The Bittersweet

In July, I wrote a guest piece for Katherine Harbour called, “The Awesomeness of The Bittersweet.” Recently, I was invited by Gail Martin to join in the #HoldOntoTheLight campaign. September/October are the months for Depression Awareness, Suicide Prevention, Bullying Prevention, Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness, World Mental Health Day and Domestic Violence Awareness. Several authors are participating, you can check out the Twitter Hashtag, or the Facebook page to see what others are sharing. I hope to post more, but this post seemed like a perfect way to start my participation.


The Awesomeness of The Bittersweet

As someone who has struggled on and off with depression since my adolescent years, it’s probably not a shock–and some would argue less than healthy–that I just love the bittersweet. Not the chocolate, though that isn’t bad. I’m talking about music, movies, books, and art in general. I love scenes, songs, or images that are sad, but filled with hope, and the promise of tomorrow, a new day where anything is possible. The power of the emotion, the magic and the power of it fuels me, both in my life and in my creative endeavors. Music, books, movies, every kind of art, it all serves to connect us. When the artist creates, that creation is imbued with some of their soul, an emotional snapshot of them at that moment in time. I can relate to the bittersweet moments. That’s probably why I love the songs of Sarah McLachlan, The Cowboy Junkies, and Tom Waits. Each of them excels at wrapping sadness around a glimmer of hope that can’t be extinguished.

Of course there are moments in life of pure, unbridled joy: hearing someone say they love you, the smile of your child when they look at you, or achieving a hard won success. Those moments are treasures to be sure, but rarely is bliss ever an immaculate conception. Often it’s born from hard work, pain, turmoil, sadness, or grief. Life tends to be complicated and messy, but there is beauty in that mess. And I think we all see it. I believe we all know that the pain will end, and in the ending there is a happiness all its own. There are all sorts of cliches, but the one that has stayed with me the longest is: if you weep because you miss the sun, you also miss the stars. Like all cliches, there is something profound in the simplicity.

When I was really struggling with my depression, I found a book titled Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl. It’s about his time at the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II. He is taken there, separated from his wife and sees the utter worst humanity has to offer, and I use the word humanity in its loosest possible sense. During his time there, never knowing the fate of his wife, parents, or siblings, he struggles to find meaning, a reason to continue on. After reading this book I knew that if this man could find purpose in a nightmarish place like that, surely I could as well. So I set to find happiness in the cracks and crevices of the everyday, and that became my purpose.

But as I matured I came to see that every emotion had value. They all could be debilitating if not tempered by another. Haven’t we all rolled our eyes at the sickly sweet, lovey-dovey couples of the world? We all know that past a certain age, there is no perpetual state of happiness, and those who seem to achieve it often come across as delusional. Sometimes it’s okay to be sad, to be angry, to grieve, to weep. And isn’t there a special kind of happiness in offering comfort to someone who needs it? The key is not to let those darker emotions overcome you, to slip from merely experiencing them into wallowing in them.

That’s why I love the bittersweet. It’s like an entire life experience all in one dose. I recently watched Inside Out with a friend, and we both got a little misty eyed when Bing-Bong fades away. Sorry, spoilers. It’s a sad moment, one we can all probably relate to. It’s a piece of childhood slipping away, losing a friend you know you’ll never see again for the first time. But there’s more to that scene. There is also the hope in the understanding that it’s also the beginning of another journey. That the sun might be setting, but it will rise again on a new world, and they will both be beautiful, filled with possibility.

We all listen to sad songs when we’re sad, at least everyone I know does. So often we chide ourselves for it, seeing it as wallowing in self-pity. But that’s not really what we’re doing. We’re grieving for something, or someone, lost; for a future we hoped for that won’t ever come to pass. More than that though, we’re remembering. So often we forget that, which is ironic really. When we listen to that same song, or watch that same movie, over and over, we’re reliving the joys of the past. We think we’re grieving for their loss, but we don’t lose them. What we’re really grieving is that there won’t be more like that. And we’re right, there won’t be, but there will be new joys.

