know a fellow writer who has been losing her sight for many years. I asked if she would read my early chapters and give me her opinion, as I was trying to get it right. She was pleased to be asked. Not only did she give me a few pointers, but gave me a most invaluable reference – a man who had lost his sight profoundly and abruptly at very near the same age as my sorcerer. He was delighted to help and, as it happened, had done so for other writers. Not only did he vet my chapters (and say I’d done a decent job!!) but answered my every question and offered me some wholly unexpected insights. I wish I could have used everything he gave me! But, as always, one can’t burden the story with all the delicious research.

Hard thinking. First-hand information. Respect. Focusing on the story. I think these things got me through. The result is found in my novel, The Daemon Prism, the third (and final) novel of the Collegia Magica.

I wrote this originally for a series on Bookworm Blues. Check it out.
Read more of this post!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A feast for the eyes - and a good story, too

Oscar night. Not much point in watching since we hadn't seen very many of the films. And so often, it seems as if lots of nominated films are just not to our taste, no matter how well made or well acted. I mean, "No Country for Old Men" was a fabulous piece of film-making, but I didn't like anyone in the story. That's a necessity for me, whether in films or books (and something I strive to provide my own readers - characters...people...to care about.)

So instead of watching the Oscar show - or more episodes of Burn Notice to which we are currently addicted (yes, some very complicated characters to care about) - we went to the second run cinema and saw "Hugo."

First, yes, characters to care about - a whole cast of them in the first minute of the film as the camera leads you on a chase through a train station in 1930s' Paris. The station guard with his leg brace, the woman with the dog and her portly suitor, the man in the toy shop, the cheery flower seller, the musicians, and many more, each sketched as distinctly as a master writer like Dick Francis can do in a few words. And then the eyes peering through the 4 in the great clock. The story question right there in front of you. Whose eyes and why from inside the clock?

Well done. It was a nice story. Well performed for the most part. About loss and memory. About the magic of...story! But what made the film step into magic for me was
not the story but the language of its composition.

The visual experience. The deep moody colors of the era. The deep stairways and the clicking gears and mechanics of the great clockworks. The shining eyes of the two young friends. The snow. The magical, glowing view of the city at night. The lovely precision of the small mechanical man - the automaton left by a loving father to a lonely son, which brings a mystery (and you know how I love mystery) to the tale. And I have to say that for the first time in my experience 3D really added something special.

Faults? Yes. It gets a bit wordy in ways it doesn't need to. (Don't hammer me over the head by saying things that are transmitted so beautifully by action - another word to the wise author!) A few too many shots of the young Hugo's glistening eyes. (Yes repetition is good, but a wise author will take out one too many.) I wonder if children (and there were many in the theater) love the film as much as adults seem to.

Summing up, a most enjoyable two hours.
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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier...Fine

I have always loved spy novels. Cold War novels by John le Carre and Len Deighton. The stories about the Enigma cipher (WWII). Ken Follett wrote some good ones before he fell into historical triumph with Pillars of the Earth. The James Bond books were not so cartoonish as the films, but they weren't of this same gritty, realistic ilk. Most of the these I'm referring to weren't made into successful single films because they were too complex for a two-hour adaptation. BBC did a wonderful miniseries version of John le Carre's Smiley's People, one of the best of the genre. But films??

Now here comes Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, a 2011 sleeper that, from the look of the theater today, no one has heard about. You might have seen a mention in the Oscar nominations for Gary Oldman (yes, Sirius Black! and many other wonderful portrayals). And well deserved!

Oldman plays George Smiley, the aging MI-5 operative, put out to pasture after a disastrous operation gets an operative killed, and brings down George's mentor Control, the head of "the Circus" as the spy agency is called here. But a young agent (an excellent Benedict Cumberbatch of the new Masterpieces Sherlock series) has gotten wind of a rumor that could bring down the increasingly marginalized agency. Someone in the inner circle is a mole - a tool of the Russian spymaster known as Karla.

The file evokes the gritty (yes that word again) shadowy world of the 70s cold war. Hot wars were fought through surrogates, but the cold war was fought on the wet streets of East Berlin and Paris...and Budapest...and in the concrete block offices of London, each side hunting for intelligence - the kind that could only come through defectors or agents in place. Dangerous business. No flashy car chases. And in those days, no dazzling sensors or cell phones or laser beams or Mission Impossible impossibilities.

Oldman's performance is beautifully nuanced. He is a taciturn man. Serious, intellectual, but hopelessly enamored of a wife who is unfaithful. Hearing the reliable report of a mole--a double agent--in the highest echelon of his kingdom's secret service--men he has worked with--grieves him, yet he never says a word to convey it. A masterful performance. And the film spins back and forth in time and place, yet never needs labels to tell us when we are looking at a Christmas party in happier times for the agency or when we are in Budapest watching the fateful meeting and murder or when we are seeing the patient, dogged George unraveling a case for the ages. No being lowered from the roof, no pressure sensors, no leaps, just good work, and a great story. Loved it.

A great cast as well besides Oldman and Cumberbatch: John Hurt, Colin Firth, Ciaren Hinds, and a really excellent Tom Hardy
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Monday, January 16, 2012

Good news!

There are many kinds of good news an author can receive: good reviews, positive reader comments, new contracts, new translation agreements, award news, and so forth. But on Friday, I heard two of the best lines an author can hear.

News the first. We've had to go back to press on the new book. That is, the print version of The Daemon Prism has outsold expectations in the first two weeks.

News the second. We're taking Transformation back to press. Copies should be available by the end of the month.

This is a tough publishing environment. No one can really predict the impact of electronic publishing on a new release. The percentage of a new release bought in electronic form is increasing dramatically with every year that goes by. I'll bet thousands of readers are sporting new Kindles or Nooks since the holidays. Yes, authors get paid - in my case fairly equally - for both print and electronic books. But I still hold that new readers are more likely to find my books by running across them in bookstores. Either the cover art or the back cover blurb might attract them, or they will recall mention of my work by reviewers or my wonderful readers on Facebook or book blogs or at parties or writers events. It is always nice to exceed expectations.

As for backlist... Many of you notices that my very first published book Transformation has been pretty scarce for most of the last year. It is awful when the last two books in a series are available and the first one is not. Certainly an author's nightmare! But warehousing books is a huge expense for publishers and everyone is waiting to see if e-books really do replace the mass market paperback, especially for older works. Evidently my publisher has decided that the demand for Transformation is such that they can't wait and see any more. Hooray for that! Transformation holds a special place in my list. It's where many of my readers started out on a journey that's taken us all to some deeper and darker places.

So anyway, thanks to all of you out there for encouraging my publisher to this point of view! Now back to work on something new.

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