It’s that feeling that I try to capture in my books. Each ends on a hint of sadness, but with the light of hope just visible on the horizon.If you finish one of my books and you’re crying, that’s okay, but I also hope you’re smiling as well. There is no darkness that won’t eventually end at sunrise. There is always hope. That’s what the bittersweet means to me. It is the happiness we find, that we hold on to, and carry with us for our entire lives. Sure, we might find some sadness and carry that for a time as well, but we have to eventually let it go. When we do, there is more room for new happiness. So listen to sad songs, watch sad movies, but always find the bliss behind that sorrow. Experience the latter because it reminds you of the former, and always be looking to the horizon for the rising sun of a new day.

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Cover Reveal: Faithful by Michelle Hauck

Michelle Hauck is a fellow Harper author and today she’s revealing the cover of the second book in her Birth of Saints series, Faithful, and it’s an awesome cover. More than that, I’m sure the story will be even better! Her first book, Grudging, was an excellent read.
Added bonus, an exclusive excerpt and a chance to win a SIGNED copy of Grudging!
 
On to the reveal!

Title: FAITHFUL (Birth of Saints #2)
Author: Michelle Hauck
Pub. Date: November 15, 2016
Publisher: Harper Voyager Impulse
Formats: eBook
ISBN: 9780062447173
Find it: Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Goodreads

Following Grudging–and with a mix of Terry Goodkind and Bernard Cornwall–religion, witchcraft, and chivalry war in Faithful, the exciting next chapter in Michelle Hauck’s Birth of Saints series!

A world of Fear and death…and those trying to save it.


Colina Hermosa has burned to the ground. The Northern invaders continue their assault on the ciudades-estados. Terror has taken hold, and those that should be allies betray each other in hopes of their own survival. As the realities of this devastating and unprovoked war settles in, what can they do to fight back?


On a mission of hope, an unlikely group sets out to find a teacher for Claire, and a new weapon to use against the Northerners and their swelling army.


What they find instead is an old woman.
But she’s not a random crone—she’s Claire’s grandmother. She’s also a Woman of the Song, and her music is both strong and horrible. And while Claire has already seen the power of her own Song, she is scared of her inability to control it, having seen how her magic has brought evil to the world, killing without reason or remorse. To preserve a life of honor and light, Ramiro and Claire will need to convince the old woman to teach them a way so that the power of the Song can be used for good. Otherwise, they’ll just be destroyers themselves, no better than the Northerners and their false god, Dal. With the annihilation their enemy has planned, though, they may not have a choice.

A tale of fear and tragedy, hope and redemption, Faithful is the harrowing second entry in the Birth of Saints trilogy.

Exclusive Excerpt!

 
Not for the first time, Claire reconsidered her decision to stay when Ramiro had asked her. She’d lingered out of curiosity—and truthfully because it felt good to be needed—but they didn’t need her now with the Northern army defeated. She could return to the swamp and away from so many people. Despite her hopes of friends and community, she felt awkward here. Reason said she’d get used to their ways, but being around so many folk made her want to hide. Everything pressed down. The walls of the tent shrunk, pinning her in, and smothering her. It became hard to breathe.
She reached for a fresh strip of cloth, only to have her hand shake. She snatched the material and began to roll it, trying to shut out everything else, including her own doubts.
Before she could find a semblance of peace, though, someone shouted. Ladies screamed. Claire looked over her shoulder at the noise. A brown-bearded man in a poncho and a floppy hat ran in her direction. “My family is dead, because of the evacuations. Because of you.”
Claire gasped. He seemed to be talking to Beatriz, then his gaze found Claire.
“Witch!” His outstretched hand suddenly held a long butcher knife. “Witch! Stay away from us! Murderer! Abomination! Die!”
Fronilde dropped to the ground, but Claire couldn’t move. Surprise robbed her brain of a Song to stop him. Even the words of the Hornet Tune, which she knew as well as her name, deserted her. The man closed as everyone scrambled out of his way. Then Beatriz sprang from her chair to stand over Claire, holding up her hand. The tall, black-lace mantilla atop her head waved like a flag. “Stop.”
Something about the authority in the First Wife’s voice—or maybe her simple resistance instead of cringing or scrambling away—brought the man up short, making him pause for a moment. Just the moment the bodyguard needed to crush the lunatic to the floor and overpower him, wrestling free the knife. More guards came running from outside.
Breath rushed back in Claire’s lungs. Beatriz sniffed and touched a spot on her chest over her heart and then her forehead and stomach areas. “Imbecile. He didn’t know who he was dealing with.”

About Michelle:

 

Michelle Hauck lives in the bustling
metropolis of northern Indiana with her hubby and two teenagers. Two papillons
help balance out the teenage drama. Besides working with special needs children. By day, she writes all sorts of fantasy, giving her imagination free range. A book worm, she passes up the darker vices in favor of chocolate and looks for any excuse to reward herself. Bio finished? Time for a sweet snack.
She is a co-host of the yearly contests Query Kombat and Nightmare on Query
Street, and Sun versus Snow.Her epic fantasy, Kindar’s Cure, is published by Divertir
Publishing. Her short story, Frost and Fog, is published by The
Elephant’s Bookshelf Press in their anthology, Summer’s Double Edge.
She’s repped by Sarah Negovetich of Corvisiero Literary.

Giveaway Details:
2 winners will receive a signed  of
GRUDGING, US Only.

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Cover Reveal – Decoherence

Decoherence 1Samantha Rose and Linsey MacKenzie have established an idyllic life of married bliss in Australia, away from the Commonwealth Bureau of Investigation, away from mysterious corpses, and—most of all—away from Dr. Emir’s multiverse machine.

But Sam is a detective at heart, and even on the other side of the world, she can’t help wonder if a series of unsolved killings she reads about are related—not just to each other, but to the only unsolved case of her short career.

She knows Jane Doe’s true name, but Sam never discovered who killed the woman found in an empty Alabama field in spring of 2069. She doesn’t even know which version of herself she buried under a plain headstone.

When Mac suddenly disappears, Sam realizes she is going to once more be caught up in a silent war she still doesn’t fully understand. Every step she takes to save Mac puts the world she knows at risk, and moves her one step closer to becoming the girl in the grave.

 

 

Liana Brooks is a fellow Harper Voyager Impulse author, and a good writer to boot. Decoherence, is the third book in her Time & Shadows Mystery series. Its awesome, you should check it out. To tantalize you, here are the first two pages.


Decoherence (n): a period of time when all iterations collapse and there is only one possible reality.

~ Excerpt from Definitions of Time by Emmanuela Pine, I1

 

Day 247

Year 5 of Progress

Capitol Spire

Main Continent

Iteration 17—Fan 1

… three. Rose stood and peered through the frosted, warped glass of the conference room as the speaker turned away. It didn’t matter which iteration she was in, Emir was predictable. She had seven seconds to do a head count. She didn’t need that long.

A quick head count was all it took to confirm that the einselected nodes she’d been sent to assassinate were where they belonged.

Every iteration had nodes, people or events that kept that variation of human history from collapsing. Dr. Emir had created a machine that allowed people not only to move along their own timeline, but at critical convergence points, it allowed them to cross between realities. But the Mechanism for Iteration Alignment’s greatest ability was the one that allowed Dr. Emir and Central Command to steer history by erasing futures they didn’t want.

Rose knelt beside the door, did one final sweep for alarms, and nodded for her team to move in. It was her job to cross at convergence points, kill the nodes, and collapse the futures that no one wanted.

One look at the version of herself watching this iteration’s Emir with rapt fascination was enough to make Rose want to snip this future in the bud.

Chubby was the first thing that came to mind. Rose’s doppelganger was enjoying being at the top of the social pyramid and probably gorging on whatever passed as a delicacy here. The squared bangs with a streak of riotous red only accented the corpulence and lack of self-control the inferior other had.

Even with a heavy wood door between them, Rose could hear that this iteration’s Emir was hypothesizing things the MIA was never meant to do. Everyone with half a brain knew that decoherence didn’t combine iterations, it crushed them. Only the true timeline, the Prime, would survive decoherence. Planning to welcome and integrate doppelgangers into the society was pure idiocy.

The techs sealing the door shut gave her the high sign.

Rose nodded to her hacker.

“Cameras locked. Security is deaf and blind, ma’am” Logan’s voice was a soft whisper in her earpiece. He was a genius with computer systems, a fact that had saved him when they collapsed I-38 three years ago. “We have a fifteen-minute window.”

“Hall cleared,” reported Bennet. “Permission to move perimeter guard to the exit?”

Rose nodded. “Permission granted.” She waved for the soldiers to move out. There could be no risk of failure. No chance for the errant nodes to escape, and no risk that her team would get killed here.


Links:
Liana’s Website | GoodReads | Amazon Author Page | Liana’s Newsletter |
Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo

Author Bio:

July_2014_1_cropped
Liana Brooks write sci-fi and crime fiction for people who like happy endings. She believes in time travel to the future, even if it takes a good book and all night to get there. When she isn’t writing, Liana hikes the mountains of Alaska with her family and giant dog. Find her at LianaBrooks.com or on Twitter as @LianaBrooks

Website | Twitter | FaceBook

D. Lieber Interview

I’ve talked before about how much of a struggle it can be to find an audience and get word out about your book. It’s even harder if you’re an indie author. I crossed paths with D. this year and spoke to her after a panel I was on. She impressed me enough that I decided to invite her here for an interview to ply her with ridiculous questions and maybe even talk about her upcoming book, Conjuring Zephyr, which comes out June 23rd.

First, welcome to the pub, D. What are you drinking?

Irish breakfast tea with two lumps of sugar and a little milk

Going easy, huh? Fair enough. Next question is an easy one. What is your biggest fear? As in utterly, entirely debilitating fear. The kind of thing that would send you into a whimpering fetal ball, and if someone knew about, would provide an excellent source for blackmail. Or, I suppose you could say what your protagonist’s biggest fear is instead.

Kai’s greatest fear is that others will discover she isn’t as confident as she pretends to be. Mentally, she is sure she can fulfill her quest while not giving her true identity away. But even when a person is absolutely sure, societal consensus affects everyone. The entire world as she knows it says what she’s trying to do is impossible. Going against that, anyone would have doubts. Of course, on the hiding her sex front, she’s completely in over her head. She walks in thinking she is totally prepared, and she is so wrong. In life, I find situations of forced spontaneity, where you have been thrown into the unknown and nothing is what you thought it would, have the most possibilities of unexpected happiness. But, if Kai is going to accomplish her quest, she must be bold and confident to convince herself and others. If someone else was to discover that it’s all bravado, would she have the strength to believe in herself?

That’s rhetorical, right? Cause I’m the one asking the questions here. Your book is set in an underground society. Are you intentionally aiming for the Morlock fans of fantasy, or is that just a happy coincidence?

To be honest, I had to look up what a Morlock was. The setting came to me very early on in the writing process, but it was only as a means to an end. The concept of rebuilding after an apocalypse was perfect, because it gave me a chance to explore how a small group of modern humans might reorder society if given the chance. The fact that these humans were led by scientists provided a magnifying glass into scientific culture, particularly examining why I think science is stuck. Though if I had to choose a book that made me love the underground setting, I would say Journey to the Center of the Earth.

Normally I’d criticize your lack of knowledge about H.G. Wells, but you pulled out the Jules Verne card, so it’s all good. You’ve said there is some “adult content” in your book. Are you at all concerned that addressing topics like choosing a good life insurance plan, applying for a mortgage, and managing your 401k will turn off some younger readers?

This question made me laugh aloud. Yes, there is adult content. There are tons of adult readers who read young adult books, because they have fun storylines and don’t take a lot of effort to enjoy. You work all day, and you just want to read for enjoyment, but that War and Peace on your shelf is pretty intimidating. My writing style is at a young adult reading level, and I think younger readers would really enjoy my story. That’s why I always give a disclaimer. Readers are good at self-censorship. If someone feels uncomfortable, he or she will just put down the book. While that may be the case, I don’t want anyone to feel unprepared. The primary drive of the story is the fantasy aspect, but there’s also a love story, a real love story not the censored, practically platonic love stories of young adult fiction. The adult content is important, and not just so readers feel the relationship is real. We live in a society where sex is either something we whisper about, like it’s shameful, or something that’s used to entice consumers out of their money. Why is that? Every person living is the product of a sexual act, so why do we treat it like it’s not a part of everyday life? I’m as affected as anyone else, so I wanted to challenge myself and my readers to see sex for what it is: normal and natural.

For the record, I was the product of immaculate conception, but let’s move on. Okay, here’s a serious question, probably the only one. Cowboy Bebop, best anime series ever, right?

I haven’t watched that one, because I don’t like the animation style. But, I’ve heard good things. I love anime. It’s common for me to spend an entire weekend sitting on the floor in front of my television, trying to get through a whole series on Crunchyroll or Hulu. It’s interesting to me how some people sneer at reverse harem stories (a female protagonist and many male characters), but they don’t even blink at harem stories (a male protagonist and many female characters). I wonder what that says about us as a society. One of my beta readers told me he thought Conjuring Zephyr was a story about every woman’s fantasy. I laughed at how little he knows about women. I would say it’s only human to want others to find you attractive. However, do women (or men) really want all their friends to declare love to them? I don’t think so. Quite honestly, I think it would be horrifying. These are people you care about. Why would you want them all to love you in that way? How bad would you feel to reject someone you care about, but don’t want to be with? On the other hand, there are situations in Conjuring Zephyr where Kai is sexually responsive to people she may or may not be in love with. Again, that happens in real life too. Man, real life is messy. Conjuring Zephyr has just enough messiness to be believable, but none of those dangling loose ends that life so often leaves us. In any case, I love reverse harem stories. I think my favorite reverse harem anime is probably Ouran High School Host Club.  I love how clueless Haruhi is. She’s so smart and so oblivious at the same time. If you have ever seen a reverse harem anime, you will recognize a lot of the character archetypes in Conjuring Zephyr.

Let’s pretend I’m familiar with those particular anime series and move on. Your main character in the book disguises herself as a boy to enter a prestigious all-male magical university. Was this a way to subtly (or perhaps not so subtly) speak to gender roles in modern society?

I don’t think I was subtle at all. However, I don’t force social commentary down my readers’ throats. It’s there, but it’s under a healthy dose of storyline and character development. Terrenus is a society where men and women are not even close to equal. While I feel modern society can be like that, I also feel we have come a long way. Terrenus is extreme, but there are still people who have strict gender-role lines today. Women are still dealing with having to prove that they are equal in intelligence to men, and men are struggling to live in a world where they aren’t afforded the luxury of openly feeling human emotions. Our society is a wreck. I would love to think we’re all trying to do our part to make it better for future generations, but I know that isn’t the case. Still, for those who care, it’s important to talk about these issues. Writers have always been key players in societal change. Even sweetened with entertainment, we all have to do our part to make people think, question, and learn. In Conjuring Zephyr, Kai is fighting strict gender-role guidelines. While the rules have been that way for a long time, Terrenus is in a time of flux, which is why some characters are more accepting of Kai’s presence. But really, it’s the male characters who are pushing the limits. Each male character is unique, proving that there isn’t just one way to be a man. Our society puts a lot of pressure on men to be strong and brave. They are told to look and act a certain way, just like women are. My male characters show how courage and strength come in many shapes and sizes, and I hope modern men will feel more comfortable loving themselves. I also hope they see that reaching down to pull women up to an equal level is in everyone’s best interest.

That was a well worded response, so I have no witty retort. Next question, heads or tails?

I always choose tails.

Sorry it was heads, mostly because it was a two-headed coin. However I’ll remember your answer should a coin toss ever come up again. What are your thoughts on tofu and its role in the slow degradation of civilization?

I love your questions. They keep me on my toes. Tofu is one of those foods I want to like, but I just can’t force myself. I’m gagging just thinking about it. Yeah, yeah, it’s supposedly good for you and has been around for centuries. I would love to visit Japan one day. I almost applied for a job in Tokyo a few months ago. I hear it’s lovely, and the people are really nice. But I would starve to death. As for its role in the slow degradation of civilization, it’s definitely got an evil agenda. Everyone should prepare for the worst. Beware of anyone who says he or she likes tofu. They’re already under its influence.

I’m glad to see there are others out there who recognize the existential threat tofu poses to us all! Gelatinous cubes of fermented evil. On a lighter now, what kind of research did you do for this book? For example, did you take a trip to the Artic to see what it would be like to experience an ice age?

Most of my research for this book was in physics. With any sci-fi/fantasy story, you have to establish laws of physics. While you can pretty much make up whatever you want, you do have to be consistent. There were devices I wanted to have, but I had to figure out how they worked. Of course, I also had to think about what kinds of things an underground society would need, and how I would provide those necessities. I was nearly bashing my head against the wall trying to get the light generator to work. With some help from my husband and younger brother, who are both total physics nerds, I managed to satisfy even their pedantic standards.

Sounds like the Arctic trip might’ve been easier, but who am I to judge? What three books (aside from mine of course because that’s just a given) would you take with you if you had to live underground? And yes, you can also bring a book light.

Is there a handbook for how to survive underground? Because, that’s the first on my list. My favorite book is The Count of Monte Cristo, so that has to come with. My third choice is probably Pride and Prejudice, because I never get tired of reading it.

A pragmatist, I can respect that. I suggest The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, because, you know, Morlocks live underground and might provide some insight. Is this book a standalone or part of a series? I did say there was probably only one serious question.

As of right now, it’s a standalone. But, the end leaves a lot of room should I decide to revisit Terrenus.

Leaving room for a sequel, I didn’t realize you worked in Hollywood. What else are you working on?

I have two books in the editing phase right now. The Exiled Otherkin is pretty close to completion. It’s about a half-fae who is exiled from Faerie to the steampunk human realm. The protagonist, Ember, takes a dangerous job on an airship, and tries to maintain her apathy as a helpless and naive human follows her around. Faeries, pirates, and traveling players meet in this steampunk fantasy adventure as Ember tries to cope with feelings long forgotten and a past that pursues her while balancing new friends and lovers. Unlike Conjuring Zephyr, this world has complete equality of the sexes. Intended Bondmates is the other novel in editing, but it was just sent to my beta readers for first-time review. It’s about a society where fae and werewolves have signed a treaty to protect fae from vampires and werewolves from humans. Essentially, the fae magic werewolf territory into Faerie, so werewolves don’t have to worry about humans. In exchange, every werewolf pup is assigned one fae child to protect until the faeling grows into his or her full magic, since fae are vampires’ favorite snacks. Runa, a werewolf, is forced to return to the bondmate she had abandoned in light of tragic circumstances. The book revolves around her trying to keep him alive while rebuilding their relationship.

I’m very glad to see you spelled “faerie” correctly, 712 bonus points for that. Those sound intriguing, be sure to stop back by when they’re available.

D. writes stories she wants to read. Her love of the worlds of fiction led her to earn a Bachelor’s in English from Wright State University.
When she isn’t reading or writing, she’s probably hiking, crafting, watching anime, Korean television or old movies. She may also be getting her geek on while planning her next steampunk cosplay with friends.
She lives in Wisconsin with her husband (John), retired guide dog (Samwise) and cat (Yin).

You can preorder Conjuring Zephyr direct from the publisher here. On June 23rd the paperback and ebook will be available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Added bonus, if you preorder it now you can use the promo code PREORDER2016 to receive a 10% discount.

You can find D. at her website on Facebook, or Goodreads. Thanks for stopping by, D. and for keeping a sense of humor.

Conjuring Zephyr front cover Promo1 highres

Retreating underground to escape a devastating ice age, humans build a new society. When magic is discovered and harnessed for survival, the citizens of Terrenus establish theories and principles of how to use it.
Kai Stephenson is determined to prove magical principles aren’t set in stone. Having lost her younger brother in a tragic accident, she will ensure such accidents never harm anyone else. She enrolls at the most elite university to gain the knowledge she needs to achieve her goal. Overconfident that living as a boy at an all-boys university will only be a minor inconvenience, Kai is convinced her classmates will never discover that she’s a woman. After all, women aren’t capable of higher forms of magic, and her boyish figure certainly doesn’t hurt her disguise.
Hiding her true identity becomes a problem when her new friends start to awaken her repressed sexuality

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Best Meal I Ever Ate

Lawrence Schoen, author of the Nebula nominated novel, Barsk: The Elephant’s Graveyard, has an interesting series on his blog called “eating authors.” In it, Lawrence asks authors about the best meal they’ve ever had, and he invited me to join in the fun. The list of authors who’ve participated is rather prestigious, and their stories very interesting (Myke Cole’s is particularly so). Considering how prolific an author Lawrence is, that’s not surprise. You can read my contribution here (or the link below). While you’re there, be sure to peruse the rest of his site, it really has some excellent stuff there.

Eating Authors – Bishop O’Connell

Beth Cato Interview

Beth Cato is a fellow Harper Voyager Impulse author, maker of deliciously evil treats, and a Nebula award nominee for her novella, “Wings of Sorrow and Bone”. Her latest story in her Clockwork Dagger world, Final Flight, came out April 26th. If you’re looking for exceptional story telling (Nebula nomination!!!) or you enjoy steampunk, you can’t go wrong. Beth was nice enough to stop by the pub and answer some questions.


Welcome, Beth. First question is easy. What are you drinking?

Right now, I am partaking of my afternoon brain-boost of Grape Crystal Light with Caffeine. In terms of harder stuff, I love a sweet apple cider, vodka mix, or even some scotch.

I suppose scotch is an acceptable substitute if you can’t find any decent Irish whiskey, but moving on. Your novella, Wings of Sorrow and Bone , was nominated for the Nebula. Have you come down from the high yet of that nomination?

Not really, no. It feels even more unreal after having read the other novella nominees. They are extraordinarily good. I’m the geek hanging out with the cool kids.

We’re all rooting for you, and just hope you don’t forget about your friends when you’re famous and we start crowding onto your finely tailored coattails. Speaking of fashion, your Clockwork Dagger series is set in the Steampunk genre, do you have a special love of Victorian era history, or is it the steampunk genre in and of itself? It’s the hats and goggles, isn’t it?

I do like a fine hat, no argument there! I love steampunk because of how it straddles lines of history, technology, and magic, but the ultimate love—the one behind everything—is for historical fiction. I was a hardcore Laura Ingalls Wilder fanatic as a kid, and loved reading about the Civil War and the pioneer west. Both of my steampunk series (Clockwork Dagger and my new one, starting with Breath of Earth) are inspired by or set in the Edwardian period. I guess I like writing my steampunk mixed with some dieselpunk.

Sure, I can totally see how Little House on the Prairie can lead someone to a love for Steampunk… Anyhoo, your “Bready or Not” series on your blog is a compendium of delicious sweets and treats. Tell the truth, your cakes, cookies, and such are all part of a nefarious plan to take over the world, right?

You figured me out, Bishop. That’s actually a kinder motivation than I am usually afforded. My husband takes most of the goodies to his work, where his peers have accused me of trying to murder them with diabetes.

Your victory will be sweet indeed, and if you need a character witness I can be bought for a regular supply of cookies. Delving into your books, the protagonist of the Clockwork Dagger books is Octavia, a healer. Most fans of RPGs and other games usually see the healer as a support character. What made you want to put one front and center? Did you have any pitfalls along the way you had to deal with?

I wanted to make a healer my protagonist for that very reason. I always favored the healers/white wizards/priestesses when I played RPGs. I always wanted to see that character class as a main character in novels, and it just doesn’t happen. Healers are seen as weak–a convenience to keep the burly heroes alive–but best kept out of the action. That’s because there are some understandable pitfalls in writing that kind of character, especially if they tend toward nonviolence as Octavia does. How do they stay alive when people are trying to kill them? How do they fight back? How do they cope with the emotional aftermath? I had to strike the right balance, granting Octavia strength, savviness, and agency, even as she ardently believes in the sanctity of life.

That was a great answer, and I have no witty retort, so I’ll change topics. White chocolate: delicious treat or confectionary abomination?

Delicious treat for sure! It’s fabulous paired in cookies with macadamia nuts, and it’s a miracle shortcut in creating super-easy microwave fudge. It lends such smoothness when it’s melted down and mixed into dough. White chocolate deserves a lot more respect.

Mad respect for the white chocolate. Do you have any rituals when it comes to writing (music, quiet, wearing lucky socks, eating churros) or do you just sit and let the magic happen?

I don’t hold many rituals when it comes to my writing (beyond the standard blood sacrifices). I really need to be in my office, at my desk, with peace and quiet. My cat is usually snoring in her Amazon box nearby. I’m not one of those people who can tote around a laptop and write in coffee shops or wherever. That would be a nightmare scenario for me!

Do you prefer goats or chickens? Never mind, another time. How much planning do you do for a new book? Do you take endless notes and outline, or do you wing it and let the story unfold as you write it? Or something in between?

I’m a hardcore plotter. I create extensive outlines, and spend months and years researching. That’s been especially true with my new series, which takes place in an alternate history of 1906. My accumulated typed notes on Theodore Roosevelt alone are 8 pages, single-spaced, and I’ve read a few more books I should cull notes from.

On the topic of Teddy Roosevelt, what’s your favorite mythical creature?

Any sort of magical horse. Unicorn, pegasus, variations thereof.

Ah the majestic beauty of the fabled cornisus. So, Final Flight will be the third short format addition in this series. Do you find them easier to write than novels, or do the stories you’re telling just seem to fit in that range?

Final Flight is a long short story—about 8000 words. My two other Clockwork Dagger ebooks are The Deepest Poison, also a long short story, and my Nebula-nominated novella, Wings of Sorrow and Bone, which comes in at about 27,000-words. Wings is the only novella I have written and it was definitely an unnatural length for me to write. I’m used to doing either short stories or full-length novels!
That said, Final Flight was an excruciating story to write. I had a hard time getting into Captain Hue’s head and the story just didn’t click. Critique readers helped me immensely.

You just like saying “Nebula-nominated novella” don’t you? Can’t blame you, the alliteration alone makes it fun! What are you reading right now?

I just finished up another research book: Honor in the Dust: Theodore Roosevelt, War in the Philippines, and the Rise and Fall of America’s Imperial Dream by Gregg Jones. A fascinating read about an ignored and shameful part of American history.

It’s always nice when you enjoy your research materials. You live in Phoenix Arizona. During the month of August, what precautions do you take to keep from bursting into flames when you step outside?

Avoid going outside, or summon Mole People to burrow deep within the earth to grant me access to places.

Oh, Mole People Uber is the best, isn’t it! They always bring those little bottles of water and are so friendly! For the fans of the Clockwork Dagger series, will there be any more stories in it?

Final Flight is the last one planned for now, but I’m totally game to write more stories and books in the world!

Anything else on the horizon we should know about and go preorder right this very minute so we don’t miss out when it’s released?

Yes! Breath of Earth! It’s out on August 23rd. Geomancy and mythological creatures in 1906 California. It’s dark, intense, and I hope, somewhat educational about what really happened in history.

I look forward to checking it out. Thanks so much for stopping by and good luck in your plans of world conquest through diabetes induced homicide. Beth Cato is the author of the Clockwork Dagger series from Harper Voyager, which includes her Nebula-nominated novella WINGS OF SORROW AND BONE. Her newest novel is BREATH OF EARTH. She’s a Hanford, California native transplanted to the Arizona desert, where she lives with her husband, son, and requisite cat. Follow her at BethCato.com and on Twitter at @BethCato.

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Interviewed by SF Signal

I was recently interviewed by SF Signal, a Hugo award winning magazine. It was a fun interview, which you can probably tell from the length. The interviewer, Carl, was great and I’m proud to say he was rather taken with The Forgotten. He and I talk about how I got published, and some deeper points to my novels you might not know. It’s definitely worth checking out. While you’re there, browse around, you don’t win Hugo awards for having a mediocre magazine. Among other things, you can read some of the other interviews Carl has done

[GUEST INTERVIEW] Bishop O’Connell (AN AMERICAN FAERIE TALE) on Compelling Characters, Publishing and (of Course) Faerie Tales